The WashU Rabbit, breakin it down.
Last year, on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, the College Republicans sponsored the ridiculous “Islamofacism Awareness Week,” where they proceeded to tell the campus why we should all be wetting our pants about the threat of “scary Muslims.” Several groups on campus (the College Dems, the Peace Coalition, and the Muslim Student Association) put together a wonderful panel in response to their absurdity. Since, it seemed obvious, the Repubs came out looking like complete jackasses, we figured that this particular brand of stupidity would be done with.
Unfortunately, now the the Republican election strategy appears to be focused very strongly on riling up their knuckle-dragging base by focusing on imaginary threats, they decided to give it another go, inviting right-wing anti-muslim author Daniel Pipes to campus to speak about “The Threat of Radical Islam” and passing out copies of the anti-Muslim propaganda film “Obsession.” Well, just like last time, we weren’t about to take this lying down, so what follows is a diary about the Pipes event and our response.
Daniel Pipes is a failed academic who now deems himself a “leading Middle East scholar” due to his propensity to produce large numbers of books. Over his career, he has said quite a few repulsive things. Here is a quick sampling:
Daniel Pipes’ speech before the convention of the American Jewish Congress on 10/21/2001). “The increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims…will present true dangers to American Jews.”
“The Palestinians are a miserable people…and they deserve to be.” Daniel Pipes, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2001 .
“Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene…All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.” (National Review, 11/19/90)
In addition to his general assholish behavior, he also is the founder of the McCarthite group Campus Watch, which asks students to “report” professors who teach in ways that diverge from Pipes’ right-wing ideology. The group took a lot of flack for publishing a list of professors Pipes’ deemed “hostile to America.” And, as if that wasn’t dickish enough, Pipes has personally inserted himself in the hiring decisions of many universities, leading a campaign to get Yale to retract is job offer to real Middle East expert Juan Cole.
Despite all of this nonsense, I thought Pipes might try to present himself as moderate. He does love to point out that he doesn’t think all Muslims are evil, just those who think that we shouldn’t nuke Iran or that Palestinians should have their own state. And the title of his talk, after all, was, “Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally.”
This thought was quickly put to rest, as this 1/2 page ad was run in the Monday edition of Student LIfe:
OK, so obviously this is morally disgusting, but can anyone tell me how this isn’t also just completely stupid?? Do Pipes and Horowitz really believe they can convince a group of students at a private university that there’s a secret jihad going on that no one knows about. Overheard on campus (literally):
Student 1: Did you know there was a jihad on campus?
Student 2: Nope, I must have missed it.
All right, so much for the bad news. The good news is that despite getting very short notice about the Pipes’ event, we were able to organize a quick response. Our event was sponsored by several groups on campus: the WashU Peace Coalition, the College Democrats, The Muslim Student Association, our school’s chapter of A.I., Students for a Democratic Society, Safe Zones, and the Pride Alliance. Here are some photos from the event (unfortunately it was dark so they aren’t that great of quality):
Here’s me, giving a clumsy introduction:
Another member of the Peace Coalition, Todd, gave a great introduction that explained how the movie “Obsession” had already been linked to violence against Muslims. I don’t have a picture of him talking, so here’s a picture of the crowd:
Dr. Keshavarz discussed the response panel we will be holding next week with experts on how this kind of hate speech affects Muslims.
Dr. Karamustafa describes Pipes witchhunts against academics who disagree with his ideology:
Here’s a picture of campus security, who was outside our event. Apparently Pipes requires a bodyguard wherever he goes. Got to keep an eye out for those “Islamofacists,” you know.
And, unfortunately, I don’t have photos of all of the wonderful speakers there were. I do have some video, and will try to put some up if I can figure out how to get it off my camera, on to my computer, and on to teh youtube.
But let me just mention a couple of the highlights from the other great speakers. We had a member of the Muslim Student Association talk about how moved she was by an interfaith retreat she went on, and how Pipes was dangerous because he tried to present different religions as hating each other. We had a conservative who said he was embarrassed by Pipes and the group that invited him. We had a Jewish friend of mine talk about how Pipes’ s extremism was not helping Judaism or Israel. And perhaps my favorite talk was from a member of the Pride Alliance who spoke about how we all had to unite when groups like these try to demonize others as a way of creating a wedge issue before elections. It was all unscripted, and all very moving.
So Pipes came to campus trying to tell the students that they should be really afraid of the “Islamists” scheming to take over the country. Unfortunately for him, college campuses are places where people still like to think, and don’t carve the world into simple categories of “us” and “them.” I doubt Pipes succeeded in convincing anyone that they should be scared, but he did (accidently) succeed in bringing together a diverse group of people who were united in our determination to not let his hateful rhetoric go unchallenged.