What do al Qaeda, Hamas, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) all have in common? According to David Horowitz, they are all a part of the greatest threat facing America today: "Islamo-fascism."
Horowitz, a neo-conservative polemicist, visited Princeton on Tuesday as part of "Islamo-fascism Awareness Week." The national event hit campus on the last day of Eid al-Fitr, the holy Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the month of Ramadan.
According to an email from the Terrorism Awareness Project, "the purpose of this [event] is as simple as it is crucial: to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that global warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat."
Interestingly enough, Horowitz' lecture said almost nothing about global warming and instead focused on a diatribe against various ethnic, political and religious groups from Democrats to Middle Eastern governments, from African-Americans to Muslims of any nationality. Among his outrageous claims was the statement that the majority of racism in America is aimed against white students attending universities like Princeton, an assertion he attempted to support by referencing last year's controversy involving the Duke lacrosse team.
Perhaps the most malicious comments made by Horowitz, however, were those directed at Muslims. He persistently connected the religion of over 1.5 billion people to fascism, lumping together a diverse array of ethnic and political groups by using terms such as "Islamic Nazis," "barbarians" and "Islamo-fascism." Even more disturbingly, Horowitz made the claim that groups like al Qaeda and Hamas are comparable to American organizations such as CAIR and the MSA.
Throughout his lecture, Horowitz unknowingly disproved his own claims by citing an inaccurate and selective history of the Middle East. He denied that the Arab-Israeli conflict centers on the issue of land and state and insisted that no Palestinian lands had ever been annexed. He also made the apocalyptic statement that Christians in the Middle East are "vanishing," a startling claim considering the existence of over 8 million Coptic Christian Egyptians, 1.4 million Lebanese Christians and 300,000 Christians in the West Bank.
What are the implications of this sort of rhetoric for Princeton's campus? While rights of free speech must be adhered to, hateful speech from ideologues like Horowitz engenders an atmosphere that threatens the values of diversity and dialogue that the University strives to uphold. Besides being offensive terms that equate an entire religion with a totalitarian ideology, phrases like "Islamo-fascism" create the illusion that any Muslim or Islamic organization is suspected of having a violent and terrorist agenda. . .
Simply by inviting such an inflammatory speaker to campus, however, the college demonstrated their disregard for the possible consequences of such an event. When a speaker antagonizes African-Americans and Muslims and specifically attacks a neutral Princeton religious organization with incorrect and falsely evidenced claims, the possibility of hate crimes against Princeton students stemming from deliberate misinformation becomes a real concern.
It is heartening that during the question-and-answer session, a diverse group of students stood up and combated Horowitz' claims with thoughtful and intelligent questions. And though his responses often resembled a temper tantrum, the audience remained calm and respectful for the most part.
It is also worth noting that Muslim and non-Muslim organizations both on and off campus prepared a unified response to the event. A group of students who attended the lecture even wore green in protest of Horowitz' appearance on campus. In a letter to the Princeton MSA, board member Wasim Shiliwala '09 told Muslim students to be prepared for offensive language and inflammatory statements and recommended a calm and rational reaction. (MORE)