Four months ago members of the Pace University Hillel were threatened with arrest for hate crimes. Their crime? The wanted to show the movie about terrorism, Obsession. (See Pace Universary Censors the Truth)
Marijo Russell O’Grady, Dean of Students was the one behind the threats “Her words were if you show this film, the police will be looking into your records further,” according to the President of the Hillel Michael Abdurakhmanov. At another meeting Michael says that an assistant dean, David Clark, twice pushed him into a seat when he tried to stand to speak. The Pace Hillel was slammed for making the accusations. When the administration’s conduct toward Hillel received public attention, the Pace administration issued a public statement on January 10, 2007 — entitled “Pace University Statement on Hillel Charges” — to every member of the campus community and posted the statement on the Pace Web site. The statement personally attacked Hillel and its president, questioning his honesty and credibility and repeatedly noting that the Hillel president had “misconstrued” the university’s intentions. The statement also urged members of the community to “feel free to share this statement with others.”
Recently the University began to eat a little poultry. First the Hillel Pres. received a letter of apology from the University President for the goon tactics On March 26, 2007, President Caputo issued a public statement to the members of the university community. In the statement, President Caputo “assured [members of Pace’s Jewish community] that no … coercion or intimidation was intended,” and “apologize[d] for any action that may have unfortunately led to that belief. I also want to apologize for any hurt we may have caused [the Hillel president] and other members of Hillel in issuing the University Statement on Hillel Charges in January.”
Next, Pace participated in Islamo-Fascism Awareness Day, a nationwide effort to call attention to the threat of militant Islam by holding a mass-screening of the film that Pace didn’t want to show: Obsession. The Pace screening took place last week, 4-18. The best part of all is that the Mafioso-like Deans were there to make that no one got out of line.In total, 96 colleges and universities, showed the film, which was sponsored by the Terrorism Awareness Project, a new program of the David Horowitz (of Front Page.com fame) Freedom Center. Below is the frontpage.com coverage of the event:
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Celebrating Islamo-Fascism Awareness Day
By Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 20, 2007
Last fall, Pace University student Michael Abdurakhmanov tried to hold a screening of Obsession, a documentary about radical Islam, on his campus. Hoping to show that Islam is home to moderates as well as extremists, and that it is important to distinguish between the two camps, he unexpectedly found himself beset by opposition. Muslim students angrily rejected the idea. University administrators took an even harder line, with the school’s dean ominously warning Abdurakhmanov that showing the film could be considered a “hate crime,” and intimating, less than subtly, that police might be invited to sift through his personal record.
Now Abdurakhmanov has received restitution in a big way. Not only has Pace president David Caputo tendered a personal apology to Abdurakhmanov for the school’s strong-arm tactics, but yesterday marked the first-ever “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Day,” a nationwide effort to call attention to the threat of militant Islam by holding a mass-screening of the film that Abdurakhmanov’s school, quite literally, didn’t want him to see: Obsession. In total, 96 colleges and universities, among them Pace University, Columbia, Duke, and other prominent schools, together with three high schools and two military bases, showed the film, which was sponsored by the Terrorism Awareness Project, a new program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
David Horowitz, the center’s president, called the event “the most extensive demonstration by conservative college students ever.” Horowitz added that the event represented a clear challenge to academic faculty who, in the name of political correctness, have sought to shut down debate about Islamic extremism. “University administrators, caving to pressures from forces sympathetic to the Islamic terrorists have suppressed the showing of the film Obsession in the name of ‘sensitivity,’ which in an age of political correctness is the Orwellian term for closing down debate on American campuses,” Horowitz said. “The simultaneous showing of a film exposing the Islamist threat at nearly 100 universities is a tremendous victory for the forces of freedom and for intellectual diversity, which are now under attack.”
Reports from many of the participating schools lent support to that impression. Even as many schools successfully screened the film, many students found themselves pressured — and in some cases openly harassed — to cancel the event. They resisted, and showed the film anyway.
Josiah Lanning, a student at Ohio’s Columbus State Community College, offered one such story. Lanning recounted that his attempt to show the Obsession was nearly frustrated by the head of his school’s student activities center, which is in charge of such events. Even though he took pains to fill out the proper paperwork for the event, the center repeatedly intervened. First, Lanning was admonished for his proposed flyer for the event, which had the indelicacy to point out that terrorist groups like Hezbollah committed, well, terrorism. Forced to replace the flyers, Lanning was next told to suspend the film until further notice due, incongruously, to this week’s massacre at Virginia Tech.
One professor, meanwhile, wrote Lanning an abusive email, berating him for showing a film that, as she saw it, creates “barriers to acceptance of any Muslim person,” and judging his motives “suspect” because of the event’s connection to David Horowitz. (“David Horowitz is insulting to me and to my colleagues,” the professor pompously informed him.) Only after Lanning appealed to the dean of students at the college was he at last allowed to proceed with the showing.
But if school administrators and faculty gave him a hard time, the students were much more receptive. Especially memorable, Lanning said, was a Muslim student from Somalia who approached him after watching the film. Bracing himself for an argument, Lanning found himself pleasantly surprised. “He said he was glad to see that the movie differentiates between radical Islamists and peace-loving Muslims, and he said he was a supporter of the war on terror,“ Lanning recalled. Even the school’s chapter of the College Democrats found little to quarrel with about the film, Lanning said.
College Republicans at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, who also showed the film, had a similar experience. Cassie Sgro, a student who helped organize the event, said that some students and faculty members worried that showing the film would encourage harassment against Muslim and foreign students. Sgro disagreed. “The point of the film is to separate innocent people in the religion from the radical minority,” she told them.
Carl Soderberg, chair of the school’s College Republicans chapter, encountered similar resistance. “There were some faculty members who pressured me to postpone the film until they could find someone who ‘could properly frame the issue,’” he recalled. (Soderberg confessed that he was unsure what was meant by this, but was unwilling to put it to the test.) In the end, the school showed the film to some 50 students and faculty. As for the screening, it was a success, Soderberg said: “The point of the film was to raise awareness about a problem that many have stopped thinking about in the last five and a half years, and the best place to do that is on a college campus.”
Ruth Malhotra, a student at Georgia Tech and a member of the school’s College Republicans chapter, had perhaps the most difficult time winning the right to show Obsession. Among the hurdles erected by the school, Malhotra listed the fact that an ad for the event placed by the College Republicans was “censored” by the campus newspaper (a second ad was later published as submitted). In addition, she faced regular interference by opposed faculty and school administrators, boycotts and counter-demonstrations from left-wing student groups — and even death threats designed to prevent the screening. Of Obsession’s subject — radical Islam — Malhotra understatedly observed: “It’s an issue that ignites a lot of passion and opposition.” Be that as it may, Malhotra, who spent much of the day under police protection, has no regrets about trying to show the film. “It’s important for students to know that violent Islamic extremism does pose a threat to our way of life, and to challenge that threat we have to understand what it is we’re up against.”
Back at Pace University, Michael Abdurakhmanov finally got to show the film he had intended to show last fall. In a striking reversal, the same school officials who leaned on Abdurakhmanov not to show the film now cautioned students, nearly 50 of whom showed up for the event, to remain respectful throughout. As it turned out, the event went off flawlessly, with the sole sign of trouble coming when a handful of Muslim of students, only one of whom had actually watched Obsession, rudely interrupted a post-film discussion. “They said that the film was geared towards Jews who are more Zionist oriented,” Abdurakhmanov said. “But some of their comments began to loose their worth, because it was clear to most in the audience that they hadn’t seen the film and were just expressing their personal views about what people should or should not watch.”
Like other students who overcame campus opposition to show the film, however, he was pleased with the results. Obsession, he said, “showed us a point of view we’re not used to seeing: That there is a group of people — radical Islamists — who are unwilling to compromise, but that there are also moderate Muslims, and together with them we can march against the radicals and silence their voice.” And that, as Michael Abdurakhmanov will tell you, is all he wanted to achieve in the first place.