Six years after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, concerns still linger of it happening again.
From Oct. 22 through 26, the Temple College Republicans held two events on campus as part of the nation-wide Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.
Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week addressed the threat of terrorist acts by radical Islamists on people all over the world, not just Americans, on campuses throughout the country.
David Horowitz, once part of the New Left movement in the 1960s and now a political activist and writer of the conservative right, is at the forefront of this event. He founded the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the online magazine FrontPageMag.com. The Freedom Center endorsed the Islamo-Fascism Week, also known as the Terrorism Awareness Project.
According to TerrorismAwareness.org, “These protest weeks will feature a series of events designed to bring a message to these academic communities that challenges most of what students are taught about the so-called ‘War on Terror’ both in the classroom and on the quad.”
The Temple College Republicans held a viewing of the film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West on Oct. 23 and hosted a speech from former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum on Oct 24. Only about half of the seats in the room were filled for the film, the majority of the viewers being those within the Republican group, but the seats were filled for Santorum’s speech. Among the listeners were students from surrounding Philadelphia universities and Temple students rallying for and against Santorum.
“We’re bringing in a person who’s a controversial figure. He’s just going to state his opinion, and that’s what America is all about,” said Ryan McCool, a junior political science major and president of the Temple College Republicans.
McCool found out about Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week in June 2007, after being in contact with the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and began making preparations for the event in August 2007.
“I was a little hesitant at first because I knew going into the event people were going to call me a racist,” McCool said. “And they are.”
The College Republicans had also planned to host a forum to raise awareness of the treatment of women and gays in radical Islam, but it fell through when neither Temple’s chapter of the gay activist group, Common Ground, nor the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance expressed interest, McCool said.
FLMA president, Debroah Hinchey, senior political science major, was informed by McCool of the awareness week. They protested more against Rick Santorum, than the Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week itself, she said.
Both Common Ground and the FMLA were contacted but could not be reached by press time.
The College Republicans asked e Temple College Democrats and the FMLA to sign a petition as well, but they refused, McCool said.
The petition asks for all political, cultural, ethnic and religious groups on campus to oppose all forms of religious supremacism, violence and intimidation. The petition was not made available during either of the Islamo-Fascism Week events.
President of Temple College Democrats, Anna Walker, junior political science and economics major, said they were never told about the petition. McCool had only asked them to co-sponsor the event, she said.
“The message behind Islamo-Fascism Awareness does not sit well with our members,” Walker said.
Opposition from the event weighed in heavily Wednesday night with Santorum speaking. Students from Common Ground, FMLA and Temple College Democrats stood outside the Student Center peacefully protesting the former senator. There were also supporters and promoters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul outside the building.
The Muslim Student Association on Temple’s campus did not, however, formally participate in a counter-protest during the events. Maaz Siddiqui, a junior biology major and president of the MSA Temple chapter, said he respected the Islamo-Facism Awareness Week supporters’ right to hold events.
“They can have their week,” Siddiqui said.
Both Siddiqui and MSA Vice President Mohamed Gamal-eldin, a senior history major, heard about Islamo-Fascism Week from the former president of the organization and began addressing the event as soon as the school year started.
“We didn’t know what kind of issues they were going to address,” Maaz said. “That’s what we’re afraid of going into this.”
MSA officers said they hope some day to host inter-faith dialogues in order to give all organizations a chance to peacefully explain their positions.
They also plan to hold an Islamic awareness week entitled “Peace, Not Prejudice” on Oct. 29 through Nov. 2, which is not in response to Islamo-Fascism Week and is similar to an event they hold in the spring, Maaz said.
Amanda Fries can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org