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Ali Eteraz

Ali Eteraz

Posted: October 8, 2007 12:25 PM

Laughing at "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week"


An ex-senator that opposes individual rights of women; a pundit that calls people "faggots" and considers Islam a "cult"; a Christian scholar who is considered a "polemicist" and an "Islamophobe" by conservative Christians themselves; and an intellectual who has received millions from "far right" organizations since 2001, are rising up for the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities in the Muslim world. This laughable spectacle is called the Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. It will be coming to a university near you on October 22 - 26.

Why are they going to universities? Why not these people go to Saudi Arabia or Pakistan and tackle extremism directly? Simple: They consider the university "the institutional base of the left." The same left which "is the enabler and abettor of the terrorist jihad."

In order, thus, to attack the left, these crusaders will be seeking to purposefully trap and target Muslim student groups at various universities. Mathrew Yglesias describes their tactics as follows: "In short, the main goal of the 'David Horowitz Freedom Center' here is to write up a petition deliberately designed to be unlikely for Muslim groups to sign and then to use Muslim groups' failure to sign the petition as evidence that they're on the side of 'our terrorist adversaries.'" The Petition has rightly been described in the blogosphere as akin to The Great Loyalty Oath from the novel Catch-22.

These compassionate crusaders plan on making "the oppression of women in Islam" a "major theme of the week."

Yet, the reality is that the American universities are some of the staunchest supporters of the rights of Muslim women. It was at a university where I met Riffat Hassan, the well-known anti-honor killing activist from the University of Louisville. It was at a university where I met Amina Wadud, the Quran scholar, who was the first woman to lead a mixed-congregation prayer in recent Muslim history and quite courageously challenged Muslim patriarchy. It was at a university where I met Abdullahi An-Naim, the Sudanese Islamic scholar whose message calls for the equality of men and women in and whose teacher was executed in 1983 for such ideas. It was a university where I met Rafia Zakaria, the feminist activist whose commentary on issues affecting Muslim women is published in Pakistan and India. It was at a university where I heard of Laleh Bakhtiar who has now published a feminist translation of the Quran (and we know how important translations of the Quran are in the fight against extremism). It was at a university where I encountered the work of Ziba Mir-Hosseini, the Iranian activist whose speciality is Muslim divorce law, with a focus on women's rights.

It is these universities that the organizers of this initiative are calling "enablers and abettors" of terrorism.

In fact, the universities have been on the forefront of supporting many Muslim reform projects, and the area of Muslim women is not the only one they have supported.

It was at a university where Iranian dissenter and Nobel Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi went to make her speeches (where she extolled not attacking her country). It was at a university where Akbar Ganji, the Iranian dissenter, went to consult with leading left wing philosopher Richard Rorty. It was at a university where a Jewish Studies professor Deborah Lipstadt started to translate anti-holocaust-denial books into Arabic and Farsi. It was a university that gave shelter to Muslim scholars from South Africa whose homes were firebombed.

So, the question to be posed to the organizers of Islamofascism Awareness Week is this: what have they done to support any of the aforementioned academics and activists? By calling the universities "abettors of terrorism", they reveal their contempt of the aforementioned efforts, not support. With the amount of hooting and hollering they have done about women's rights in Islam, I would imagine the next step would be take some of their millions and donate the money to these activists, or better yet, to Muslim women around the world, such as this initiative belonging to Mukhtaran Mai, the survivor of gang-rape and leading feminist activist in Pakistan.

Yet, I suspect that is quite unlikely, because this "awareness" week is not about awareness at all, but using anti-Muslim animus to achieve political ends. The primary political end is to continue the war in Iraq. For example Santorum, one of the featured speakers of the week has previously urged Bush, for "public relations" reasons, to depict the war in Iraq as a greater war against "Islamic Fascism."

Further, one has to wonder what someone like Ann Coulter will be able to accomplish while discussing feminism in the Muslim world when it appears she doesn't find women intellectually capable of having the right to vote. While on the subject of Coulter I find it quite interesting that in the span of a year she has gone from calling Muslims "ragheads" to turning into a Mother Theresa for Muslim women.

Just the other day at one of our universities, a woman-hating, fundamentalist, gay-bashing, religious-supremacist, made a fool of himself, providing a hearty chuckle at his expense. In the last days of October, there will be more opportunities for such amusements. This time from some of our own. I encourage our universities to welcome these speakers.