Princeton is participating in Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week this week, at least according to conservative pundit David Horowitz's website, "Terrorist Awareness." But that's news to the University.
The site, which Horowitz developed to publicize his controversial week-long initiative, lists Princeton among the 200 participating colleges and universities. Both the University communications office and College Republicans said they did not consider themselves part of the program.
Last week, Horowitz delivered a well-attended lecture on Islamo-fascism, the name some conservative commentators give to a brand of contemporary Islam they consider similar to the fascist movements of Europe in the 1930s. Horowitz condemned what he called anti-Semitism and sexism in Islam. He also criticized the Left's attacks on his views and said his opponents do not support academic freedom.
The lecture was sponsored by the College Republicans, but the organization's president, Jon Fernandez '08, said he did not intend for the group's sponsorship to signal support for Horowitz's views. "Our organization has never had any plans to endorse or formally participate in Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week," he said.
University spokeswoman Cass Cliatt '96 said that a month ago, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) — a watchdog group that monitors what it perceives as prejudice against Americans of Arab descent — asked Princeton if it was associated with Horowitz's program. "We commented that we were not aware [of the initiative]," Cliatt said.
Asked in an interview this week with The Daily Princetonian why Princeton was listed as participating in Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, Horowitz said he thought he was invited to speak at the University as part of the program. He added that he thought College Republicans scheduled the event last week, rather than during the official Islamo-Fascism Awareness week, so that it wouldn't conflict with midterm exams.
"I came, I gave a talk," he said. "I would call that participation."
But when told of the College Republicans' denial that they saw themselves as participating, Horowitz did not press the matter. "Whatever the College Republicans say is fine," he said, noting that the organization might be under fire for its participation and may consequently be trying to distance itself from the program.
Questions began to arise this fall about the accuracy of Horowitz's list of participating colleges after ADC began contacting the presidents and chancellors of the schools listed. "After we contacted those institutions, most of those institutions indicated that no such event is taking place on campus, and many contacted the sponsors and told them, 'Do not use my institution's name in your campaign,' " the ADC executive director Kareem Shora told C-SPAN, citing Princeton and Yale as examples.
At least 40 of the colleges contacted by the ADC said they did not know they were listed as participating, the ADC's Tony Kutayli said in an interview.
Princeton is not the only school where Horowitz has sparked controversy during an on-campus appearance.
On Monday, he was met at the University of Wisconsin by around 75 protesters, while his appearance at George Washington University last night led some students to circulate fliers protesting his views. "Hate Muslims? So Do We!" the fliers read, and they listed campus groups sponsoring Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week as contact information.
Though objections to Horowitz's Princeton lecture last week were more low-key, some students condemned his views. "The Islamo-Fascism week organized by the David Horowitz Center is extremely offensive to the Muslim Students Association (MSA) as an organization," said Sarah Dajani '09, the group's president and also a columnist for the 'Prince.' "It raises questions for Muslim students when a speaker comes who equates terrorism with the religion."
Horowitz said he intended to spark debate with Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, calling it "a huge success" in doing so. "We've done exactly what we want to do — to start a discussion about our enemies," he said, adding that one of his goals for the week was "to restore to campuses like Princeton the ability to discuss serious issues without having people hurl racial epithets."
But Horowitz said his opponents have been uncivil in criticizing his views and have tried to keep his voice from being heard. "The tactics used by the Princeton left and the MSA are fascist tactics," he said.
Fernandez, however, said he was pleased with the tenor of the on-campus debate triggered by Horowitz's lecture last week.
"The event was meant to raise challenging questions and to invoke introspective thought about our own individual opinions on world affairs," Fernandez said. "Judging by the caliber of questions and the thought invested in them, I believe we succeeded."
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