GWU punishes victims in anti-Muslim flier flap, group says
October 11, 2007
by Randy Hall
Administrators at a university in Washington, D.C., are “on a rampage” against a conservative student group on its campus over fake anti-Muslim posters even though seven other students have said they were responsible for the fliers, a national organization charged on Wednesday.
“It's obvious to anyone with a moment's reflection that such fliers were created to fake an incident of hate where none exists, rather than contribute to a robust discussion regarding the threat of radical Islam,” said the conservative Young America's Foundation (YAF) in a statement on the group’s Web site.
The news release stated that the YAF chapter at George Washington University (GWU) did not disseminate the fliers that read “HATE MUSLIMS? SO DO WE!!!” even though the posters said that people who wanted to learn more should “come to ISLAMO-FASCISM AWARENESS WEEK,” an event the group is hosting later this month.
“GWU officials have glossed over the fact that someone on campus misrepresented a school-sanctioned club,” the YAF continued. “Instead, the school is cuddling up with the local Islamic groups to denounce the drummed-up incident of hate and force the Young America's Foundation chapter to sign a statement condemning hate speech.”
The YAF noted that Bridgette Behling, director of student involvement at GWU, wrote an e-mail to one of the conservative students urging the group to disavow any hate speech that may originate at future YAF activities.
Behling wrote on Monday: "Due to the inflammatory nature of today's events, as a good faith effort on behalf of YAF, it is important that YAF draft a statement which states that you will not allow hate speech to be a part of any of YAF's events, literature, written or verbal communication," including Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, which will be held Oct. 22-26.
“This statement should also include your plan for preventing these things from happening, as well as the consequences for these things happening," she added. "It is important that we have this document should any further incidents occur as we move forward.”
“GWU's ire is being directed in the wrong place,” the YAF stated. “The university should be protecting the reputation of its students who were wrongfully maligned, rather than rewarding campus radicals who are always looking to suppress or distort conservative activism.”
Repeated calls seeking response from university officials were not returned by press time.
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the flier incident was condemned as “a classic left-wing tactic” by conservative author and activist David Horowitz, whose Terrorism Awareness Project is sponsoring events for Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week at more than 140 college campuses across the U.S.
National YAF spokesman Jason Mattera told Cybercast News Service that “university officials say, ‘we're outraged there can be such intolerance and hate-filled speech,’ but it's the left that created the hate language because no hatred exists” toward Muslims by conservatives.
“So who's really creating an environment of hate?” he asked.
‘Creative political action’
The answer to that question came Tuesday evening, when the GW Hatchet—the student newspaper on campus—received a letter from seven students claiming responsibility for the incident.
“This creative political action was part of a rich American tradition of raising awareness, in this case, about Islamophobia,” the letter stated before calling the upcoming YAF event a ‘celebration of racism’ that is "the real threat to our community.”
The letter was signed by freshmen Yong Kwon and Ned Goodwin, senior Brian Tierney and graduate students Maxine Nwigwe, Lara Masri, Amal Rammah and Adam Kokesh, who collectively called themselves the "Students for Conservativo-Fascism Awareness."
Kokesh, who is co-chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War, participated in a Sept. 15 anti-war demonstration in
He said at the time the demonstration would send a message to elected officials that “if you do not take our demands seriously, we will be in the streets, we will be shutting down the machine.”
Tracy Schario, a GWU spokesperson, said in a statement on Wednesday that the university police department is still investigating the incident, but “at a minimum, these fliers violated the posting policy and did not properly use the university logo, and they posted fliers without permission. That’s, at a minimum, an offense.”
According to the current edition of the school's “Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities,” it’s a minor violation, with a “minimum sanction” of disciplinary probation.
Mattera told Cybercast News Service on Wednesday that his organization would like to see two results of the GWU investigation of the incident.
First, GWU President Steven Knapp should issue an apology to the conservatives who were unfairly targeted through the fliers, he stated.
In addition, “the political profiling of conservatives must stop,” Mattera said. “The president needs to organize a forum immediately that embraces intellectual diversity and denounces the left’s attempts to create hostile learning environments for conservatives.”
However, Robert Shibley, vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told Cybercast News Service on Wednesday that he views the GWU incident through the prism of free speech.
Referring to the flier, he said “it should have been obvious to George Washington students and administrators that this was a parody.” Since the poster said Muslims have lasers in their eyes, “people would quickly put two and two together and realize this wasn't actually posted by the YAF.”
Shibley stated that he is more concerned “whenever I hear reports of a university removing posters on its own authority or using regulations to try to suppress the speech of its students.”
As for misuse of the university logo, the FIRE vice president stated that “George Washington is a private university, and they're allowed to control their logo, but using that as an excuse to suppress political speech is counter-productive. I don't think anybody could credibly think that GWU itself was sponsoring this poster.”
- GWU Punishes Victims in Anti-Muslim Flier Flap, Group Says, PDF, 149.1 KB , Crosswalk.com