Thursday, October 25, 2007
David Horowitz: It’s All About Him
On college campuses across America this week, conservatives are gathering together to listen to right-wing luminaries such as Ann Coulter and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) as part of David Horowitz's Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. A project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Terrorism Awareness Project, Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week organizers claim that they are only seeking "to educate students and other Americans about the 'cadre of Islamic terrorists' who 'have declared Holy War on the U.S.'" But their efforts have come under fire from critics, who say they will spread "racism and religious hatred" through the use of a loaded political phrase like Islamo-fascism. "Labeling an entire religion as fascist is offensive, inaccurate and inappropriate since it conveys a faulty image of more than a...billion Muslims around the world," wrote the Penn State University Muslim Student Association in a statement. Horowitz's response to the concerns of students who worry that the events will needlessly inflame tensions on campus has been to accuse them of "tak[ing] it upon themselves to conduct a hate campaign" against him and his supporters. Though Horowitz is claiming that it will be "the biggest conservative campus protest ever" and "a wake-up call for Americans on 200 university and college campuses" about "the enemy," many of the schools purported to be participating have actually denied any association with Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, despite their schools being listed on Horowitz's website. There are, however, still many schools that will still be spreading Horowitz's divisive message this week.
COUNTERPRODUCTIVE LABELING: Since 9/11, the use of the phrase Islamo-fascism has increasingly become more in vogue on the right. President Bush has used variations of the term on multiple occasions. But despite Bush's embrace of the term, many experts see it as "meaningless" and nothing more than an "epithet." "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," says Daniel Benjamin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "This is an epithet, a way of arousing strong emotion and tarnishing one's opponent." Though supporters, such as former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), say that moderate Muslims should "embrace" the term, the use of labels like "Islamo-fascism" and "Islamic extremism" are counterproductive toward working with moderates to address the terrorism and extremism among a small minority of Muslims. In a speech last month, former CentCom Commander Gen. John Abizaid described how "even adding the word Islamic" makes it "very, very difficult" to "work together" with mainline regional leaders to keep extremism "from becoming mainstream." Considering the tactics encouraged by Horowitz, stirring that sort of divisiveness may be the real underlying agenda of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.
INTENTIONALLY DIVISIVE: In the Student's Guide to Hosting Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week provided on the Terrorism Awareness Project's website, Horowitz's team suggests that students distribute a petition that "forces students and faculty to declare their allegiances." The guide then suggests that the petition be brought "to those groups who might be least likely to sign it" such as the "Muslim Students' Association." As the Atlantic's Matthew Yglesias notes, the petition is "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.'" Horowitz's entire campaign is rife with such "with us or against us" rhetoric. In an online chat on Sunday at Islamonline.net, he claimed that if Muslims found his work "offensive," they would be supporting "terror, the stoning of women, clitorectomies." Additionally, the very choice of speakers for Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week is a who's who of controversial speakers, some of whom have a history of anti-Muslim rhetoric, such as Ann Coulter. At the 2006 Conservative Political Action Conference, Coulter declared to "boisterous ovation" that "our motto should be post-9-11, 'raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.'"
THE REAL POLITICAL AGENDA: As the Muslim blogger Ali Eteraz notes, "this 'awareness' week is not about awareness at all, but using anti-Muslim animus to achieve political ends" by attacking Horowitz's true "enemy": "the political left." On the Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week homepage, Horowitz explicitly lays out his prime motivation for the project. "The purpose of this protest is as simple as it is crucial: to confront the two Big Lies of the political left," says a statement on the website. Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week will allow conservatives to target "tenured leftist professors teaching anti-American curriculum," a University of Rhode Island College Republican told a local radio station. During her Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week speech at the University of California at Berkeley, Nonie Darwish, the founder of Arabs for Israel, repeatedly challenged "the American left" to "support" Horowitz's far right cause. A former Marxist-turned-conservative ideologue, Horowitz is on a perpetual and paranoid campaign against what he deems the Left. On his website, Discover the Networks, he claims that the left consists of everyone from movie critic Roger Ebert to Osama bin Laden.