More than 40 students came to a panel discussion at Eckles Library Monday morning for the first event of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, but a majority of those students in attendance were members of a political science class held on the Mount Vernon Campus.
The students, many of whom are taking an international security politics class with panelist Nabil Mikhail, listened to New York Times bestselling author Michael Ledeen, Daphne Patai, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and their GW professor discuss the reality of “Islamo-fascism” in the world today.
“In the literature of fascism . the category of clerical fascism is a well-established component,” said Ledeen, who spent the first half of professional career working on fascism. “The notion of Islamic fascism has fully scholarly validity.”
The fascism scholar expressed his angst that there had been an attack on holding Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week at GW. He said that such an assault on free speech would not have happened when he was in college.
“Everyone felt free to express his view,” Ledeen said. “The view that any form of debate (should be limited) would be considered preposterous.”
Patai said attacks on free speech and assembly at universities is a growing trend.
“One of the things that interests me is that on college campuses . some ideas are impossible to (express) because they are being suppressed,” Patai said. “What I think is happening is a slow process of politicization.”
She said there is unwillingness in America to assess anything that would hurt the feelings of others, which limits the knowledge of Americans.
“There is really no excuse not to know what is going on in societies ruled by Islamic theocracies,” Patai said.
Ledeen said fascism began after World War I with the rise of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and eventually spread to the Middle East. He said only a small portion of the population under fascist regimes did not want it.
“People are having a wonderful time,” Ledeen said. “The true horror of fascism is that people really loved it.”
Mikhail said leaders who establish fascist governments have misconstrued perceptions of government, which cause major hardships for the citizens of the country.
“Usually it begins with a certain ideology that is distorted,” Mikhail said. “You are trying to restructure a society. That is why so many people are killed and displaced.”
Ledeen said the threat posed by fascist governments in the Middle East such as Iran cannot be ignored.
“The rest of the world better damn well take it seriously,” Ledeen said. “They intend to destroy us and dominate us. They will do everything in their power to take us down.”
Despite the controversy leading up the event, not all of the audience members were shocked by what they heard during the discussion
“I didn’t feel that their views were too radical,” said freshman Jena Lenz. “It was very informative.”
GW YAF President Sergio Gor, a senior, said reactions such as Lenz’s should not come as a surprise.
“It was funny how (the panelists) views were misconstrued,” Gor said. “We are enclosed in this bubble here.”
This article appeared in the October 25, 2007 issue of the Hatchet.