Islamophobia is a serious problem only in the sense that Muslims use it to distract attention from their bigotry. The Conference on Islamophobia is a case in point.
For more than seven hours Thursday, students and community members gathered at the UC Berkeley School of Law to discuss the presence of Islamophobia in culture and society.
At the Fifth Annual International Conference on Islamophobia Studies, founded and directed by UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian, attendees listened to panelists describe issues ranging from the discrimination against Muslims to the representation of Muslim women in the media.
Islamophobia is described by Bazian as “an irrational belief and hostile attitude directed toward Islam and Muslims that problematizes them as a subject matter.”
A rise in incidents of anti-Semitism was reported by Jewish students at San Francisco State University coinciding with Bazian’s increasing influence on campus, and contemporaneous Jewish students have said that Bazian was a critical player in fomenting this environment. Throughout the early 1990s at San Francisco State, Bazian continued his involvement in student politics supporting Pro-Palestinian groups on campus.
While Hatem was at San Francisco State University, he participated in an assault on the offices of the Golden Gater student newspaper accusing it of being full of Jewish spies. Jewish students had complained about anti-Semitic behavior by Bazian, in his role as student body president, and his campaign against Hillel, the leading Jewish campus organization, was a direct attempt to disenfranchise Jewish students.
When a controversial mural of Malcolm X containing dollar signs surrounded by Jewish Stars was painted on the student union building at San Francisco State, Bazian was an organizer of and a featured speaker at a press conference in support of the mural. According to the campus newspaper, The Golden Gater, Jewish students were forcibly excluded from this press conference despite it being held in the public Student Union building.
Steven Emerson, in his book American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us ( pp. 214-215), quotes Bazian sermonizing at an American Muslim Alliance conference in May 1999 in California, promoting the Islamic State of Palestine. Excerpts from the quote read:
“In the Hadith, the Day of Judgment will never happen until you fight the Jews. They are on the west side of the river, which is the Jordan River, and you’re on the east side until the trees and stones will say, oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him! And that’s in the Hadith about this, this is a future battle before the Day of Judgment.”
After a 2002 Students for Justice in Palestine rally at UC Berkeley resulted in the arrest of 79 protesters, Bazian spoke at a follow-up rally protesting the arrests. “If you want to know where the pressure on the university [i.e., to prosecute the demonstrators] is coming from, look at the Jewish names on the school buildings,” he said.
Instead of hosting another Conference on Let’s Distract Attention from Muslim Hate, maybe the University of California should hold a conference on Muslim antisemitism on campus.