I attended the presentation by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders on Temple’s Main Campus on Tuesday, October 20. He touched on the concept of free speech, however, it came over as a mere ruse in an effort to spew his anti-Islam, anti-Muslim rhetoric. Free speech is valued; however, free speech should not be used as an umbrella for hate speech.
I tried to take down significant points that would be refuted during the MSA’s pre-planned Peace Not Prejudice week, scheduled for November.
Wilders highlighted things that he readily admitted did not represent all Muslims. He validated his scare tactic by saying that he separates Muslims from Islam. For Muslims, the ideology of Islam is what defines us. Anyone who attempts to make a distinction between Islam and Muslims demonstrates a lack of understanding of what Islam is and what being a Muslim means. We get our title of Muslims because we have adopted Islam as our way of life. To claim that there is “no such thing as moderate Islam” is to discount the fact that Muslims are encouraged in the Qur’an that this is a religion of balance and moderation and are encouraged by the Prophet to seek a balanced way and not be too extreme.
Wilders made two other significant generalizations. The two emotionally sensitive practices he mentioned were female circumcision and honor killing. As one student aptly pointed out, these two practices are tribal and cultural practices that are not sanctioned by Islam.
Muslims deplore when people who have political or social agendas use religion as an excuse for inflicting harm and pain on others. National Muslim organizations, professors, and others have repeated this ad nauseam. Historically people have attempted to violently silence others because they disagree. Many of the world’s leaders who transformed people, such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, have been assassinated because others were intolerant of their views. This is a human condition, not an Islamic one.
Discrimination is not endemic to Islam. It is endemic to an intolerant worldview – very akin to the worldview Wilders and Horowitz espouse. Extremist views are not endemic to Muslim societies, nor are they alien to the divisively-labeled western countries. Extremist, intolerant and xenophobic leaders have emerged in the Middle East, Asia, Israel, U.K., U.S. and now in the Netherlands.
It was refreshing to see Temple students show Wilders and Horowitz that intolerance is unwelcomed.
Horowitz and Wilders should do some research before coming to a research institution. However, they learned firsthand why Temple is heralded as one of the most diverse campuses. Temple might offer some of the lowest tuition rates, but this is one case in which you get a lot more than what you pay for.
Thank you Temple students for making your voices heard, and thank you Temple administration for reassuring all parties that they can continue feeling safe and welcomed at Temple.
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