A former Georgetown professor who wrote an opinion article in support of President-elect Donald Trump has asked the university to intervene after a current Georgetown professor responded with insults and an obscenity on social media.
After Trump was elected in November, Asra Q. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and a co-founder of a Muslim advocacy group, wrote a Washington Post article titled, “I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump.” On Thursday, Nomani filed a formal complaint with the university, alleging discrimination and harassment after comments made by Christine Fair, an associate professor in Georgetown’s School for Foreign Service.
“I am a single mother who can’t afford health insurance under Obamacare,” wrote Nomani, who taught at Georgetown from 2008 to 2012. “As a liberal Muslim who has experienced, firsthand, Islamic extremism in this world, I have been opposed to the decision by President Obama and the Democratic Party to tap dance around the ‘Islam’ in Islamic State.”
On Nov. 22, Fair responded to the post on Twitter.
“I’ve written you off as a human being,” Fair wrote in one message detailed in the complaint. “Your vote helped normalize Nazis in D.C. What don’t you understand, you clueless dolt?” Fair wrote, later adding: “YOU publicly voted for a sex assailant.” She went on to say that Nomani “pimped herself out to all media outlets because she was a ‘Muslim woman who voted for Trump.’ ”
Fair called Nomani’s appeal to her employer a “very dangerous trend.” She said Nomani, a former professor at Georgetown, has no standing at the university to complain.
“I am most concerned about the increasing appeal to employers to silence the criticism of citizens made in their private capacity as citizens,” she wrote in an email to The Washington Post. “Because most of us need our jobs, as few of us are financially independent, this is the most pernicious form of bullying of critics.”
After trading direct messages with Fair on Twitter and appealing to Fair’s supervisors last month, Nomani filed the complaint Thursday with the university’s Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action organization.
“I am writing to share with you that, as a result of my column, Prof. Fair has directed hateful, vulgar and disrespectful messages to me, including the allegations that I am: a ‘fraud’; ‘fame-mongering clown show’; and a ‘bevkuf,’ or ‘idiot,’ in my native Urdu, who has ‘pimped herself out,’ ” Nomani wrote in a Dec. 2 email included in the complaint to Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies. “This last allegation amounts to ‘slut-shaming.’ ”
As Nomani’s complaint recounts, Fair took to Facebook on Dec. 6, saying that Nomani had published private direct messages and attacked her First Amendment rights by appealing to her employer.
“She has no right to decry criticism . . . even criticism that is in language that offends her fragile sensibilities,” Fair wrote in a Facebook post. “ ‘F–k off’ and ‘go to hell’ and ‘pimping yourself out’ for media coverage offended her . . . but not ‘I can grab their p—–s’ or the various misogynist, racist, xeonophobic [sic] race-baiting bulls–t espoused by her candidate of choice.”
Fair concluded: “So again, Ms. Nomani, ‘F–K YOU. GO TO HELL.’ ”
Georgetown officials said it was unclear what action, if any, it would take on Nomani’s complaints.
“We take these issues seriously and understand and appreciate the concern about the tone of these exchanges,” university spokeswoman Rachel Pugh wrote in an email. “As an academic community we hold dear our commitment to free speech and expression. Being committed to the free and open exchange of ideas does not mean, however, that we approve of or endorse each and every statement made by members of our faculty.”
Nomani said Wednesday that she knew Fair when she worked at Georgetown and once had dinner at her house. In her Dec. 2 email, she said she considered her a friend.
Nomani said she doesn’t want Fair to lose her job, but thinks an apology and training are appropriate.
“I honor the First Amendment, I believe in the First Amendment,” she said. “With all rights come serious responsibilities. Civil discourse is one of those responsibilities, especially for educators. We are models.”
In a Dec. 28 follow-up letter to Irfan Nooruddin, a professor in Georgetown’s School for Foreign Service, Nomani said Fair has continued to criticize her on social media, calling her an “attention mongering crybully” among other insults.