In his Oct. 17 letter “Not racist to criticize,” Matt Kleiber states that one of the potential speakers in the Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week was not a racist for suggesting that Western culture is superior to Arab culture.
Kleiber needs to understand that the very notion of Islamo-Fascism is a racist concept and any speaker that speaks in such an event is a racist. These speakers are not criticizing any Arab country or particular policy but instead are attacking the faith of 1.5 billion people by likening Islam to Fascism. A better analogy is a conference held by the KKK attacking Jews or holding a Judeo-Fascism Awareness Week.
Or how would Kleiber feel about a West-Fascism Awareness Week that seeks to show how Western women are oppressed as sex objects and citing the human trafficking problem where women are sold as sex slaves?
Not everything Muslims do is right; Muslims do not always represent Islam, just as Christians and Jews do not always represent their faiths. There are many problems in the Muslim world today and there are just as many in the Western world. Both societies need to own up to them by forums that open up an exchange of ideas and educate the masses.
However, there is a difference between a forum that criticizes cultural practices in a given society and one that demonizes a group of people. An awareness week that paints all Muslims with the same brush does not promote understanding but rather increases intolerance, fear and bigotry in a climate of prejudice toward Muslims that is already at an unprecedented level.
It is documented that campaigns that demonize an entire group of people are one of the many gradual steps toward genocide. Please read “The six Steps from Discrimination to Extermination” by Bart Charlow. Charlow mentions that step one is to spread myths or stereotypes about people that result in denigration and social distancing from them.
Freedom of speech when embraced in the spirit of elevating the truth is a needed value in every society. However, it is important to understand that hate speech which vilifies an entire group can have dangerous consequences in the form of hate crimes and violence.
Fedwa Wazwaz is a University staff member.