Patriot News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
October 22, 2007 Monday
Speech on Muslims sparks ire // Santorum to discuss radicalism in talk at Penn State
BYLINE: BRETT LIEBERMAN, Of The Patriot-News
SECTION: A SECTION; Pg. A01
LENGTH: 760 words
Ten months after leaving office, former Sen. Rick Santorum is back in the thick of controversy over whether he and other conservatives’ “hate speech” is stirring up anti-Muslim sentiments.
Santorum is headlining an event on the campus of Penn State University Tuesday night that is part of a controversial line-up of conservative speakers in Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.
Commentator Ann Coulter also is scheduled to speak at campuses in California and Louisiana. The talks are part of a series of events at more than 100 colleges being organized by the Los Angeles-based David Horowitz Freedom Center.
But while Santorum and sponsors of the events say the purpose is to raise awareness about the dangers posed by radicals, critics claim the talks are promoting “hate speech” against Muslims.
“You have to describe the enemy as who they are,” Santorum said in an interview Friday. “They’re not Irish Catholics, they’re not Ukrainian Orthodox. They are who they are and their faith is integral as to why they are doing what they are doing.
“If I were a Muslim on a college campus,” Santorum said, “I would embrace this movement to show that what we’re talking about here is a group of Muslims that is not me.”
In addition to Penn State, Santorum plans to speak at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University on Wednesday.
During his unsuccessful campaign to keep his seat as Pennsylvania’s junior senator, Santorum likened himself to Winston Churchill, leading the fight against the threat of radical Muslims as opposed to Nazis.
Many Muslims and non-Muslims, though, view the rhetoric used by Santorum and others as more antagonistic.
“When you engage in this blanket statement, when Ann Coulter says Jews need to be perfected, when Rick Santorum says you Muslims need to wake up, when he compares homosexuality to incest, it’s all the same hate speech,” said Kareem Shora, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Shora’s group urged Penn State and other colleges hosting Islamo-Fascism week events to cancel programs.
Penn State officials, however, said the events are about free speech – whether or not that speech is popular.
“This is a free speech issue and free speech rights cover all speech – whether we personally agree with
it or not, whether we like
the message or whether we find it repulsive,” said Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers.
It’s not unusual for college campuses to host controversial speakers. Columbia University, for example, drew worldwide attention and much scorn from U.S. political leaders for allowing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak during his recent trip to address the United Nations in New York.
“A college campus is really the place for discourse, controversial or not, to take place, so that students can hear differing viewpoints and expand their thinking just by being exposed to a range of ideas,” Powers said.
Sponsors of the events insist they are only trying to raise awareness about the threat posed by radical Muslims.
“They’re the biggest threat to moderate Muslims in the world, let alone Christians and Jews,” said Jeffrey Wiener of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Anti-Semitic and anti-Israel speakers are often invited to campuses, “yet few speakers that speak the truth of the nature of Islamic terrorism can come to a school without protests,” Wiener said.
“We’re not doing anything controversial,” said Jessica J. Hutchings, acting chair of Penn State’s Young Americans for Freedom, the conservative group hosting the State College events.
The events are not anti-moderate Muslims, she said.
“Sometimes I don’t feel the answer is to be all politically correct. These people are killing people,” she said. “I don’t understand why we should use language that makes them feel good.”
But critics say the event will promote overall anti-Muslim attitudes.
“The language is very harsh,” said Zach Callis, a Penn State freshman from Manheim, Lancaster County, who signed a petition opposing the campus event. “This is not a solution to a problem. This is provoking and making matters worse.”
BRETT LIEBERMAN: 202-383-7833
ADC in Patriot News, Pennsylvania
Patriot News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)