'Islamo-Fascism Week' Stokes Debate Tempers may flare over Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. David Horowitz, a '60s anti-war radical who later took a right turn, says he's trying to sound an alarm about radical Islam. His efforts have drawn much criticism.
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'Islamo-Fascism Week' Stokes Debate

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'Islamo-Fascism Week' Stokes Debate

'Islamo-Fascism Week' Stokes Debate

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Breast Cancer Awareness Month never stirred much controversy. There's never been a political uproar over National Library Week. But starting tomorrow, tempers are likely to flare over Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.

A man named David Horowitz is the prime mover behind Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. He was an antiwar radical in the '60s, who then took a sharp turn to the right. Now, he's applying the same passion he once used in denouncing the Vietnam War to sounding the alarm about radical Islam.

Mr. DAVID HOROWITZ (Activist): It's a greater threat than the Nazis, the Communists or the civil war because they have modern technologies, chemical weapon and nuclear weapon in the hands of people who think that they're going to heaven if they kill millions of people.

SEABROOK: Horowitz wants to warn America, especially American youth, about this danger he sees. So tomorrow, the David Horowitz Freedom Center will start sending speakers to scores of colleges and universities. There will be lectures, vigils for terrorism victims and protests outside women's studies departments. Horowitz says they are silent about the oppression of women in Muslim countries.

But the term Islamo-Fascism has incensed Muslim groups and their supporters such as Howard University student Eugene Perrier(ph).

Mr. EUGENE PERRIER (Student, Howard University): This week, this whole attempt to really popularize the idea of Islamo-Fascism is really nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to demonize and brand a whole community.

SEABROOK: Horowitz insists he doesn't believe all Muslims are Islamofascists. In fact, he says, Muslims themselves are victims of this ideology. But he applies the label broadly to the regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and even suggests the Muslim student association in this country has Islamofascist leanings.

While Horowitz warns of nuclear apocalypse, Ibrahim Ramey of the Muslim American Society raises another dire specter. He notes it wasn't that long ago that Rwandans pumped out hate propaganda on the radio to set the stage for genocide.

Mr. IBRAHIM RAMEY (Civil and Human Rights Director, Muslim American Society): Similarly in the United States of America, we find that there are people, who under the guise of opposing Islamic violence, create a climate in which the nooses and the swastikas even, are more likely to emerge.

SEABROOK: Still, the College Republicans at Columbia University are pressing ahead to host Islamo-Fascism Awareness speakers. The club's president, Chris Kulawik, dismisses the controversy over the event's name.

Mr. CHRIS KULAWIK (President, College Republicans, Columbia University): The issue here shouldn't be over what we name the event and the - maybe not politically correct name of the event but the fact that people are dying every day because of these tyrannical systems.

SEABROOK: Among the speakers Kulawik's campus Republicans will be hosting is David Horowitz himself, a Columbia graduate. Other speakers making the campus rounds for Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week include Ibn Warraq, the Indian-born author who left Islam, and Ann Coulter, the provocative, conservative commentator.

Horowitz accuses his opponents of trying to muzzle the speakers.

Mr. HOROWITZ: I'm being attacked and this event is being attacked all over the academic world because people are in extreme denial.

SEABROOK: The Arab Antidiscrimination Committee did send out letters of concern to schools where Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week events are scheduled. The committee said the speakers will be spreading false hateful messages that do not, quote, "belong in any reasonable debate."

Tarek Al-Hariri is the student president of the George Washington University's Peace Forum. He says Horowitz should be allowed to speak, but Hariri finds his message abhorrent.

Mr. TAREK AL-HARIRI (President, Peace Forum, George Washington University): I think, right now, a lot of people just costume hate speech as free speech. And yes, I do think it's something that needs to be dealt with.

SEABROOK: Hariri's Peace Forum, Muslim student activists and antiwar groups at campuses across the country will counter Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week with their own prayer vigils, petitions and speakers.

NPR's Martha Wexler reported and wrote this story.

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