We are two of the Arab and Muslim students that attend GW and have experienced the chaos of preparing for and “countering” Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation on campus. With so many student organizations fighting for the spotlight, it seems we have lost sight of the necessity for direct action to counter the racist, xenophobic message attacking our religion and that of our friends and our families.
Thirteen student organizations sponsored Peace Not Prejudice week, and yet their events have been poorly publicized, and more importantly, crafted to avoid any kind of direct condemnation or challenge to Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. Events included discussions on experiences abroad and diversity at home, but there was a marked lack of any attempt to expose YAF’s hateful message. Instead of tearing down this message, Peace Not Prejudice week created a huge elephant in the room.
Despite the fact that people of all religions and nationalities should find the bigotry and ignorance in this week of events extremely obvious, we, the victims, must stand up for ourselves, or nobody else will. If the Muslim Students Association and the Arab Students Association are unwilling to counter Islamo-Fascism week in any effective way, who will? The only events actually targeting the hateful message of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week were organized by Students for Justice in Palestine and the Campus Anti-War Network. Both groups were actively excluded by the organizers of Peace Not Prejudice week, presumably as a result of the politicized nature of the events. The MSA in particular has a policy of staying away from politics, as we were told various times in the weeks leading up to these events.
The message engendered by the YAF’s sponsorship of Islamo-Fascism Week is blatantly racist. A little research could have told the GW Muslim community that on campuses across the nation, MSAs will be confronted with demands to sign a petition condemning terrorism. At many universities, David Horowitz was unable to find students to host his campaign and give in to this insulting and condescending petition. Unfortunately he succeeded at GW. Why not any other student organizations? Instead of condemning terrorism by Muslims or Islamo-fascism, why not condemn terrorism and fascism globally and by any people?
Our point is the great disappointment that we and others have felt at the general disunity and disorganization of the resistance to Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, if you can even term the reaction “resistance.” It is truly disappointing that the initial frenzy turned into little more than a photo-op and a chance for GW students to get their 15 minutes of fame on various news channels. This could have been an opportunity for solidarity and large-scale action to prove the true character of GW’s student body and its unwillingness to let these events occur unchallenged.
In the heart of the nation’s capital, and essentially the most powerful city in the world, we as GW students have a responsibility to act as leaders and try to push for change where change can really happen. GW was ranked as the number one most politically active campus in the 2008 edition of the Princeton Review, which is surprising seeing as how we all seem to be so afraid of politics.
The fliers that enraged so many people both nationally and globally proved a simple point: in order to be heard, you must speak loudly. You must exaggerate the obvious in order to get some attention. What we are doing now is whispering empty “diplomatic” words and trying so hard not to offend anybody that our message is, sadly, almost completely lost.
The writers are a senior majoring in international business and a junior majoring in international affairs, respectively.