The UC Berkeley Muslim Students Association (MSA) responded to Islamo-Fascist Week on campus with Peace Not Prejudice Week, ending today.
Funded by UC Berkeley alumnus and Republican activist David Horowitz and hosted by Berkeley College Republicans (BCR), Islamo-Fascist Week met with protests from more than 30 student groups on campus who joined together to form The Coalition for Peace Not Prejudice.
“Islamo-Fascist Week represents ignorance and indirect oppression of American Muslims,” said sophomore Saman Khalid, a member of MSA, which was also part of the coalition. “It’s against Islam ... It’s offensive not just to Muslim students but to everybody. They are trying to inform moderate Muslims about radical Muslims. It’s ludicrous. I don’t think you need to inform Jews about Nazis or Blacks about Jim Crow.”
Berkeley College Republicans, who had set up a table across from the group Peace Not Prejudice at Sproul Plaza this week, said their events were in defense of moderate Muslims against radicals.
“It’s about making people aware of Islamic terrorism,” said Ross Lingenfelder, BCR president. “We are not talking about Catholic terrorism in Ireland or Hindu terrorism in Sri Lanka ... It’s awareness about a really dangerous form of Islam that’s out to destroy the United States.”
Khalid told the Planet that BCR’s actions were threatening the safety of women wearing a hijab on campus.
“There was a man here on campus not affiliated with BCR who was carrying a huge sign that said ‘Islam Abuses Women’ and that it ‘promoted polygamy and wifebeating’ ... If you are someone who has no idea about what Islam is then that message could give the wrong impression.”
BCR brought in Nonie Darwish, founder of Arabs for Israel, for a talk which was covered by television crews from the Washington D.C. bureau of Al Jazeera Monday.
“We are not talking about the average Muslim but about a radical strain,” said Lingenfelder, a UC Berkeley math major.
“The only complaint we are getting is that others might try to interpret our message in a wrong way. My goal is to polarize the radical in Islam and the peace-loving American Islam ... [and] to expose how radical Muslims treat their women.”
“They are saying support moderate Muslims and not radical Muslims but are not providing a definition for either,” said senior and MSA political action committee co-chair Hamzah Hararah.
“For them Salman Rushdie might be a moderate, but for others he might not.”
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau stopped by the Pride Not Prejudice table Wednesday.
“You are doing the right thing,” he told the students smiling.
He later told the Planet that the university was obligated to let students express their views since Berkeley was the birthplace of free speech.
“My pride lies with Peace Not Prejudice because they are conducting themselves in a dignified manner when they are being subjected to insult.”