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Phyllis Chesler

Why Can Academics Study 'Islamophobia' But Not Anti-Semitism?

by Phyllis Chesler and Nathan Bloom, posted Jan 5, 2011


Reprinted with permission

Recently, Yale shut down its Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA). Some claimed that the center was perhaps too "political."

Almost simultaneously, on June 23, 2011, the University of California at Berkeley's Center on Race and Gender issued its first annual "Islamophobia" report. The report is a project of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project (IRDP), whose mission statement says: "The IRDP focuses on a systematic and empirical approach to the study of Islamophobia and its impact on the American Muslim community. Today, Muslims in the U.S., parts of Europe, and around the world have been transformed into a demonized and feared global 'other,' subjected to legal, social, and political discrimination."

In our view, "Islamophobia" hardly deserves any academic attention compared to the much more serious phenomenon of anti-Semitism. According to the German scholar of anti-Semitism Clemens Heni, "Anti-Semitism, with its irrational, implacably genocidal dimension, is totally different [from Islamophobia]….[T]here are some Islamicists who openly advocate the takeover of Europe, the West and the world….[T]he Jews have never had or claimed such a goal."

In addition, there are the facts. For example, in 2008, the FBI found that 66.1% of religious hate crimes in America targeted Jews, but only 7.5% of religious hate crimes targeted Muslims.

On March 29, 2011, the Center for Security Policy released a revised edition of its groundbreaking longitudinal study, Religious Bias Crimes 2000-2009: Muslim, Jewish and Christian VictimsDebunking the Myth of a Growing Trend in Muslim Victimization. It is based on annual FBI statistics and contradicts the assertions that religious bias crimes against Muslims have increased in America and that the alleged cause is widespread "Islamophobia." In fact, the study shows that religious bias crimes — also known as hate crimes — against Muslim Americans have remained relatively low with a downward trend since 2001, and are significantly less than the numbers of bias crimes against Jewish victims.

Guess what? This report on "Islamophobia" was co-issued by Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender and by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). As we all know, CAIR is an organization which just lost its non-profit status because it failed to file annual reports detailing revenues and expenses for three consecutive years. However, the 30 state CAIR chapters still have tax-exempt status. Two weeks after it lost its tax exempt status, CAIR continues to claim on its website that donations to CAIR are tax-deductible. Federal prosecutors also labeled CAIR an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the Holy Land Foundation's financial support for Hamas, a terrorist organization. This is the "scholarly" company that Berkeley's professors keep.

In addition, the founder of Berkeley's "Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project" is none other than Professor Hatem Bazian, who was born in Nablus (Shechem) and who also founded Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). He is also a co-founder of American Muslims for Palestine. Dr. Bazian is a professor of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies.

Listen to the learned and objective Dr. Bazian.

At a 1999 "United for Al-Quds" conference in San Francisco, he cited the hadith which says, "The Day of Judgment will not happen until the trees and stones will say, O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him."

In April 2004 at an anti-war rally in San Francisco, he said: "It's about time we have an intifada in this country."

In 2005, Dr. Bazian told a Berkeley audience that modern-day "Palestinians" are direct descendants of the Philistines and that Israelis have no connection to ancient Jews. They are simply Russian converts to Judaism.

Dr. Bazian presented his alleged findings about "Islamophobia" on June 23, 2011, in D.C. at CAIR's headquarters. Results include the conclusion that, on a scale from 1 (best situation for Muslims) to 10 (worst possible situation for Muslims), "Islamophobia" in America stands at 6.4. If Islamophobia is at 6.4, and there are eight times as many attacks against Jews as against Muslims nationwide, then how shall we measure anti-Semitism in America?

According to the report, the "worst" promoters of "Islamophobia" include Dr. Steven Emerson, Dr. Daniel Pipes ("the grandfather of Islamophobia in America"), Dr. Frank Gaffney, as well as "Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and other violent extremists." We wonder what these genuinely sober, grave, and learned gentlemen will make of being lumped together with the arch fiend terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

In its list of "Islamophobic" incidents in recent years, it includes the University of California at Irvine's 2010 decision to suspend the university's Muslim Student Union for one year after several of its members (including its president) heckled the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. during a speech, calling him a "killer." The report describes this as a "peaceful protest."

Thus far, no one has protested the politicization of Race and Gender Studies at Berkeley. So far, no one has demanded that Berkeley shut down the project to document Islamophobia.

We wonder whether Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, who quickly praised Yale's decision to shut YIISA down and condemned YIISA for too much advocacy, will be writing about the unacceptable combining of propaganda, activism, and advocacy with scholarship–when the matter concerns Muslims and not Jews. In a shocking display of opportunism and moral obtuseness, Lipstadt condemned the brilliant Dr. Charles Small, who founded YIISA, for allowing advocacy to perhaps interfere with hallowed scholarship.

As Ben Cohen writes in this week's Forward, the problem with YIISA is not that it's overly political but lies rather "in its determination to go against the grain. Yale may couch its justification for YIISA's closure in terms of academic standards, but that does nothing to explain the undercurrent of hostility from others on the Yale faculty. If former YIISA director Charles Small is the equivalent of Stokely Carmichael, heaven knows where that leaves Columbia's tenured anti-Zionist, Joseph Massad, or the London School of Economics, which carried out research funded by the Gadhafi Foundation. By closing YIISA after only five years, Yale has effectively sided with those voices that demean contemporary anti-Semitism as the fantasy of overzealous Israel advocates."

We demand that the University of California at Berkeley consider whether its Center on Race and Gender meets the standards for Western scholarship or whether it merely provides pseudo-academic cover for anti-Semitic propaganda.

Nathan Bloom is an assistant to Dr. Phyllis Chesler. He majored in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

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