Middle East studies in the News
The Moderate Lesson to be Learned from the Muhammad Cartoon Contest [incl. Hatem Bazian]
by Abraham H. Miller
More than just blood spilled in Garland, Texas this week. It came with more than a bit of harsh truth about an America whose chattering classes are incapable of standing up for the values that once made this nation a beacon onto the world.
As radical Muslims attempted to use violence to dominate the public agenda, our elites were either crushed under their own silence or jumping over themselves to blame the victims.
President Barack Obama has had a lot to say in sympathy with the thugs rampaging through the streets of Baltimore, but when it came to a brutal and senseless attack on a Shariah-violating cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, the president remained officially silent.
This is a president who refused to designate the wanton jihadi attack at Fort Hood as an act of terrorism, preferring to engage the laughable and seemingly inexplicable term, "workplace violence." This is the alleged leader of the free world who was conspicuous by his absence in standing up for the victims of Islamist violence at Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine.
Of course, how could the president march in support of Charlie Hebdo when he has publicly taken the position that the future does not belong to those who insult the prophet of Islam?
This is a president who is painfully reluctant to speak the truth about Islamic extremism.
While aboard Air Force One, press secretary Josh Earnest condemned generic "extremists" at the Texas event, as the president flew to New York City. Earnest could not find the words "Islamist" or "radical Muslim" in his vocabulary.
Fox News Channel's Martha Macallum chastised the Garland, Texas event's organizer, Pamela Geller, for being both too crass and unchristian in her dealing with the issue of Islamic extremism. This raises the obvious question if it is possible to be too crass and unchristian in confronting an extremist ideology that promotes the slaughter of innocent Christians in the name of divine revelation. Perhaps Martin Luther King should have heeded the Martha Macallums of his generation who cautioned him that his struggle for civil rights was advancing too rapidly and that white racist society would be offended.
In contrast to Macallum's hysteria, some of the most insightful and meaningful comments about the Mohammed cartoon contest came from American Muslims. Writing in the Daily Beast, Dan Obeidallah affirmed Geller's right, no matter how offensive, to hold her exhibit.
The website "Muslim Girl" resorted to the American antiseptic to offensive speech by using more speech. It called for Muslims to draw a picture of someone they knew named Muhammad as a means of countering the exhibit.
It appears that some moderate Muslims have a greater understanding of the First Amendment than media professionals whose first instinct is to apologize for radical Islam.
Liberal pundit Chris Mathews blamed the victims for the shootings in Texas and accused Geller of incitement, as if the shooters did not have a choice. One wonders if Mathews would embrace the justification some Muslims have used in Europe — that European women provoke rape by not being sensitive to the sexual norms and socialization of Islamic cultures.
No terrorist organization has ever overthrown a government. In the broad scheme of things, what terrorists seek to do is control access to the public agenda. In this regard, radical Muslims have been enormously successful in stifling debate, especially on America's campuses, where there exists a compliant and cowardly administrative class willing to capitulate to the first cry of "insult."
Although Muslim student organizations have been permitted to bring on campus some of the most hateful speakers, critics of Islam, no matter how grounded in fact and experience, will find a wall of opposition and organized disruption awaiting them.
The human rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ally knows this all too well. Brandeis University, in act of submission, rescinded her invitation to receive an honorary degree at last year's commencement. Duke University similarly rescinded an invitation to author and journalist Asra Nomanim who planned to give a speech arguing for a "progressive, feminist interpretation of Islam."
Investigative journalist Lee Kaplan described a program convened, at the University of California Berkeley's Law School in April, by self-proclaimed Islamophobia expert Hatem Bazian. The program was comprised of propaganda laced with intimidation and anti-Semitism. Under California law, it is perfectly legal to record a public event at a public university. Yet monitors at this event, and a similar one held at San Francisco State University, attempted to prohibit the use of recordings — threatening to evict people who did so or seize their devices.
On campus, Muslim student organizations have earned a reputation for censorship, intimidation, and disruption of speakers with whom they do not agree. In contrast, they are eager to bring on campus speakers such as Malik Ali, who appear to thrive on bluntly propagating a doctrine of fundamentalist Islam that others find offensive, if not threatening. Campus administrators all-too-frequently support this exercise in hypocrisy.
The French have a saying that when you change geography, you change history. When Muslims come here, it is not their values and standards of expression that are important but ours. Acts of controlling the agenda whether through intimidation or outright violence do not gain adherents for their cause. They do intimidate people into silence, but they also fulfill negative stereotypes about Islam.
When writers like Obeidallah fight offenses against Islam by appealing to Constitutional values, they do more to defend the image of Islam than any act of terrorism or any Islamophobic campus propaganda circus.
If an image of Islam is going to emerge as something other than the current stereotype, it will be those wielding the pen, not those wielding the sword, who will create it. Obeidallah is a greater defender of his faith and culture than any jihadi will ever be. And that too is a lesson that should not be lost in the tragedy that occurred in Garland, Texas.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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