Last week, at universities around America, the conservative activist David Horowitz organized "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week." The week featured a guest speaker, the showing of the documentary, "Obsession," about radical Islam, and related activities.
As one of those speakers -- at the University of California at Santa Barbara -- I was particularly interested in the controversy Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week engendered as well as in the larger question of whether the term "Islamo-Fascism" is valid.
Various Muslim student groups condemned these awareness weeks and the term itself, charging that both are no more than expressions of anti-Muslim bigotry, i.e., "Islamophobia." Nevertheless, Muslim student groups decided not to actively disrupt the week. Therefore most of the opposition to Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week events came from leftist student groups.
This opposition took the form of opposing funding of speakers invited to campus; writing articles in campus newspapers attacking the speakers, the Awareness Week and the term "Islamo-Fascism" as essentially racist; and in some cases disrupting the speech.
I experienced the first two forms of leftist opposition; David Horowitz experienced the third as well. He was invited to speak at Emory University, but leftist students packed the hall and shouted him down. Emory officials did nothing to stop the harassment and the suppression of speech, and Horowitz was unable to deliver his talk. It is considerably more difficult to get conservative speakers invited to most American universities -- or for them to be able to speak without being harassed -- than it is for a Holocaust-denying, genocide-advocating leader, such as Iran's Ahmadinejad at Columbia University, to deliver a speech at an American university.
In my case, about a quarter of the 300 students who came to my talk at UCSB were leftists opposed to my coming. But they allowed me to deliver my remarks without once trying to shout me down. There were, I believe, three reasons for this. One is that UCSB has a relatively calm political climate. Second, there was a serious police presence and it was clear that disrupters would be removed, if not arrested. Third, students told me afterward that I disarmed those who came to oppose me. Contrary to the demonized figure they had assumed I am -- in one UCSB student newspaper column, I was compared to a Ku Klux Klanner for speaking on Islamo-Fascism -- they saw a decent man, a sometimes funny guy, and heard a low-keyed, intellectual speech that contained not one word of gratuitous hatred.
It is worth mentioning that following my lecture, the student who wrote the column comparing me to a Ku Klux Klanner came over to me and said he was writing a column of apology to me and asked to be photographed with me. This is not surprising. Students at most universities are almost brainwashed into being leftist -- and the way they are taught to disagree with their political opponents is by using ad hominem attacks. Conservatives are described over and over as mean-spirited, war-loving, greedy, bigoted, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, sexist, intolerant and oblivious to human suffering.
Such ad hominem labels are the left's primary rhetorical weapons. So when leftist students are actually confronted with even one articulate conservative, many enter a world of cognitive dissonance. That is one reason why universities rarely invite conservatives to speak: they might change some students' minds.
Regarding the term "Islamo-Fascism," most students heard the arguments I presented for the legitimacy of the term for the first time in their lives. Very briefly summarized, these arguments were:
First, the term is not anti-Muslim. One may object to the term on factual grounds, i.e., one may claim that there are no fascistic behaviors among people acting in the name of Islam -- but such a claim is a denial of the obvious.
So once one acknowledges the obvious, that there is fascistic behavior among a core of Muslims -- specifically, a cult of violence and the wanton use of physical force to impose an ideology on others -- the term "Islamo-Fascism" is entirely appropriate.
Second, the question then arises as to whether that term is anti-Muslim in that it besmirches the name of Islam and attempts to describe all Muslims as fascist. This objection, too, has a clear response.
The term no more implies all Muslims or Islam is fascistic than the term "German fascism" implied all Germans were fascists or "Italian fascism" or "Japanese fascism" implied that all Italians or all Japanese were fascists. Indeed, even religious groups have been labeled as fascist. During World War II, for example, Croatian Catholic fascists were called Catholic Fascists, and no one argued that the term was invalid because it purportedly labeled all Catholics or Catholicism fascist. When the left uses the term "American imperialism," are they implying that all Americans are imperialists? Then why does Islamo-Fascism label all Muslims?
Third, given the horrors being perpetrated by some Muslims in the name of Islam -- from the genocide currently being practiced by the Islamic Republic of Sudan, to the mass murders of innocents in Iraq, Israel, America, Britain, Bali, Thailand, the Philippines and elsewhere -- what term is more accurate than "Islamo-Fascism"? "Islamic totalitarianism"? "Jihadists"? "Bad Muslims"?
The left's organized crusade against Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week was simply the latest shame in the long and shameful history of the left's inability to confront those engaged in great evil -- like the left's ferocious opposition during the Cold War to labeling communism as "totalitarian" or "evil" and its nearly universal condemnation of President Ronald Reagan's description of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire."
That Muslim student groups and other Muslim organizations joined with the left in the ad hominem condemnation of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week was most unfortunate. Many Muslims know well that there is indeed such a thing as Islamo-Fascism, and they should be the first to join in fighting it. It is not those who use the term "Islamo-Fascism" who are sullying the name of Islam; it is the Islamo-Fascists.