The rubble was still being cleared at Ground Zero in October 2001 when Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, issued a report singling out more than 40 U.S. professors for making “unpatriotic” statements.
Among them were the words of University of Washington psychology professor David Barash, an author of two textbooks on peace studies. He was quoted as saying: “[M]any people consider the United States to be a terrorist state.”
It wasn’t long before Barash got a call from the vice provost about the pressure that Lynne Cheney’s group, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, was putting on the UW regarding Barash.
The vice provost made “no effort to shut me up or intimidate me,” says Barash, who gave the vice provost some of his articles and heard nothing more about it. “But if I was an [untenured] professor, I might have taken that as a shot across the bow” at academic freedom.
That’s how some instructors might feel during Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, a national event that kicks off at the UW on Oct. 24 with the screening of the film Suicide Killers and continues Oct. 25 with a talk by conservative commentator Michael Medved.
Author David Horowitz — whose 2006 book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America also targets Barash — is sponsoring the event at dozens of college campuses across the nation in order to confront “the sympathy for the enemy” created by the academic left, according to a student organizing guide from the David Horowitz Freedom Center in Los Angeles.
Tom Walker, president of the UW College Republicans, which is hosting the local events, declined to discuss whether his group considers any UW professors a problem. “Our goal is raising awareness about an extreme brand of Islam growing around the world,” Walker says.
Barash says he isn’t all that concerned about the event, noting that there is at least “a grain of truth” in calling Muslim extremists fascist. But members of a multifaith coalition that has formed to picket the events say that, by associating all Muslims with extremists, the organizers of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week are merely fanning the flames of bigotry and hatred.
“A dialogue about radicalism and extremists is really important, but there are radical Christians and radical Jews and radical Muslims,” says Hala Dillsi, a member of the Muslim Student Association and organizer of the Anti-Islamophobia and Racism Coalition. “They’re trying to paint all Muslims with one brush.”
Not so, says Walker. “We’re no more saying that all Muslims are fascists than we were saying in World War II that all Italians were fascists,” he says.
The term Islamo-fascism, he adds, was coined in the 1990s by moderate Algerian Muslims — advocates of democracy who were themselves killed by militant extremists.
The danger is real, Barash says, but is easily lost in the rhetoric of an event that has less to do with terrorism, he says, than with the right wing pointing fingers to create more leverage for itself on college campuses.
“The people in Al-Qaeda really are very dangerous and troubled and, if they came to power, they’d probably come after me and my ilk first,” Barash says.
“The irony is that people like the Bush Administration and David Horowitz have been so despicable in their policies that it’s really tempting for people like me to see them as the bad guys,” he says.
The film Suicide Killers is scheduled Oct. 24 in Room 205 of Smith Hall. Michael Medved’s talk on Oct. 25 has been moved to Kane Hall. Both events start at 7 p.m., with pickets planned at 6:30 p.m. The Anti-Islamophobia Coalition plans its own public forum on religious extremism on Mon., Oct. 29, 6:30 p.m., at a location to be announced. For information, call (206)274-6275 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.