What happens when Marxism meets Islam at one of America's most left-wing universities?
You get a conference called "Deconstructing Islamophobia: Immigration, Globalization and Constructing the Other," dedicated to the ideas that the USA is the source of all the world's evil and Americans are mean-spirited hicks who denigrate Islam, in particular by stereotyping the religion—even though Islam has declared war on the U.S. and western civilization by direct attack.
You have to wonder what the organizers, from something ominously called the Center for Race and Gender at Berkeley, [Send them mail] had in mind when they chose a woman in maximum hijab as the event's icon. Doesn't that image feed into the "stereotype" of women being forced to hide their individual identities from society in a fabric prison?
Another negative was the use of the word "Islamophobia." The dictionary defines a phobia as an irrational fear. But a more accurate description of Americans' attitude would be reasonable antipathy toward a self-declared enemy.
Quite obviously, the followers of Islam and multicultural socialism who presented this affair had no interest beyond preaching to the converted and the further indoctrination of left-leaning students already in their clutches.
The two-day event was the mirror opposite of my last Islam-connected experience on campus, as reported in "Nonie Darwish vs. Berkeley Left on Islamo-Fascism." The courageous Egyptian-born woman, now an outspoken critic of Jihad, was repeatedly interrupted by harassment and threats. Her description of growing up female in an Islamic country was too threatening in its honesty for the far Left to allow without shrill attempts to shut her up. (Watch.)
That October evening was a disturbing experience. Thuggish characters used intimidation in an attempt to end the free speech of one brave woman. I felt like I needed to be disinfected just from being there.
But the Religion of Peace and its leftist defenders put on their reasonable hats for the Islamophobia extravaganza, which scheduled around two dozen mostly academic speakers from around the world, at no small expense. There were no police required to protect speakers from violent intimidation. The audience was of one mind—USA bad, Islam good. There was no hostility because there was no diversity of views: the program was designed to present a unified ideology.
The major negative note was the endless complaining that is now the norm when throngs of immigrants get together. But they were downright cheerful in agreeing that Americans are terrible people, full of racism, anger and colonialist stereotypes against innocent Muslims.
It's a wonder anyone wants to come here at all.
Colonialism was indeed a major theme. Who knew that it was still such a big problem so long after European powers relinquished control over lands in Africa and Asia?
But the shared view of conference speakers was that Americans' negative attitudes about Muslims arise from generalizations about exotic foreigners as the despised "other," and that thinking came from colonialism, even though America was never much of a colonial power. The ideology is a handy formula for incorrectly explaining the world and has little to do with actual history. But the level of academic integrity is apparently very low in "Ethnic Studies" programs.
One speaker, Sunaina Maira, [Send her mail]mentioned the Barbary pirates, who figured in a genuine historical episode from America's early days, when President Jefferson sent the U.S. Navy to dismantle the Muslim raiders who had terrorized the high seas for centuries. Robert C. Davis's recent book, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters notes that Islamic pirates took around a million Christians as slaves over 300 years.
But Maira used this military strike as an evidence of colonialism—not as a long-overdue reaction against mass kidnapping and slavery by Muslim terrorists.
Maira also overlooked the invasions of Muslim armies attacking Europe, with battles at Tours in 732, Lepanto in 1571 and Vienna in 1683. Of course, the Sons of Allah are back today, but armed with visas instead of swords.
She similarly neglected the violence-inciting content of the Koran itself, recently the focus of the film Fitna, produced by member of the Dutch Parliament Geert Wilders.
The inheritors of western civilization have plenty of reason to regard Muslims as permanent and intractable enemies—not as the victims of rapacious Europeans and Americans.
But you wouldn't know that from this one-sided propaganda fest.
One academic analyst, Peter Gottschalk, [Send him mail]expressed shock and dismay that political cartoonists use ethnic stereotypes (!) when drawing Arabs and Muslims. He has published a book on this subject, Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy. Of course, people who frequent the real world recognize stereotypes as being the general currency of cartoon imagery. Furthermore, Arab cartoons of Israelis, Jews and Americans are not exactly generous depictions.
I was also bothered by the use by some of extreme academic-speak, a version of English so unintelligible that it made my head ache to listen. The presentation of Dina Al-Kassim [Send her mail]was so full of gibberish I began writing down her curious phrases, e.g.: "old Orientalism," "new racism, " "Muslim collectivity," "sudden coherence," and "social discord phantasm. "
I understand that the academic world in certain fields trains its acolytes to speak this mutant form of communication in order to converse in code and self-identify to other members of the exclusive group. It's a strategy designed keep out the riff-raff who insist upon meaningful debate.
But do many parents regard this dubious skill as worth the tuition they are paying? I doubt it.
More substantially disagreeable were some of the characters given starring roles, in particular Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in Near Eastern studies at UC Berkeley. He created a controversy in 2004 when he called for an intifada in the United States (at a San Francisco "peace" rally!), an incident recorded on the photoblog Zombietime. But he put aside the bomb-thrower persona to play the genial MC at the culminating panel of A-listers on the final night.
Another person of disrepute was Parvez Ahmed, if only because of his position as the Chairman of the Board for the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that has seen several of its high-ranking officials prosecuted and imprisoned for terrorism. He has personally suggested that SLAPP lawsuits would result if anyone spoke ill of CAIR. His remarks at the wrap-up session were a boring recitation of CAIR-gathered statistics to portray Muslims residing in the US as successful high-achievers who nevertheless suffer from the indignities foisted upon them by cruel redneck Americans who don't celebrate diversity.
In fact, FBI data published in 2007 show that hate crimes against Muslims have fallen sharply. But facts were in short supply while the conference positioned "Islamophobia" as a new academic discipline. "Placing Islamophobia within the context of ethnic studies would allow researchers to look more broadly at the confluence of race, culture, ethnicity and religion that define the American Muslim experience today," according to the San Francisco Chronicle's backgrounder on the conference (Looking at people's phobia of Muslims by Matthai Kuruvila, April 16, 2008).
It's infuriating to see a taxpayer-supported state university being used as a propaganda tool by the Islamic fifth column. The academic world leans left in its politics, but what I heard was worse—poisonous rhetoric, designed to undergird an angry fifth column in the U.S.
And this was an open forum. You have to wonder what these people say when the public is not invited.
As scholar Daniel Pipes recently remarked at a talk I attended at Berkeley, the alliance of the academic left and Islamists has big payoffs for both: the left gets to recruit from an expanded pool of well-educated young people who despise America, and the Muslims glean the legitimacy of the university.
If the shock troops for global authoritarian Islam were smart, they would continue walking through the open door that universities willingly offer. The welcome mat is out for America-haters with PhDs who can talk the talk. Well-paying careers are available to glib Muslims who can peddle totalitarian values in the guise of multiculturalism. And we citizens are fools to allow our universities to be used to undermine the American nation.
Brenda Walker (email her) lives in Northern California and publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. She is happy to have had an old-fashioned American liberal-arts education where she wasn't forced to celebrate diversity.