Several weeks ago, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) learned about a national campaign called “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” scheduled for Oct. 22-26. After reviewing the campaign, ADC found a disturbing collection of propaganda prepared by a narrow-minded interest group with seemingly only one intention: to slander Arabs and Muslims on our nation’s college campuses.
The Web site asks students participating in the campaign to disseminate presentations, such as “The Islamic Mein Kampf.” The site also tries to connect Islam with fascism and Arabs and Muslims with Nazis. In fact, a blog by the director of this initiative, extreme conservative David Horowitz proclaimed that Palestinians are the “quintessential Islamo-Fascists” and that their cause is “genocidal.” Indeed, Horowitz’s personal Web site is home to comments such as, “There is no distinction in the American Muslim community between peaceful Muslims and jihadists,” and, “Put a complete stop to Muslim immigration, and find creative ways to deport all Muslim non-citizens. These two measures would be accompanied by the creation of an environment where the practice of Islam is made not easy but difficult.” Additionally, the David Horowitz Freedom Center claims responsibility for a presentation called “What Really Happened in the Middle East,” which promotes historically inaccurate information in snippets designed to promote prejudicial fear and hatred of Arabs and Muslims.
The Web site for IFAW lists approximately 150 institutions, including this one, at which it will be held. ADC contacted the presidents of each of these universities to let them know that the hate-filled campaign was scheduled to take place on campus. ADC expressed serious concerns that such rhetoric and speech will not serve to educate but only to promote hate and bigotry. The points of view espoused by this campaign are not ones that belong in any reasonable debate, as they serve to promote hatred of an entire religion or ethnic origin. While there is, and should be, ample discussion on college campuses about U.S. Middle East policy, with a diverse range of opinions present, the kinds of ideas that this campaign is trying to put forward are dangerous, hateful, and will only obviate the learning process and further Islamophobia and racism.
The overwhelming response ADC received from universities was that they did not want to be associated with this campaign. Numerous universities expressed outrage that their name was being associated with Mr. Horowitz’s IFAW hate campaign. ADC is glad to say that university presidents from Jerry Falwell Jr. at Liberty University and other evangelical schools, to Princeton, Cornell, and to the chancellors of various public state system universities and private colleges are firmly opposed to this type of campaign.
Although 150 schools are listed at the Web site, it seems very few, if any, are actually participating in IFAW. It appears that if Mr. Horowitz can gather a small group of narrow-minded students in a dorm room to watch one of his poorly produced propaganda films, he thinks he can list a university as a participant.
In reviewing the materials and the list of well-known Arabophobes and Islamophobes scheduled to speak, it is clear that this event is a celebration of hate speech and intolerance. And this type of intolerant hate-filled event stokes the flames of racism and bigotry. It has already been well-documented that the Arab-American and Muslim-American communities and anyone perceived to be a member of the communities have been the targets of hate crimes and discrimination. The FBI has reported that such crimes increased by a reported 1,600 percent after the horrific terrorist acts of Sept. 11.
Christian, Arab, Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, and other interfaith and non-sectarian groups have worked jointly and separately to promote tolerance and understanding and to maintain a safe and hate-free learning environment. While it appears that this campaign is not of the scope and magnitude it proclaims, ADC is still concerned that students would in any way try to bring this to campus. Some groups have an interest in describing world politics today as an all-out struggle between good and evil, and they try to do this by demonizing large groups of people. University students can lead the battle against hate into the next generation by opposing these sorts of campaigns on their campus today and when they enter the working world tomorrow.
The author is the Director of Information and Technology of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.