Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week Challenges Political Correctness on Campus · 07 November 2007

By Sarah Rahman - Rutgers Observer
Filed under: Press Coverage

Fascism has a new face – according to conservative pundits and students across the nation.

The week of Oct. 22 to 26 marked the first ever “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” held at 114 universities in the country. An event with a considerable turnout, also faced intense controversy and backlash of angry sentiment from Muslim Student Associations, including Rutgers-Newark’s own MSA.

But perhaps the larger issue at hand R-N students and faculty are concerned about is not whether or not the term “Islamo-Fascism” is politically correct, but why more students are not voicing their opinions loud enough to be heard.

Islamo-fascism is a term defined as a totalitarian ideology driven by religious extremism, according to Stephen Miller, the former national campus director and co-creator of Terrorism Awareness Project. TAP was officially started earlier this year, with the first ever Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week being the largest event of its kind in terms of a mass multi campus conservative activist event. It was hosted by the latter, a new program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Universities participating were urged to host memorial services for victims of Islamic terror around the world, to show screenings of documentary films about the “Islamo-Fascism crusade” against the West, to hold sit-ins at Women’s Studies Departments to “protest their silence about the oppression of women in Islam,” as well as other various features recommended on the Web site.

Miller described being at a 9/11 memorial at Duke University, his alma mater, and talking to a lot of kids on campus about the threat of Muslim extremism. “My fellow students were grossly ignorant in all too many cases of the threat, so that led me to send an email to David Horowitz about creating this sort of terrorism awareness project. He liked it so much he decided to sponsor it through his freedom center.”

Its goals of “raising awareness of the Islamic fascism threat, to building support for the defense of America and for her brave soldiers protecting us, and to battling the far left and its campaign of its hate and deception” were phenomenally achieved, according to Miller.

But to members of R-N’s MSA, the program was anything but praised.

“I just see it as an attempt to further contribute to the paranoia that a lot of neo-cons are trying to instill in the American public,” said Mustafa Gatollari, president of MSA. “Islamo-Fascism just took a lot of cultural practices and portrayed them as evil, instead of addressing any of our own country’s problems.”

“I don’t even agree with the term ‘Islamo-Fascism,’” explained Samir Hashmi, a sophomore accounting major at R-N. “A fascist government is a government run by dictators, and I think by using that word, they’re just trying to get people emotional. If they wanted to have a rational discussion about Islam, then I have no problem with that, but right from the beginning, it focused more on emotion than reason. This kind of event is just good for reinforcing stereotypes.”

On the contrary, however, Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week can similarly be seen as an event that breaks the aforementioned stereotypes of all Muslims being extremists, rather than sustaining them.

“Just like you have Islamic awareness week and Christian awareness week, there’s radical awareness week. Let the people who believe in it, take part. And besides, maybe there wasn’t any protest because they agree with their cause. There’s only a small minority population in the Islamic state that is courting all this hate. Islamo-Fascism week opens up the eyes to the regular Joe that we can’t discriminate against everyone,” said Grant Van Eck, senior at R-N and elected member of the Rockaway Township Republican County Committee.

But with so much talk of protest and supposed uproar caused by the event, little was done to rebuttal it.

“I kind of wanted to get on the offensive front because it seemed lame not to do anything, but I don’t want people to think Muslims are too aggressive,” explained Gatollari. “It also didn’t seem like Islamo-Fascism was gaining much speed – I wanted something like this to blow over. And also, a lot of people don’t feel comfortable protesting, including myself. I don’t want people thinking I’m sort of terrorist. It’s a fear of feedback.” Instead, Gatollari encouraged his members to research the topic on their own and fight through knowledge.

“If you protest, it would create an even bigger stir, and that would bring more attention to it, attention they don’t deserve,” agreed Hashim.

Or perhaps today’s generation has simply become too comfortable as they are. Either way, it takes leadership to start movements on college campuses and if no one puts in the time or the effort, it just won’t happen, said Ron Miskoff, journalism professor at Rutgers-New Brunswick and former president of the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The media also greatly factors into why students feel that holding a protest today isn’t worth the effort, that it won’t do much, Miskoff went on to say. Corporate takeovers of the media and the diffusion of information have contributed to this effect and feelings of hopelessness held by people, so it’s not completely the students’ fault.

“The people who really want change are the ones that inevitably make it happen,” he added.