In February, three Muslim students–Deah, Yusor and Razan–were shot and killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by a man whose Facebook posts revealed his anti-religious beliefs. The University of North Carolina, the Triangle Area and the greater Muslim community was rocked by their deaths, and their families’ and community’s loss was remembered by massive vigils worldwide. Just two months after these senseless killings, a man widely regarded as an Islamophobe was invited to campus to speak on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On Tuesday, David Horowitz, a guest of the University of North Carolina College Republicans (UNCGOP), suggested that the loyalty of Muslim Americans and Muslim civil society organizations should be questioned. Horowitz, who the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as “the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement,” spoke to an audience of about 100. Predictably, the speech provoked widespread criticism by many in the University community.
After UNCGOP Chairman Frank Pray suggested more attention should be paid to their reform, UNC’s Students for Justice in Palestine answered Pray’s request in a Facebook post.
Yesterday, UNCGOP released a statement of its own, reminding the campus that Horowitz had every right to speak out for what he believes. Line by line, argument by argument, the College Republicans made the conscious choice to endorse Horowitz’s statements in a Facebook manifesto defending the event.
The post also claims that “We wholeheartedly believe that UNC is a safe place for all students and call into question any claims that there are legitimate threats to the safety of students on the basis of color, creed, or ethnicity on UNC’s campus.”
UNCGOP released another statement in a YouTube video published on Wednesday.
“Although our messages often make many students uncomfortable, it is necessary that they hear such speech to provide the intellectual diversity that their liberal professors will not.”
UNC First Year Ege Partal found this suggestion to Muslims and members of SJP problematic.
“My anger is over how they [UNCGOP] ignored the shooting 2 months ago. How can you assess someone’s feelings even though you’re not them?”
Partal’s sentiment is echoed by #NotSafeUNC, a blog that curates posts of UNC students who document instances in which they’ve felt insecure or scared on campus.
In the aftermath of the Chapel Hill shooting and the Duke noose incident, it is mindboggling how Frank Pray and many privileged white College Republicans might find it appropriate to question anyone’s right to feel afraid or uncomfortable.
Jake Wright, a UNC Sophomore history major, described himself as a conservative on many issues. But the Horowitz talk made him much less predisposed to support UNC GOP.
“It’s times like this that make me unwilling to associate with College Republicans,” Wright said.
Wright went on to explain that he thought Horowitz’s talk was meant to spur hatred, not educate the public on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict as the description of the event suggested.
“As a neutral observer, I got the impression he was not trying to educate, but to galvanize the support of people who support Zionist movements.”
While a report published by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in 2014 revealed that Islamophobia in the United States is on the decline, this does not signal that the United States treats Muslim citizens justly.
In an exclusive interview with ReadContra, Executive Director of CAIR-Florida Hassan Shibly decried the Islamophobia network of which he said Horowitz is a part.
“The Islamophobia network is a cottage industry of hate profiteers that makes money selling fear and hate of the minority party of the day. In our day, that [minority] is the American Muslim community, just as it was the Japanese and Irish in earlier times.”
Shibly also noted the consequences of Islamophobia borne by Arab Muslims overseas.
“Islamophobia dehumanizes Muslims, and only after they’re dehumanized can you justify drone strikes that kill women and children.”
When Horowitz makes statements such as “The Japanese set records for war atrocities during the second World War…then the United States dropped two atomic bombs on them and turned them into pacifists,” he makes the assertion that Palestinian lives are so invaluable, that it would be more effective for the United States and her allies to bomb the Palestinians into a forced submission.
David Horowitz’s lecture is not an isolated incident. His arguments take place in a larger conversation that hold American Muslims to a higher standard of loyalty to their country. Such thinking implies Muslims pose a greater threat to the United States. His lecture fits hand in hand with the assertion that asymmetric escalations of Israeli power in Palestine should be encouraged, not questioned.
UNCGOP bases their endorsement of David Horowitz’s claims not for their virtue, but because of their ability to subvert what they see as an ‘oppressive’ liberal culture and curriculum that is forced upon conservative thinkers. Such thinking reflects a frightening tradition in the United States which allows privileged groups to claim that they have been dispossessed, marginalized or ignored. This only serves to delegitimize the claims of peoples who are actually dispossessed, marginalized or ignored: The SJP, MSA, and the civilian Arab Muslims who are labelled as “collateral damage.” Based on their sponsorship of Horowitz’s talk, the University of North Carolina’s chapter of the College Republicans has proven no stranger to such manipulative tactics.