Polarizing event hinders progress, unity
On Tuesday, Sept. 30, Rutgers University Hillel hosted an event called “Examining Human Rights Violations Against Minorities in the Islamist World: From Hamas in Gaza to IS in Iraq and Syria,” featuring none other than Brooke Goldstein, a known bigot who has made many ridiculous claims. But before we get into Goldstein’s background, let us first discuss the sheer error in the very premise of the event.
To start off, “Islamist” is defined by the Associated Press as “an advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.” Well, the values codified into our Declaration of Independence by our founding fathers in 1776 — the rights to life, liberty and property — are quite similar to what the classical Islamic scholar Muhammad Al-Ghazzali referred to as the five foundations of sharia, which encompasses the laws prescribed by Islam: “The right to life, liberty, property, intellect and lineage.” There is nothing inherently threatening about such a political system nor is it particularly different from our already existing American one.
The AP continues to say, “do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.” Just as the Klu Klux Klan or the Anti-balaka militia, which burns Muslims alive in the Central African Republic, are not “Christianist.” Extremist Buddhist monks who murder the minority Rohingya Muslim population in Burma are not “Buddhismist.” Jewish settlers who quote the Torah to justify their half-century long occupation of the West Bank are not “Judaismist.” Groups like Hamas and ISIS must not be called Islamists, but instead what they actually are: terrorists.
Goldstein does understand this because she is a journalist and a lawyer — not an expert on terrorism. Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago, oversees the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, the world’s largest academic research project on suicide terrorism. Unlike Goldstein, Pape studied every suicide bombing between 1980 and 2005 — 315 cases in total. From that research, Pape wrote a book called “Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It,” in which he concluded, “There is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any of the world’s religions. Rather, what nearly all these suicide attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from their territory, [which] terrorists consider to be their homeland.” Perhaps Hamas in Gaza commits acts of terror not because of Islam, but because of the Israeli government’s perpetual bombing and its land, air and sea blockade that has been going on since 2007. Maybe ISIS has come out of the fact that the United States has had its last four presidents bomb and prop up illegitimate regimes there for the past 24 years.
Now let us continue on to some of the statements that have been made by Hillel’s esteemed guest. Goldstein accused the Muslim Brotherhood of attempting to take over the United States government. She claimed that Huma Abedin, the Muslim wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, poses the “greatest national security threat” to our country. She later added a ludicrous claim that “she has access to the most classified information” and that the only reason Weiner is able to run is because of his “connections to Huma Abedin.” First of all, the Muslim Brotherhood cannot even retain power in Egypt — how in the world can they control the United States government when they cannot even control their own country? Having a speaker who has made such ludicrous statements is already embarrassing enough, but even scarier is how close Goldstein’s claims are to anti-Semitism in the 1930s.
Similar to the alleged Muslim Brotherhood dominance in our current government, the bigots of the 1930s accused Franklin Delano Roosevelt of having an administration “dominated by Jews.” These people accused FDR’s administration of causing the Great Depression and of dragging the United States into World War II against Nazi Germany, a country they claimed “deserved nothing but admiration.” In the book “Anti-Semitism in Times of Crisis,” authors Sander Gilman and Steven Katz even speak of FDR’s “New Deal” being referred to as the “Jew Deal.”
The parallels between these two acts of fear mongering are exactly the same. For Hillel, the Center for Jewish Life on Campus, to endorse such a speaker is not only an act of hypocrisy, but also an insult to the struggle to the history of Jewish Americans who have tirelessly faced anti-Semitism. The Hillel should not engage in Islamophobia, but instead fight it alongside its Muslim brothers and sisters.
Hamzah Raza is a Newark College of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in mathematics.