Is­lamo-Fas­cism and free speech on cam­pus

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - DEN­NIS PRAGER

Two weeks ago, at univer­si­ties around Amer­ica, the con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist David Horowitz or­ga­nized “Is­lamo-Fas­cism Aware­ness Week.” The week fea­tured a guest speaker, the show­ing of the doc­u­men­tary, “Ob­ses­sion,” about rad­i­cal Is­lam, and re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties.

As one of those speak­ers — at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Santa Bar­bara — I was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in the con­tro­versy Is­lamo-Fas­cism Aware­ness Week en­gen­dered as well as in the larger ques­tion of whether the term “Is­lamo-Fas­cism” is valid.

Var­i­ous Mus­lim stu­dent groups con­demned th­ese aware­ness weeks and the term it­self, charg­ing that both are no more than ex­pres­sions of anti-Mus­lim big­otry, i.e., “Is­lam­o­pho­bia.” Nev­er­the­less, Mus­lim stu­dent groups de­cided not to ac­tively dis­rupt the week. There­fore most of the op­po­si­tion to Is­lamo-Fas­cism Aware­ness Week events came from left­ist stu­dent groups.

This op­po­si­tion took the form of op­pos­ing fund­ing of speak­ers in­vited to cam­pus; writ­ing ar­ti­cles in cam­pus news­pa­pers at­tack­ing the speak­ers, the Aware­ness Week and the term “Is­lamo-Fas­cism” as es­sen­tially racist; and in some cases dis­rupt­ing the speech.

I ex­pe­ri­enced the first two forms of left­ist op­po­si­tion; David Horowitz ex­pe­ri­enced the third as well. He was in­vited to speak at Emory Univer­sity, but left­ist stu­dents packed the hall and shouted him down. Emory of­fi­cials did noth­ing to stop the ha­rass­ment and the sup­pres­sion of speech, and Mr. Horowitz was un­able to de­liver his talk. It is con­sid­er­ably more dif­fi­cult to get con­ser­va­tive speak­ers in­vited to most Amer­i­can univer­si­ties — or for them to be able to speak with­out be­ing ha­rassed — than it is for a Holo­caust-deny­ing, geno­cide-ad­vo­cat­ing leader, such as Iran’s Ah­madine­jad at Columbia Univer­sity, to de­liver a speech at an Amer­i­can univer­sity.

In my case, about a quar­ter of the 300 stu­dents who came to my talk at UCSB were left­ists op­posed to my com­ing. But they al­lowed me to de­liver my re­marks with­out once try­ing to shout me down. There were, I be­lieve, three rea­sons for this. One is that UCSB has a rel­a­tively calm po­lit­i­cal cli­mate. Sec­ond, there was a se­ri­ous po­lice pres­ence and it was clear that dis­rupters would be re­moved, if not ar­rested. Third, stu­dents told me af­ter­ward that I dis­armed those who came to op­pose me. Con­trary to the de­mo­nized fig­ure they had as­sumed I am — in one UCSB stu­dent news­pa­per col­umn, I was com­pared to a Ku Klux Klan­ner for speak­ing on Is­lam­oFas­cism — they saw a de­cent man, a some­times funny guy, and heard a low-keyed, in­tel­lec­tual speech that con­tained not one word of gra­tu­itous ha­tred.

It is worth men­tion­ing that fol­low­ing my lec­ture, the stu­dent who wrote the col­umn com­par­ing me to a Ku Klux Klan­ner came over to me and said he was writ­ing a col­umn of apol­ogy to me and asked to be pho­tographed with me. This is not sur­pris­ing. Stu­dents at most univer­si­ties are al­most brain­washed into be­ing left­ist — and the way they are taught to dis­agree with their po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents is by us­ing ad hominem at­tacks. Con­ser­va­tives are de­scribed over and over as mean­spir­ited, war-lov­ing, greedy, big­oted, racist, xeno­pho­bic, Is­lam­o­pho­bic, ho­mo­pho­bic, sex­ist, in­tol­er­ant and obliv­i­ous to hu­man suf­fer­ing.

Such ad hominem la­bels are the left’s pri­mary rhetor­i­cal weapons. So when left­ist stu­dents are ac­tu­ally con­fronted with even one ar­tic­u­late con­ser­va­tive, many en­ter a world of cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance. That is one rea­son why univer­si­ties rarely in­vite con­ser­va­tives to speak: they might change some stu­dents’ minds.

Re­gard­ing the term “Is­lam­oFas­cism,” most stu­dents heard the ar­gu­ments I pre­sented for the le­git­i­macy of the term for the first time in their lives. Very briefly sum­ma­rized, th­ese ar­gu­ments were:

First, the term is not anti-Mus- lim. One may ob­ject to the term on fac­tual grounds, i.e., one may claim that there are no fascis­tic be­hav­iors among peo­ple act­ing in the name of Is­lam — but such a claim is a de­nial of the ob­vi­ous.

So once one ac­knowl­edges the ob­vi­ous, that there is fascis­tic be­hav­ior among a core of Mus­lims — specif­i­cally, a cult of vi­o­lence and the wan­ton use of phys­i­cal force to im­pose an ide­ol­ogy on oth­ers — the term “Is­lamo-Fas­cism” is en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate.

Sec­ond, the ques­tion then arises as to whether that term is anti-Mus­lim in that it be­smirches the name of Is­lam and at­tempts to de­scribe all Mus­lims as fas­cist. This ob­jec­tion, too, has a clear re­sponse.

The term no more im­plies all Mus­lims or Is­lam is fascis­tic than the term “Ger­man fas­cism” im­plied all Ger­mans were fas­cists or “Ital­ian fas­cism” or “Ja­panese fas­cism” im­plied that all Ital­ians or all Ja­panese were fas­cists. In­deed, even re­li­gious groups have been la­beled as fas­cist. Dur­ing World War II, for ex­am­ple, Croa­t­ian Catholic fas­cists were called Catholic Fas­cists, and no one ar­gued that the term was in­valid be­cause it pur­port­edly la­beled all Catholics or Catholi­cism fas­cist. When the left uses the term “Amer­i­can im­pe­ri­al­ism,” are they im­ply­ing that all Amer­i­cans are im­pe­ri­al­ists? Then why does Is­lamo-Fas­cism la­bel all Mus­lims?

Third, given the hor­rors be­ing per­pe­trated by some Mus­lims in the name of Is­lam — from the geno­cide cur­rently be­ing prac­ticed by the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Su­dan, to the mass mur­ders of in­no­cents in Iraq, Is­rael, Amer­ica, Bri­tain, Bali, Thai­land, the Philip­pines and else­where — what term is more ac­cu­rate than “Is­lam­oFas­cism”? “Is­lamic to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism”? “Ji­hadists”? “Bad Mus­lims”?

The left’s or­ga­nized cru­sade against Is­lamo-Fas­cism Aware­ness Week was sim­ply the latest shame in the long and shame­ful his­tory of the left’s in­abil­ity to con­front those en­gaged in great evil — like the left’s fe­ro­cious op­po­si­tion dur­ing the Cold War to la­bel­ing com­mu­nism as “to­tal­i­tar­ian” or “evil” and its nearly uni­ver­sal con­dem­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s de­scrip­tion of the Soviet Union as an “evil em­pire.”

That Mus­lim stu­dent groups and other Mus­lim or­ga­ni­za­tions joined with the left in the ad hominem con­dem­na­tion of Is­lamo-Fas­cism Aware­ness Week was most un­for­tu­nate. Many Mus­lims know well that there is in­deed such a thing as Is­lamo-Fas­cism, and they should be the first to join in fight­ing it. It is not those who use the term “Is­lamo-Fas­cism” who are sul­ly­ing the name of Is­lam; it is the Is­lamo-Fas­cists.

Den­nis Prager is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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