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Attacking Muslims under the veil of free speech is wrong

Chris Shortsleeve

         Issue date: 12/3/07 

A few weeks ago, something called Islamofascism Awareness Week came to almost 100 college campuses across the United States. Organized by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, this speaker series was intended, in its own words, to "alert Americans to the threat from Islamo-Fascism and focus attention on the violent oppression of Muslim women in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and other Islamic states."

A simple survey of modern Middle Eastern history will show that the number of Muslim women killed by American empire and its puppet regimes is more than the most egregious Muslim patriarchs could ever hope to accomplish with all the stones in Arabia. In Iraq alone - a country terrorized for decades by the American-backed dictator and former CIA agent Saddam Hussein - civilian casualties as a result of current U.S. occupation and U.S.-led sanctions that preceded it are now over one million.

Yet, white racists like Horowitz, who have no interest in the liberation of the Middle East, repeatedly whine about the veil and the lack of freedom in Muslim societies. This Horowitz-led diatribe against "Islamofascism" is not a good faith attempt at solidarity with Muslim women suffering under patriarchy, but a shallow, opportunistic demonization of an entire religion and culture, all for the ultimate purpose of justifying American imperialism in the Middle East. These people do not feel anything for the women of Islam. They preach from a pulpit of bones.

Horowitz's arguments about Islam are, of course, not new, but rooted in an ideological tradition of French and British colonialism. For centuries, this tradition has justified the violence and totalitarianism of colonialism in the Middle East through a civilizational hierarchy that equates Islam with patriarchy and backwardness, and the European (and now American) states with enlightenment and liberation. Today's American imperial project relies more than ever on an ideological polemic against the supposedly exceptional patriarchy of the Muslim faith. This is ultimately a cultural eugenicist argument, rooted in a philosophy of white supremacy.

Furthermore, Horowitz endorses the racist supposition that Middle Eastern peoples do not have the right to resist conquest and empire. He subscribes to a good Muslim-bad Muslim dichotomy whereby good Muslims endorse the so-called "war on terror," unconditionally renouncing the use of violence even in the face of terror, while bad Muslims are any who forge a political Islamic identity that dares to rear its head against U.S. supremacy in the Middle East.

Horowitz himself needs to be understood in the context of the rising white populist movement in this country. Since the 1980s, David Horowitz has had a documented political record of routinely supporting fascist and white supremacist forces abroad and in the United States. He supported the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, the Contra fascists in Nicaragua, the apartheid regimes in South Africa and Israel, as well as the State Department's favorite dictatorship, Saudi Arabia. At home, Horowitz has published articles on his website by Jared Taylor and James Lublinskus, key leaders of the white supremacist group American Renaissance, and has offered critical support for David Duke, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Furthermore, unlike many of his ideological allies, Horowitz is not just a talking head - he is a leading street-level organizer of a growing, insurgent right-wing movement in the United States. Islamofascism Awareness Week was not just an academic discussion, but was designed to recruit and consolidate this movement's campus youth forces. Over the last two decades, Horowitz has shown a determination to build a street force of young, conservative, ideologically sharp college students. The threat he poses to communities of color in this country, as well as to all Americans' basic democratic rights, should not be underestimated or misunderstood.

Islamofascism Awareness Week met with much popular student opposition, and many liberals have suggested that this opposition was somehow a violation of time-honored university principles of civil dialogue and academic discourse. This is a grave misunderstanding of what Horowitz actually represents, and frankly emblematic of a growing authoritarian political culture in this country that values assembly hall etiquette over principled opposition to organized racist forces. History has shown that organizations sympathetic to white supremacist ideas ultimately dialogue with no one.

Moreover, a question of double standards arises. If universities across America were to host a "Blackofascism Awareness Week" or a "Jewofascism Awareness Week," would this be acceptable university speech? Would we engage it "objectively" in the spirit of civil, academic dialogue? Why, then, was Islamofascism Awareness Week hosted by universities across the country and enthusiastically attended by their "objective" student bodies? As Arab and Muslim people increasingly come under attack in this country, those who truly believe in free discourse and the principles of the university need to stand up to these attacks and defend the Arab and Muslim-American community. It is a mockery of university principles that this conference was even hosted, and one more example of university bureaucracies using their institutional power to promote racist and imperial politics. Students who truly believe in democracy and open discourse need to start fighting for a democratic and open campus.

Chris Shortsleeve is a contributing columnist. E-mail him at

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