Their view: Where’s the awareness?

We live in a nation where political correctness has affected the way we act and speak. Often, people do not say what’s on their minds for fear of appearing prejudiced. These restrictions stifle our speech, and many times we miss out on constructive discussion due to apprehension of exhibiting any impropriety. But there is a reason why these lines exist. The upcoming Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, hosted by the Berkeley College Republicans, demonstrates why there are certain boundaries that need to be respected and the dangers that result when they are not.

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, a series of events starting Oct. 22, will take place on hundreds of campuses across the country. Conservative pundit David Horowitz, the brainchild behind the affair, says that Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week is a conservative protest against the Islamic crusade against the West as well as the left’s censorship on matters concerning these issues.

If schools are willing to host such events, then Horowitz has every right to bring Islamo-Fascism week to universities. However, to place it under the guise of awareness, as if it’s under the same umbrella as Mental Health Awareness Week or Breast Cancer Awareness Week is misleading. No matter what its organizers say, Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week does not serve to educate, but rather to fuel bigotry and fear.

The most glaring indication that the program has a sinister motive is in the name itself. By branding the week as “Islamo-Fascism,” it targets a group of people based on race and religion. It also simplifies complex issues into the current stereotypes of terrorism perpetuated by media and pundits.

These events are reminiscent of the Red Scare Era, when fear of Communism swept across the nation. Many innocent people, targeted because of their jobs, sexual orientation and other miscellaneous reasons, became victims in the infamous witch hunt led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Islamo-Fascism Week feeds that same fear – the fear of an unknown or misunderstood entity. The fear that gripped this country during the 50s has now transformed into a fear of a racial group who practices a peaceful religion. In this country, ignorance and the media have helped maintain the stereotype that a terrorist is Muslim, looks a certain way and is from a certain region. Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week only contributes to keeping this wrongful image alive.

These events also contribute to the divide and the unnecessary “us-versus-them” mentality. By linking the week to Islam and Muslims, it creates the binary atmosphere and alienates individuals. Already, there are dozens of Web sites promoting the event; one urges “Americans” to mark their calendars and learn about “Islam and their quest for world domination … Learn what the Religion of Peace does not want you to know about their agenda to dominate the world much like Adolf Hitler desired before starting World War II.”

In response to Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, several student groups on campus have organized their own events to illustrate the counterarguments that Horowitz’s program might not discuss. The best avenue for those opposed to Islamo-Fascism Week should not be to only focus on just setting up these meetings, but to also strive for a discussion that is fully open to conflicting arguments, instead of presenting a single-sided view. There are many politically conservative professors on campus who may share the same view as Horowitz and the host of guest speakers, but are willing to discuss their beliefs in a more academic and candid environment. Demonstrating these traits will give much more legitimacy to the alternative events. Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week seeks to divide people – don’t fall into the easy trap of adding to that split.

The above staff editorial appeared in the Daily Californian (UC-Berkeley) yesterday.