By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Posters appeared all over the George Washington University campus yesterday morning blaring the message: "HATE MUSLIMS? SO DO WE!!!"
Campus police moved quickly to remove the fliers, university leaders began investigating how they got there and student groups met last night to deplore the posters, which had a photo of an Arab and description of "typical Muslim" features such as "suicide vest," "hidden AK-47" and "peg-leg for smuggling children and heroin."
The posters managed to upset just about everyone on campus: Muslim students, other religious groups and conservatives who are hosting "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" later this month. Some questioned whether they were mocking the conservatives, pointing to fine print at the bottom -- "Brought to you by Students for Conservativo-Fascism Awareness" -- and a postscript recommending a BBC video on the politics of fear.
Any subtleties were lost under the gigantic headline, though.
"I was just really shocked that this sort of hatred exists on our campus," said Najah El Bash, a sophomore from New York who is one of the leaders of the GWU Muslim Students Association. "You never think this would come so close to home, from people you're in classes with. . . . It's scary." It had to be well-planned, she said, for so many posters to go up so quickly.
GWU President Steven Knapp said in a statement last night, "There is no place for expressions of hatred on our campus." He called the fliers reprehensible and said students of different faiths will be gathering this week for a community meal with Muslims during Ramadan. "This event speaks to our university's commitment to global cultural understanding and respect."
The poster describes "typical" Muslims and says, "To find out more, come to ISLAMO-FASCISM AWARENESS WEEK!!! For more information, contact the GWU Young America's Foundation."
Sergio Gor, a senior from Los Angeles who is the president of that group, said he was horrified when he heard about the fliers. "We did not put up those posters," he said. "Someone took our name and used it. It was hateful."
"We're a conservative group on campus," he said. "We promote liberty and freedom, not bigotry and hatred." Gor and others in the group, which has hosted such speakers on campus as Newt Gingrich and John Ashcroft, were to meet last night with the Muslim Students Association and Jewish student leaders to issue a joint statement.
The Young America's Foundation will host Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, an event organized by two national conservative groups. Gor said writer David Horowitz will speak, "The Path to 9/11," a TV mini-series, will be shown, and there will be a panel discussion featuring people who escaped the regime in Iran. "One gal got flogged 300 times for wearing nail polish," he said.
"It's a complete misunderstanding," he said. "I don't know how you can take that and turn it into, 'We hate Muslims.' We don't. We have Muslims involved in our organizations."
Patrick Coyle, vice president of the Young America's Foundation, which is based in Herndon and sponsors conservative speakers at campuses nationwide, said "it's clear when you look at the flier that this is an obvious attack from the left."
"It shows how desperate they become to try to silence debate on campus," he said. The video that the flier urges people to watch, "The Power of Nightmares," is an attack on the upcoming event, he said.