Hate Week Comes to Campus

If you wanted to know what Sen. Joe McCarthy would sound like if he came back from the dead, read David Horowitz’s explanation for “Islamofascism Awareness Week,” an event he is sponsoring on college campuses across the country from October 22-26:

The progressive left is the enabler and abettor of the terrorist jihad. It has forged an “unholy alliance” with the most retrograde and reactionary forces in the world today. The institutional base of the left is the university system, from whose classrooms it is conducting a behind-the-lines psychological warfare campaign against its own countrymen.

Horowitz, who edits the online FrontPage Magazine and runs the creepily named Web sites CampusWatch and DiscoverTheNetwork, is the self-appointed chief of the new thought police on college campuses.

Ironically, Horowitz is a former radical himself–a prominent writer and activist in the movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam. But in the 1970s, he distanced himself from the left, and by 1987, he had “come in from the cold”–hosting a “Second Thoughts” conference that brought together fellow ex-radicals who now embraced Ronald Reagan and the Cold War.

Horowitz’s subsequent career “baiting the left”–to use his own phrase–is lucrative. In 2005, the David Horowitz Freedom Center received more than $15.5 million in right-wing grant money, and in 2003, Horowitz’s own income for the year was $310,000.

Though he sounds like an irrelevant crank, a look at Horowitz’s track record shows no one should ignore his latest stunt. “Islamofascism Awareness Week” is one part of a broader attempt to stifle academic dissent.

In just the past year, the new McCarthyism cost several professors their jobs, including DePaul University’s Norman Finkelstein, an outspoken critic of Israel’s occupation of Palestine; and Native American scholar Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado. Other academics have been investigated and censured for their political ideas.

Horowitz has been at the center of the assault. In 2003, he launched the misnamed Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), which encourages students to “collect evidence” of their professors’ “indoctrination” in the classroom, and file reports with college administrators.

Horowitz claims SAF is “nonpartisan,” and college administrators who have collaborated in the witch-hunt echo its innocuous language about protecting scholarship from “shifting to advocacy”–the phrase DePaul University president Dennis Holtschneider used in his decision to deny tenure to Norman Finkelstein.

But Horowitz’s blacklist is reserved exclusively for critics of U.S. wars and the right-wing agenda. Whatever their rhetoric, the new witch-hunters want to silence ideas that challenge the status quo from the left.

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“ISLAMOFASCISM Awareness Week” is designed, according to FrontPage, to “challenge most of what students are taught about the so-called War on Terror both in the classroom and on the quad.”

In reality, Horowitz and friends rely on standard right-wing myths and stereotypes–echoed by mainstream politicians and the media on a regular basis–to demonize Arabs and Muslims, and justify U.S. war atrocities in the Middle East, including a future attack on Iran, which is at the top of the Horowitz wish list.

A featured speaker on Horowitz’s right-wing road show is the self-described “religious expert” Robert Spencer, author of the book Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t.

Spencer’s book argues that the Koran is responsible for violence committed by Muslims against Western targets–but that “there is no justification for violent acts committed by Christians, either in the Christian Scriptures or the teaching of various Christian churches.”

Really? What about the Crusades in the Middle Ages? The Spanish Inquisition? The genocide of Native Americans? The ongoing U.S. war on Iraq? All of these crimes were justified in their time by Christians–the Popes of the Catholic Church, Christopher Columbus, George W. Bush–who claimed to be doing “God’s work.”

Spencer could stand to re-enroll in Bible study class. For every violent or intolerant passage to be found in the Koran, an equally bloody one can be found in the Old and New Testaments. For instance, the book of Deuteronomy contains the command that anyone who “hath gone and served other gods”– in other words, practiced another faith–should be “stoned by stones till they die.”

Another speaker dredged from the gutter to join Horowitz’s tour is Ann Coulter. Coulter is a disgusting bigot who saves her most vile slurs for Muslims–like the comment, “I believe our motto after 9/11 should be: Jihad monkey talks tough; jihad monkey takes the consequences. Sorry, I realize that’s offensive. How about ‘camel jockey’?”

Horowitz is also employing one of the right wing’s favorite smokescreens in attacking Muslims–by claiming to be concerned about the “oppression of women in Islam.” FrontPage states that “the plight of Muslim women will be featured at ‘teach-in’ panels and also at sit-ins in Women’s Studies Departments.”

This cynical ploy has been used many times in the past as justification for Western imperial powers to invade and occupy the Middle East.

“During the British occupation of Egypt, British Consul General Lord Cromer declared that Egyptians should ‘be persuaded or forced into imbibing the true spirit of Western civilization,'” wrote Sharon Smith in her book Women and Socialism. “Cromer targeted, ‘first and foremost, Islam’s degradation of women.'”

But this supposed champion of women’s rights in Egypt was, back in England, a “founding member and sometimes president of the Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage.”

In 2001, the U.S. used the horrific treatment of women under the Taliban as an excuse to invade Afghanistan. But the new Afghan regime installed by the U.S. relies on a grouping of warlords from the Northern Alliance, which has a record of terrible violence against Afghan women.

According to a 2007 report by UNIFEM, the women’s fund at the United Nations, the majority of Afghan women today will be victims of sexual violence, and the average life expectancy of Afghan women is 44 years.

As for Horowitz, he may pose as a champion of women’s rights in the Middle East, but making three stops on his Islamophobia tour is one of the right’s favorite anti-abortion fanatics: former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

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THE CONCEPT of “Islamofascism” has been conjured up as part of the right wing’s effort to sell the U.S. war to control the Middle East as a battle of “values” between a democratic, tolerant and rational West and a totalitarian, intolerant and fanatical political Islam.

But even U.S. foreign policy elites reject the idea that there’s any connection between political Islam and any conventional definition of fascism. “There is no sense in which jihadists embrace fascist ideology as it was developed by Mussolini or anyone else who was associated with the term,” wrote Daniel Benjamin of the mainstream Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In reality, the claims about “Islamofascism” have more to do with the longstanding practice of the U.S. political and media elite to brand every passing U.S. enemy as the “new Hitler.”

Among those who to receive the label are Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic and even Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But of course, the Hitler slur is never used against the U.S.-supported right-wing regimes that did embrace elements of Nazism–for example, the racist apartheid regime in South Africa or the Indonesian military dictatorship under Gen. Suharto.

Another example of this double standard is the hysteria surrounding the recent visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Columbia University. New York tabloids screeched that hosting Ahmadinejad was akin to hosting Hitler, and Columbia President Lee Bolinger introduced him as the “mind of evil.” You would never know that it was the U.S. government hinting that it was about to declare war on Iran, and not the other way around.

Meanwhile, on the same day as Ahmadinejad’s visit, the president of Turkmenistan–the ruler of a one-party state that tortures political prisoners and prohibits freedom of the press, as even the State Department admits–spoke at Columbia, and neither the media nor Bollinger had any complaints.

The difference, of course, is that Turkmenistan is a U.S. ally.

Horowitz’s Islamophobia tour takes place at a time when racism against Muslims and Arabs is rampant and provides one of the only remaining selling points for U.S. wars. Politicians and the corporate media use bigotry to scapegoat Iraqis for the ongoing failure of the U.S. occupation and turn up the military pressure on Iran.

Given the climate, it’s little surprise that the Council on American-Islamic Relations has documented a rise in discrimination and hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims in the U.S.

David Horowitz and his fellow Islamophobes should be confronted and exposed for the bigots they are–at every campus they show up on, and everywhere opponents of war and racism raise their voices.

AARON HESS writes for the Socialist Worker.