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Islamism's Campus Club (Continued) By: Jonathan Dowd-Gailey
Middle East Quarterly | Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Extreme Friends

In 2002, when the number of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe hit a twelve-year high, French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman observed a peculiar phenomenon on the European street -a loose fusing of extreme Left, Right, and Muslim political forces-what Cukierman terms the "brown-green-red alliance."[24] The three disparate constituencies have incompatible ideologies, but all three have a shared hatred for the pluralized world order, globalized market economies, U.S. preponderance, and the state of Israel. Cukierman has observed these forces forming an alliance of convenience in the post-9/11 world with potentially dangerous results.

The same pattern is also emerging in the United States with groups of the extreme Left forging bonds with specific Muslim organizations, and here again we find the MSA figures prominently. Given the MSA's propensity for radical politics in a campus environment, it is no surprise that it has become arguably the Muslim organization most enmeshed with American leftists. Consider the following:

·       Perhaps as a reward for its total opposition to every U.S. policy since the September 2001 attacks, the MSA has been given a seat on the steering committee for International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). ANSWER is an organization dedicated to defending rogue states and fighting "U.S. imperialism," and has been distinguished by its ability to organize the largest peace demonstrations in North America. ANSWER was formed by International Action Center, a communist organization that supports Stalinist regimes worldwide, including North Korea and Hussein's Iraq. [25]

·       In its aggressive protest activities against recent Middle East wars, the MSA has developed strong working ties with numerous activist groups of the extreme Left. Among them: Free Palestine Alliance, Nicaragua Network, Kensington Welfare Rights Union, Mexico Solidarity Network, Korea Truth Commission, Young Communist League, Young Peoples' Socialist League, and Black Radical Congress.

As these examples suggest, the MSA boasts institutional ties with a host of radical issue-specific activist groups, all of them vehemently opposed to U.S. policy, and many of them openly anti-American.

The Center for Security Policy's Alex Alexiev argues, "The majority of Muslim Student Associations at U.S. colleges are dominated by Islamist and anti-American agendas, as are most of the numerous Islamic centers and schools financed by the Saudis. Intolerance and outright rejection of American values and democratic ideals are often taught also in the growing number of Deobandi schools that are frequently subsidized by the Saudis."[26]

The following examples illustrate both the degree and pervasiveness of hate-America vitriol that characterize the MSA:

·       Taliban propaganda is featured on the website of the University of Southern California MSA chapter.[27]

·       One featured article in Al-Talib (a magazine developed by the UCLA chapter of the MSA and not affiliated with the Taliban of Afghanistan) entitled, "The Spirit of Jihad," praised Osama bin Laden as a "prominent Muslim activist." The article goes on to say, "When we hear someone refer to the great mujahideen Osama bin Laden as a 'terrorist,' we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter; someone who has forsaken wealth and power to fight in Allah's cause and speak out against oppressors." [28]

·       Another Al-Talib article entitled "Americanization" states, "A dangerous weapon has once again been unfurled by the U.S. military in this War on Terrorism ... This weapon comes in the form of cultural warfare ... In this new War on Terrorism, the colossal brunt of this production machine is now squarely targeted at the Muslim population." [29]

·       At an Al-Talib event to offer support for Imam Jamil al-Amin, convicted of killing a policeman, guest speaker Imam Abdul-Alim Musa said, "When you fight [the U.S.] you are fighting someone that is superior in criminality and Nazism ... the American criminalizer is the most skillful oppressor the world has ever known ...They beat the British at everything, isn't that right? They are a better colonizer, a better murderer, a better killer, a better liar, a better thief, a better infiltrator than old British." [30]

This anti-Americanism blends together almost seamlessly with a virulent discourse against the Jews and Israel. Consider the following:

·       At the 2001 MSA West conference, hosted by UCLA, cleric Imam Muhammad al-Asi stated, "Israel is as racist as apartheid could ever be ... you can take a Jew out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jew."[31]

·       The MSA continues to celebrate violence against Israel on its websites. At the MSA Northwest site, for example, images of Hamas suicide squads and child soldiers are proudly displayed above jihadist poetry, whose verse (erratically capitalized) celebrates violence: "...two soldiers spotted me in their sight ... i had to blast 4 shots hitting each one in the face and waist. a trace of blood drips from my arm as i make my away thru streets with an injured zionist as a hostage ... seen a group of israeli soldiers run out and began pulling the trigger when sounds of rounds began playing a deadly melody. Each gun dropped two ..." [32]

·       In 2002, the MSA at the University of Michigan helped host the Second National Student Conference for Palestine Solidarity Movement. At that conference, one of the guest speakers was ex-University of Florida professor Sami al-Arian, who is now awaiting trial on terrorism-related charges.

Self-Defeating

Ironically, although one of the founding missions of the MSA is to increase favorable awareness of Muslim life among non-Muslims, the effect of the MSA's activities is the opposite: they confirm the worst suspicions of American society at large. The MSA's refusal to identify jihadists and jihadist sympathizers within its ranks, its indiscriminate opposition to U.S. policies following the September 11 attacks, its vitriolic anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric, and its solidarity with "Leftover Left" radical activist organizations, together reinforce an image that the MSA, and by extension, Muslim college students, are a divisive, angry, and potentially violent group on our campuses. By monopolizing the Muslim student voice in America with "radical chic" to create a "single Muslim bloc," an opportunity to forge a healthy discourse on the diverse attitudes of Muslim students is lost to the confrontational language of radical dissent and resistance.

Universities that host student organizations have an obligation to enforce basic standards of conduct, standards that the MSA has clearly breached. At the very least, MSA's most egregious behavior must face censure from those responsible for monitoring student conduct. University administrators must unchain themselves from cultural relativism and the ideology of "validation" and deal squarely with such misdeeds.

More importantly, however, the problem of the Muslim Students' Association illustrates the great question that confronts the West today: how does it cultivate liberalism in Muslim communities living at home and abroad? Just as the U.S. policy of détente with the Arab world collapsed after September 11, to be replaced by a "forward strategy of democracy," it may be time to adopt a "forward strategy" within U.S. borders, focused on promoting moderate voices in mosques and campuses. To improve campus life for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, universities should work with moderate students to inaugurate a new Muslim students' organization, one that eschews the radical politics of the "old world" in favor of authenticity, diversity, and integration. A new Muslim student organization would return to the primary mission of religiously-based campus groups-to celebrate and share in the fellowship of faith.

*

Notes:

[1] "The Constitution of the Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., at http://www.msa-national.org/about/constitution.html.
[2] WorldNetDaily, Mar. 18, 2003, at http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=31571.
[3] Frontpage Magazine, Apr. 4, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=7098.
[4] Sakeena Mirza and Ameena Qazi, "Robbing the Poor," al-Talib, vol. 12, no. 3, at http://www.al-talib.com/articles/v12_i3_a04.htm.
[5] "A Little Taste of History," Muslim Students' Association of U.S. and Washington, D.C., at http://www.msa-national.org/about/history.html.
[6] Alex Alexiev, "The Missing Link in the War on Terror: Confronting Saudi Subversion," Center for Security Policy, at http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.jsp?section=static&page=alexiev.
[7] FrontPage Magazine, Apr. 23, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=7395.
[8] "List of Organizations that Donate Islamic Books and Da'wah Materials," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., at http://www.msa-natl.org/resources/Donation_Books.html.
[9] "Senators Request Tax Information on Muslim Charities for Probe," Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, Jan. 14, 2003, at http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2004&m=January&x=20040114155543zemogb0.8868524&t=usinfo/wf-latest.html. For details, see http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/164.
[10] Hamid Algar, "Wahhabism: A Critical Essay," in Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and Adair T. Lummis, eds., Islamic Values in the United States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 124.
[11] Ibid..
[12] Stephen Schwartz, "Terrorism: Growing Wahhabi Influence in the United States," testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, June 26, 2003, at http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/congress/2003_h/030626-schwartz.htm.
[13] MSA Starter's Guide: A Guide on How to Run a Successful MSA, 1st ed. (Washington, D.C.: Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Mar. 1996), at http://www.msa-natl.org/publications/startersguide.html.
[14] "Religious Accommodations Task Force," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., at http://www.msa-national.org/taskforces/religious.html.
[15] Shabana Mir, "Gender-based Exclusionism at a Muslim Student Association, Part I," The American Muslim, July/Aug. 2003, at http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/2003jul_comments.php?id=347_0_21_0_C.
[16] "Rally against the Patriot Act," University of Pennsylvania Muslim Students' Association, at http://www.upenn-msa.org/subcommittees/pmj/patriotact.html.
[17] "MSA National Demands an Immediate End to the Inhumane U.N. Sanctions," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., Apr. 6, 2001, at http://www.msa-national.org/media/pressreleases/040601.html.
[18] "Muslim Students Condemn U.S. Attack on Iraq," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., Dec. 17, 1998 at http://www.msa-national.org/media/pressreleases/121798.html.
[19] MSA Starter's Guide, at http://www.msa-natl.org/publications/startersguide.html.
[20] Oubai Mohammad Shahbandar, "Open Letter from an Arab-American Student," FrontPage Magazine, June 2, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=8143.
[21] "MSA National Political Action Task Force, America: Post 9/11," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., at http://www.msa-national.org/media/actionalerts/political.pdf.
[22] The Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2003.
[23] Oubai Shahbandar, "U.S. Muslims as Patriots," The Arizona Republic, Oct. 11, 2003.
[24] Quoted by Mark Strauss, "Anti-Globalism's Jewish Problem," Foreign Policy, Nov./Dec. 2003.
[25] "National Conference against War, Colonial Occupation and Imperialism, May 17-18, New York City," ANSWER, at http://www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/041203m17conf.html.
[26] Alexiev, "This Missing Link on the War on Terror," at http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.jsp?section=static&page=alexiev.
[27] Syed Rahmatullah Hashimi, "Taliban in Afghanistan," University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Mar. 10, 2001, at http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/Taliban/talebanlec.html.
[28] Al-Talib, July 1999, quoted in FrontPageMagazine.com, Apr. 23, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=7113. Al-Talib is listed as an official MSA Project by the UCLA chapter of MSA, at http://www.msa-ucla.com/projects.htm.
[29] Ghaith Mahmood, "Americanization: Solutions for a Small Planet?" al-Talib, vol. 12, no. 3, at http://www.al-talib.com/articles/v12_i3_a05.htm.
[30] Erick Stakelbeck, "Islamic Radicals on Campus," FrontPage Magazine, Apr. 23, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=7395.
[31]"UCLA Sponsors of Terrorism," FrontPage Magazine, Apr. 4, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=7098.
[32] Atlantiz Miztery, "Palestine in War," South Seattle Community College Muslim Students' Association, at http://sscc.msanw.org/forum.htm.




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