Horowitz attacks women’s studies to defend Muslim women?


Are You Ready for ‘Islamo-Fascism Week’?

“Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” is still three weeks away, but the
event and a similar campaign from Young America’s Foundation are
already setting off campus controversies and debates about tolerance
and free speech.

Organizers – who are planning events at dozens of campuses – say that
they are just trying to make students aware of the threats posed by
radical Islam to the United States. Speeches are being scheduled on
multiple campuses by such luminaries of the right as David Horowitz
(chief proponent of the week), Ann Coulter, and former U.S. Sen. Rick
Santorum. More intellectual takes will come from such neoconservative
icons of Middle East policy as Michael Ledeen and Daniel Pipes. The
in-your-face approach of publicity for the events (not to mention
some of the speakers) is already setting off campus debates over
whether the campaign being orchestrated is about informing students
or intimidating Muslim students and selected targets of the right
(such as women’s studies programs).

Already charges are flying from organizers about posters being torn
down and colleges blocking access for events. And critics are firing
back, questioning the motives of the efforts. With the Middle East
already dividing many campus groups, October could be a month of
additional tensions.

For a sign of how easily rhetoric about the Middle East can escalate,
consider George Washington University, where authorities discovered
hundreds of posters Monday that said: “Hate Muslims? So do we!” A
“typical Muslim” is then portrayed, with features identified such as
“venom from mouth” and “suicide vest.” University police removed the
posters and are investigating who put them up.

The posters claimed to be from the campus chapter of Young America’s
Foundation, which immediately issued a statement condemning the
posters as “hate speech” that had never been authorized by the group.
The statement said that YAF has a system for approving posters, and
that no one ever submitted such a poster for approval. The YAF at
George Washington said it was promoting events later this month to
condemn terrorism and violence – and that one part of its efforts
would include bringing Horowitz to campus. Steven Knapp, president of
the university, also released a statement, calling the posters
“reprehensible” and stating that “there is no place for expressions
of hatred on our campus.”

Laila Al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee, said her group has been writing to
colleges identified as planning events with Islamo-Fascism Week,
asking them why they were doing so. She said that while there are
“serious and legitimate problems in the Arab and Muslim worlds,”
Horowitz’s “obsessive focus” on Arabs and Muslims encouraged the view
that people could “with impunity” say anything they want about
members of those groups – and that encourages events like the the
plastering of George Washington with offensive posters.

Some posters less inflammatory have already set off campus debates
this fall. At Middlebury College, the campus Republican group marked
the anniversary of 9/11 last month by posting a “Never Forget” poster
produced by the national YAF. The poster features a series of images:
the World Trade Center about to fall, Daniel Pearl in captivity, U.S.
hostages in Iran, the burning of an American flag, and so forth.

Many of the posters were torn down or defaced. Other students wrote
of their opposition to the display. In The Middlebury Campus, one
student op-ed argued that the poster had no place at the college.

“The message it conveys is of an isolated America facing the menace
of militant Islam. For a college that prides itself on a high
percentage of international students, and of exemplary programs of
international study, it is unbecoming of Middlebury to tolerate this
kind of rubbish on its walls,” wrote Andrey Tolstoy, a sophomore.
“Anyone with a sufficient knowledge of history could point to the
dangerous errors embedded in the poster. The events illustrated on it
– the Iranian hostage crisis, embassy bombings in Africa, September
11th, flag-burning, and others – are separated not only by time, but
by motivation and political context. By weaving them into a unified
chain – or, to be more precise, quilt – the College Republicans
attempt to incite panic and muddle our understanding of the political
challenges facing America, not to mention carelessly promoting racist
– and, more importantly, false – generalizations about Arabs, Islam
and their relationship to structures of international terrorism.”

Heather Pangle, a sophomore who is co-president of the College
Republicans at Middlebury, said it was “a gross generalization and
misunderstanding” to say that the poster was anti-Muslim. “We didn’t
have any images that were purely of peaceful Muslims,” she said. “All
of our images were of Islamic radicals who were attempting to harm
Americans. The poster had nothing to do with peaceful Muslims.”

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week will take place October 22-26, and is
sponsored by the Terrorism Awareness Project, which is affiliated
with the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The project says that 147
colleges will have programs related to the effort – although
officials on some of the campuses involved say that they haven’t
heard of any planned activities.

The Web site of the project is a mix of attacks on radical Islam and
the academic left. As the Web site explains: “The purpose of this
protest is as simple as it is crucial: to confront the two Big Lies
of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and
that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the
terrorist threat. Nothing could be more politically incorrect than to
point this out. But nothing could be more important for American
students to hear. In the face of the greatest danger Americans have
ever confronted, the academic left has mobilized to create sympathy
for the enemy and to fight anyone who rallies Americans to defend
themselves. According to the academic left, anyone who links Islamic
radicalism to the war on terror is an ‘Islamophobe.’ According to the
academic left, the Islamo-fascists hate us not because we are
tolerant and free, but because we are ‘oppressors.’ ”

In an interview, Horowitz said that the primary purpose of the week
was to promote “awareness” among students. In addition to the
lectures and posters, Horowitz said that – on some campuses –
students plan to hold sit-ins in women’s studies departments. If the
sit-ins take place, they would represent quite a shift in campus
politics, where sit-ins are generally a preferred strategy of the
campus left.

Asked why he was making women’s studies a target, given that the
Muslim movements Horowitz opposes are not known to be taking
direction from feminist scholars, Horowitz said that he has been
having students research the departments and that the sit-ins will
take place at campuses where there are not women’s studies courses
that focus on the treatment of women under Islam. “Women’s studies,
as everybody knows, all you have to do is look at their templates,
they are about unequal power, the oppression of women, so if they
don’t have a course on oppression of women in Islam, they should.” He
added that if he finds women’s studies professors who teach about the
treatment of women in Islam, he would welcome them at the events his
supporters are organizing on campuses.

Allison Kimmich, executive director of the National Women’s Studies
Association, said that Horowitz was “completely off the mark” with
his view of the discipline and she noted that many scholars in the
field examine the treatment of women in Islam and in countries all
over the world. “I think that the notion that women’s studies faculty
ignore the complexity of women’s treatment under Islam or any
fundamentalist religion is a demonstration of how little Horowitz
knows about the field of women’s studies, because there is a great
deal of scholarly work on this subject,” she said.

At campuses where Horowitz is planning to speak, some Muslim students
are asking that his events be called off. In a column in The Emory
Wheel, called “Free Speech Is No Excuse for Hatred,” Benish Shah
wrote that Emory University would be unlikely to give a forum to a
Holocaust denier, and questioned why such a standard shouldn’t apply
to Horowitz.

“Horowitz knows little to nothing about Islam, and uses his minuscule
knowledge to spark anger, hatred and frustration. Anger in Muslims
who are misrepresented by his bigoted language. Hatred in Americans
who have no knowledge of what Islam or terrorism is really about.
Frustration in those Muslims and non-Muslims who have worked
tirelessly to educate others about what Islam is, what the roots of
terrorism are in war-ridden areas and that the acts of a few radicals
do not define an entire religion,” wrote Shah. “If Emory allows him
access to their student body, they are risking their reputation
amongst future students who will not view the campus as a place of
higher learning, but a place of bias against minorities with a lack
of commitment to diversity and understanding.”

Horowitz and his supporters say that some campuses are blocking the
activities that they want to organize. One of Horowitz’s Web sites
has printed excerpts from e-mail messages from an administrator at
Columbus State Community College, in Ohio, barring posters from going
up. William Kopp, vice president for institutional advancement
Columbus State, said that those excerpts create a false impression.
Kopp said that Columbus State has not attempted to bar the events
from taking place and would not do so. As to the posters, he said
that the college has “free speech kiosks” outside where students may
post anything they want – including the poster in question. But
inside classroom buildings, Kopp said that the college reserves the
right to approve posters and that an official found the poster
“offensive” for that area, and suggested that it be modified. Kopp
said that announcements about the events would not be barred inside,
and that the only objection was to a graphic image of an execution.

In addition, Horowitz points to Westmont College, in California,
which recently had its lawyer write to his center, demanding that its
name be taken off the list of institutions participating in the week.
A spokesman for Westmont said that the letter did not reflect
censorship, but reality – he said that the college contacted all the
groups on campus that might be involved and none of them indicated
that they were participating. Jeffrey Weiner, a development associate
at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, said he removed the name of
Westmont from the list, but that it might go back if a professor
follows through on plans to organize an event there.

Weiner noted that the list does not state that colleges are endorsing
the week’s activities, only that someone at the campus is
participating. Horowitz said that the events were consistent with his
views on hearing all sides of issues – and that he was encouraging
students to invite to their panel discussions people who disagree
with them.

Some Horowitz critics have made a point of not seeking to block his
events. Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition of academic groups that
opposed Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights,” issued a statement
Monday noting the concern of some that Horowitz is organizing these
events to “provoke opposition.” But whatever his motives or ideas,
the statement continued, campus groups should respond with more ideas
and events, not by trying to have him barred.

“Regardless of people’s agreement or disagreement with Horowitz and
those hosting these events, we urge faculty and students to express
their opinions by fostering vigorous and substantive debate on
campus. We believe views should be backed with reasoned arguments and
should engage as many people as possible. This is a far better
response than attempting to prevent campus events from happening or
speakers from being able to speak,” the statement said.

The Free Exchange group also has pointed out an error of fact in
press materials that have been issued for Islamo-Fascism Week
activities. Press materials originally featured a photograph that was
said to show a teenage girl being buried before being stoned to
death, for sexual offenses that violated the laws of Islamic
authorities. But as Free Exchange pointed out, the photograph wasn’t
of a real event, but from a 1994 Dutch film. The photo in question
has been dropped from the Islamo-Fascism Web site.

– Scott Jaschik

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