Attacking Muslims under the veil of free
speech is wrong
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