Local Muslims upset by UW campus event
By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times religion reporter
A controversial week of events, billed as Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, launches at the University of Washington and some 100 other colleges next week â€” drawing condemnations from Muslim groups here and across the country.
The UW College Republicans, organizer of the local events, say the week is intended to foster awareness of the terrorist threat posed by a small number of extremists within Islam.
But some local Muslims say the week fosters Islamophobia and racism and attempts to paint all Muslims as terrorists.
Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, launched this year by a recent graduate of Duke University and sponsored by the Los Angeles-based David Horowitz Freedom Center, is intended to "confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat," according to its Web site.
The Web site includes suggested campus activities such as holding sit-ins outside women's studies departments to protest "the silence of feminists over the oppression of women in Islam" and holding a memorial service for the "victims of Islamo-Fascist violence around the world."
The UW week won't include all those elements.
"What we're going to be focusing more on specifically is the terrorist threat," said Auggie Eck, vice president of UW College Republicans.
Beginning Monday, the group plans to hand out information sheets describing what the week's activities are all about.
And it's hosting two events open to the public: a showing of "Suicide Killers," a documentary about suicide bombers, at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Smith Hall, and a talk by conservative author and talk-show host Michael Medved at 7 p.m. Thursday in Kane Hall.
Tom Walker, president of UW College Republicans, says they're not saying that all of Islam is dangerous.
"Our main point is raising awareness of what we feel is an extreme brand of Islam that is spreading rapidly around the world and posing a threat to America and the Western world," he said.
Amin Odeh, a board member with the local Arab American Community Coalition, said he agrees that "radical anything is dangerous â€” radical Muslims, radical Christians, radical Jews. Education is needed."
But Odeh says Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week makes too general a link between extremism and Islam, and that the term "Islamo-fascism" links fascism with an entire religion.
"Unfortunately, when people hear the term they don't think of only a small group of extremists, but of Islam in general," he said.
Hala Dillsi, a member of the UW Muslim Student Association, believes Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week promotes fear and intolerance. She is distributing green armbands and encouraging people to wear T-shirts that are green â€” traditionally the color associated with Islam â€” on Wednesday in solidarity with local Arabs and Muslims.
The student group also is organizing a forum Oct. 29 in which professors and local Muslims discuss and answer questions about Islam.
Members of the Muslim Student Association, along with other organizations, also plan to hold protests outside Wednesday and Thursday evening's Awareness Week events.
Assistant Chief Ray Wittmier with the UW Police Department said his department is meeting with student organizers on all sides "to make sure everybody stays safe."
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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