Tonight, the Ayn Rand Society at UC Davis will host a discussion on the Arab Spring, and whether the Islamist tenor of much of its influence could possibly be a problem. To quote from the event's description on Facebook:
Islamists Rising in the Middle East: Where next for America?
*no signs or banners of any kind will be allowed inside the auditorium*
*no food or beverages allowed also*
A forum featuring Elan Journo, Daniel Pipes and Larry Greenfield.
Since the so-called Arab Spring, upheavals and revolutions have racked the Middle East. So far, the Islamist movement has gained not only greater prominence but also political power in Egypt and elsewhere. Amid the tumult in Egypt, the Syrian civil war, and an imminently nuclear-capable Iran, what are America's interests in the region? What's fueling the rise of Islamists, and how should we view them?
Where are things heading in the Israel-Palestinian conflict? What should America's policy be toward the region, and toward Israel in particular?
Join the panel for a discussion of these and related questions.
Why is this news? Because Muslim groups at UC Davis are hopping mad, and may end up disrupting the event. Or at least, they have been making noises that suggest as much already. An op ed in the UC Davis campus paper, the California Aggie, has already been published condemning the event in the strongest possible terms:
We, as student organizations under the UC Davis Division of Student Affairs and representative of the diverse student body, condemn the event “Islamists Rising in the Middle East: Where Next for America?” where Daniel Pipes, Elan Journo and Larry Greenfield are invited to speak. The event will take place at UC Davis on April 11 at 7 p.m. and is hosted by the UC Davis Ayn Rand Society. Pipes, Journo and Greenfield have past histories of speech that demonstrate racism and Islamophobia that clearly transgress the principles that the University of California and UC Davis are meant to embody.[...]
We acknowledge that UC Davis regards free speech as a principle of community. However, we will not support speech that is racist and has no purpose but to further ignorance throughout communities. We do not support speech that will alienate communities and legitimize stereotyping. We do not support speech that builds the very prejudice and discrimination that the University should be working against in order to foster a campus that is rich in understanding and intellectual growth.
Thus, as the University acknowledges “historical and deep-rooted understandings and biases” in our current society, we expect, by extension, it will acknowledge that the ideologies being furthered by the speakers serve to perpetuate the irrational fear and “othering” of Islam and Muslims (Islamophobia) which have material implications on the safety and sense of belonging of our peers.
We expect the University will follow its own protocols and sanctions, which include the confrontation and rejection of such hate speech that is “based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs.” (Principles of Community)
The University’s neutral stance against such speech has allowed it to tear at the fabric of our community and is detrimental to the very principles that UC Davis strives to accomplish. We expect the University to take a stance against such hate speech.
Meanwhile, the event's Facebook page has been besieged with angry comments. A small sample follows:
The Ayn Rand Society, however, is not taking this lying down, nor are the guests. Elan Journo, one of the guests, told TheBlaze in an email that he was counting on University Security to keep the problems to a minimum.
"We are putting our trust in the university and its security team uphold the freedom of speech of the panelists in the face of any disruptors," Journo told TheBlaze. "It is ludicrous, if it were not so sad, that public discussion of the Islamist movement is somehow a taboo. This is the ideological movement behind al Qaeda, Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. Surely the more people learn about it, the better."
And as to those who may protest Journo has nothing but contempt for them. "The "Arab Spring" pushed open the door for Islamic totalitarian groups hostile to America. Some in the West want to play that down and muzzle open discussion of Islamic totalitarianism. Whose side are such apologists on--freedom of speech or Islamic dictatorship?"
One presumes that if there is a protest or a larger problem tonight, Journo's question may be answered quite forcefully.