As former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum gave a speech about Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week at the Student Center last Wednesday, a group of Temple students gathered outside in the rain to protest.
About 30 representatives from Temple College Democrats, Common Ground, the Student Peace Alliance and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance stood in front of the entrance to the Student Activities Center, holding signs that read “Temple Students Don’t Hate” and “Hate is not a family value,” among other slogans.
Santorum’s visit was one of the key events of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, held October 22-26 on college campuses around the country to dispel alleged myths about the so-called War on Terror and to warn students about the threat that Islamic radicalism poses to the U.S.
The protest week, organized by conservative writer and Fox News analyst David Horowitz and supported by prominent Republicans like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Santorum, was criticized by some for being discriminatory and met by counter protests on many campuses.
“I’m against the whole concept of the week,” said Kevin Paris, a junior political science major and member of the Temple College Democrats. “It promotes fear of another culture. I think there are better ways to discuss terrorism without making the connection between [Islamic faith] and fascism.”
“Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week is discriminatory toward Muslims,” said Nafisah Edwards, a freshman philosophy and African-American studies major who protested as a member of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and Temple College Democrats.
“They’re trying to get people to think that the Islamic religion is a dictatorship.”
Aram Dagavarian, an undeclared freshman and member of the Student Peace Alliance, said he came out to protest the former Republican senator’s visit because he felt that Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week was hypocritical and ineffective.
“It’s just another way of pushing wars of hate, wars of terror among our own people,” Dagavarian said. “You can’t beat terrorism. It’s not something that’s tangible. What we have to do is work towards peace, create better opportunities and living conditions throughout the world.”
Many of the students who gathered outside of the Student Center were there to show their opposition to Santorum’s conservative stances on gay marriage and abortion. “This is what a feminist looks like” and “My oven, my bun, my choice” were painted on some of the signs.
At one point during the protest, two male students across the street began yelling, in alteration, “Pro” and “Life.” The protesters crowded toward 13th Street and held their signs higher. Eventually, the two students left, and everyone cheered.
“I think Islamo-Fascism Week is an attempt to isolate certain groups on campus,” sophomore political science major Sean Goldman said. He attended the protest as a member of Temple College Democrats, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and Common Ground. “I see this as a political move.”
“He’s trying to trick the American public with words,” Clarissa Marks, a sophomore sociology major and member of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and Temple College Democrats, said about Santorum.
“He’s trying to create a sense of fear by focusing in on small, radical groups that can be found in any religion and applying that radicalism to a larger group of people who can be peaceful, who are just trying to live their lives,” she added.
“We have enough problems with racism and profiling in this country,” said Kyle O’Neill, a sophomore history major and Student Peace Alliance member. “The fact that a group is coming here to influence hate against Muslims is adding fuel to fire. Recently, there has been more tolerance toward the Muslim people. This is a step backwards.”
Anna Hyclak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.