Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Culture War Descends on Columbia

The Nation, October 26, 2007

By Esther Kaplan

In the past few years, the students and faculty of Columbia University have found themselves in the midst of a culture war. They've seen their Middle East Studies department targeted as "anti-Israel" by one right-wing organization, the David Project. Two assistant professors, Joseph Massad and Nadia Abu El-Haj, were publicly smeared by another right-wing outfit, Campus Watch, as they underwent tenure review (see "The New McCarthyism" by Larry Cohler-Esses). And at the start of this school year their own president, Lee Bollinger, seemed to pander to this right-wing pressure by slamming Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the name of "the modern civilized world."

This week they've got David Horowitz, of the modestly named David Horowitz Freedom Center, best known in recent years for his ads in campus papers opposing slavery reparations, in which he argued that there is no evidence that the legacy of slavery has harmed any living African-American and demanded "the gratitude of black America" for the white Christians who "created" the antislavery movement. Now he's here to teach them about "Islamofascism."

His "Islamofascism Awareness Week" descended this week on dozens of college campuses across the country (he claims more than 100) with vigils here, sit-ins there and scattered forums featuring "aware" individuals such as former Senator Rick Santorum. But Columbia has been showered with special largesse: an entire week of activities, kicked off by a candlelight vigil on Monday, where a dozen or so College Republicans remembered "the untold millions who suffer under tyrannical Islamic regimes" and closing on Friday at noon with a speech by Horowitz himself (Columbia College class of '59).

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