In Part 1 (To read Part II, click here) of this series on the recent 15th Annual Muslim Student Association (MSA) West Conference, which I attended at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I gave a general overview of the conference’s pro-Palestinian activism, its promotion of a sense of victimization at the mercy of an Islamophobic society and university system, its urgent appeal to political activism that goes hand-in-hand with its emphasis on strengthening one’s Muslim faith and community, and its support from top Muslim Brotherhood front groups in America. Part 2 focused on the biggest names who had been invited to speak there, radicals like Siraj Wahhaj,Edina Lekovich and Taher Herzallah of the infamous Irvine 11. Let’s look at some of the lesser-known speakers there whose presentations were even more political.
Ali Mir, Director of Muslim Student Life at the University of Southern California, whose bio was not included in the conference program booklet, lectured the crowd about “white privilege” in a session called “Perennial Spring,” probably intended to echo the disastrous “Arab Spring.” Mir identified cultural and economic “imperialism” as the basis of American foreign policy, and urged students to get politically involved in “social justice”: “As Muslims, we demonstrate our Islamic principles by working to empower all marginalized people, regardless of their faith,” reads his session description. Really? Like the marginalized Christians in Egypt and Nigeria and elsewhere where Muslim fundamentalists are slaughtering them openly? Like the marginalized Jews in Europe and elsewhere who are suffering increased violent persecution at the hands of Muslims? Mir neglected to address that contradiction.
As an example of how the organized Muslim students can effect meaningful change on campus, Mir told the audience that “your friend and mine, David Horowitz” delivered a talk at the University of Southern California three years ago in which “he said stupid things.” He didn’t specify what they were, but the plan he encouraged among his fellow students at that time was to “write down every racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic thing Horowitz said” and force the university to issue a statement denouncing him afterward – which Mir said it did, to the applause of his uncritical audience.
That’s not quite the whole story. In fact, David Horowitz was invited by the USC College Republicans to come on campus and protest an Islamic hadith which appeared on an official USC website, calling for the genocide of Jews. His speech was attacked in advance by Students for Justice in Palestine and the USC Progressive Alliance, who made up quotes and attributed them to Horowitz to paint him as an Islamophobe and a racist. Nonetheless, Horowitz was allowed to speak at USC on November 4, 2009.
Later, the USC Vice President of Student Affairs, Michael Jackson, published an open letter in the campus newspaper, attacking the College Republicans for inviting Horowitz. He claimed that Horowitz’s presence “led members of our community, our Muslim students, to feel threatened, unsafe, and betrayed.” This letter was also sent to every official USC student, faculty, and staff email address and was published as an ad in the Daily Trojan, which Jackson controlled. Horowitz responded with a rebuttal, which the Trojan ultimately and reluctantly printed.
In his MSA West conference presentation, Mir didn’t offer specifics about objectionable Horowitz statements. He didn’t need to; it was enough for him to simply use unsubstantiated, demonizing labels: “racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic.” Because for radicals like Mir (and his allies in the unholy alliance of the left and Muslim fundamentalists), those labels suppress debate and misrepresent the substance and philosophy of their opponents like Horowitz.
Mir went on to condemn the atheist anti-Islam writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali as “as much an extremist as Osama bin Laden,” because of her assertion that Muslims would be better off converting to Christianity. That’s right – he considers Hirsi Ali as much of an extremist as the man who ordered the World Trade Center massacre and other acts of terrorism. The man who was the living inspiration for violent jihadists worldwide. No student in the auditorium raised an objection.
A workshop intriguingly titled “Islamitics,” led by a sharp-suited, fast-talking Washington D.C. young man named Osama Eisa, promised to address “how our Islamic ideals line up with current political parties.” “How can we bridge the gaps between our religion and our votes?” read the program guide. Eisa was surprisingly evenhanded in terms of those parties – I fully expected him to steer students toward the political left and make dismissive remarks about the right, but he did nothing of the sort.
He did, however, toss out a few derogatory asides, typical of the conference, about the “Zionist regime” and American foreign policy; for example, Obama’s drone strikes are bad, and we went to war against Iraq solely because the people there had beards and brown skin. He encouraged students to be more politically active and more forthcoming about discussing sharia, of which he is a big proponent, though he only skimmed the subject (on that issue, I was pleasantly surprised to hear one questioner complain to Eisa that the people in her political science class were openly anti-sharia; good for them, I thought).
The thrust of Eisa’s not particularly informative or inspirational presentation (he was mostly interested in joking with the young women at the front of the segregated room) was that “our involvement in politics is necessary to represent our needs and values as a community” – a common theme of the conference.
For the approximately one thousand young people attending the 15th Annual Muslim Student Association West Conference at UC Santa Barbara, the intense weekend no doubt served as a call to personal growth and political unity. For the Muslim Brotherhood front groups that organized the event, and the mostly charismatic speakers who came with their inspirational messages, it was a successful recruitment and radicalization tool.
Mark Tapson, a Hollywood-based writer and screenwriter, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center. He focuses on the politics of popular culture.