I published an essay, “America and Islam: Seeking Parallels,” in Counterpunch on December 29, 2004. A day later, I began to receive nasty and threatening emails, all at once. These were orchestrated by a www.littlegreenfootballs.com. Shortly thereafter, other right-wing websites got into act, posting excerpts from the essay; these included jihadwatch.org, campuswatch.org, frontpagemag.com, freerepublic.com, etc. The messages posted on these websites were equally vicious, and some of them, containing explicit death threats, were ‘kindly’ forwarded to me.
What did I say in this essay? I made two points. First, that the 9-11 attacks were an Islamist insurgency: the attackers believe that they are fighting–as the Americans did, in the 1770s–for their freedom and dignity against a foreign occupation/control of their lands. Secondly, I argue that these attacks were the result of a massive political failure of Muslims to resist their tyrannies locally. It was a mistake to attack the US.
I followed the first essay with a second one, “Testing Free Speech In America,” where I elaborate on the points I had made earlier. This too was published in Counterpunch.Org on Jan 1/2, 2005.
The emails to me and the University continued for another two weeks, eventually tapering off. In the meanwhile, I was speaking to people at the ACLU, Boston, and the ADC, Boston. On the suggestion of the ACLU, I contacted the campus police and the police in my hometown to let them know about the death threats posted against me.
I had a feeling this was not the end of the matter. So yesterday, February 1, I received an email from Fox News asking for a TV interview; they were producing a program “on me.” At this point, I spoke to people at ACLU who advised me against going on the program. I received the same advice from other friends. I wrote back to Fox saying I could not do the interview but would be glad to answer any questions. They did not take me up on my offer. Clearly, this would not help them in their designs against me.
It appears that Bill O’Reilly is doing a series on ‘unAmerican’ professors on US campuses. Last night, my wife tells me, he did a piece on Ward Churchill. Tonight will be my turn. I expect he will make all kinds of outlandish accusations that will resonate well with the left- and Muslim-hating members of his audience. This will generate calls and emails to Northeastern and to me ? containing threats, calls for firing me, and threats to withhold donations. I am not sure how well NU will stand up against this barrage.
If we can generate a matching volume of emails, letters and call to NU supporting my right to free speech, it might be helpful.
What else can we do?
The contact information for President Richard Freeland is available
Contact for Provots and Senior VP for Academic Affairs:
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
112 Hayden Hall
The contacts for the leading people in the President’s office are
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
100 Meserve Hall
360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
M. SHAHID ALAM, professor of economics at Northeastern University, is a regular contributor to CounterPunch.org. Some of his CounterPunch essays are now available in a book, Is There An Islamic Problem (Kuala Lumpur: The Other Press, 2004). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.