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Islamophobia is absurd

“Comrades, do get it into your heads, this ‘lesser evil’ which year after year has been used to keep you completely out of the fight will very soon mean having to stomach the Nazis.” Keep in mind what Bertolt Brecht wrote when considering the current political climate. How is Islamophobia not an absurdity to every living person? Perhaps a glance at U.S. policy would be revealing.

In 2014, military spending was about $1.3 trillion, 32 percent of the federal budget, about the same as the next nine largest-spending countries combined. Five of the top six companies in arms sales are based in the U.S.: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. You may have seen them at the career fairs. The U.S. advances its geopolitical and economic interests through an imperial, jingoistic foreign policy. The Pentagon’s 2009 Base Structures Report lists 837 bases operating in 45 foreign nations and U.S. colonies. Its belligerency extends from roots in European colonial projects, through manifest destiny and colonial land grabs overseas, to the protracted occupation of Afghanistan, the U.S.’ longest war. Any serious analysis of terror would include this well-documented context. As Noam Chomsky said: “Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: Stop participating in it.”

Islamophobia is a manifestation of white supremacy designed to categorize and vilify an assortment of people as one monolithic entity. It is a tool to divide and distract, which we must resist and disarm. These ideas are not fringe; white supremacy and capitalism are the founding principles of a country whose yet-to-be-reconciled legacy is genocide and slavery, theft of land and personhood.

Our campus is no exception. Jingoistic professors George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice, both former Secretaries of State, actively shaped U.S. foreign policy. Shultz was intimately involved with efforts to train and support paramilitary death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s. Rice played a prominent role in misleading the public about the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and authorizing the CIA torture program post-Sept. 11, 2001. Stanford proudly employs them while clamping down on dissenting voices. H. Bruce Franklin, a tenured professor, was fired in 1971 for publicly urging students to follow their consciences with respect to Stanford’s Computation Center performing calculations for bombing runs during the Vietnam War. We have the class “Hacking 4 Defense” where civilian students develop short-term technological solutions for the U.S. State and Defense Departments, inviting more people to profit off the death and misery of others. Meanwhile, peace and justice studies receive minimal institutional support, and grassroots organizing is marginalized.

The University would rather redirect and diffuse active opposition to sanctioned events, eager to keep to business as usual. Protecting one person’s right to free speech while simultaneously suppressing dissenting voices with threats of force through armed police, academic discipline or legal ramifications is untenable. This limited interpretation of free speech by the University presumes that effective discussion proceeds from select voices monopolizing the microphone. However, not all voices have equal access at and to the University, as inequities in society transpose themselves onto speech, allowing politically and economically powerful voices to squelch dissident ones. How can those humans murdered by U.S.-supported paramilitary death squads, killed extrajudicially via drone strike, shuttled into refugee camps, warehoused in detention centers and prisons or banned from traversing borders exercise speech here? Authority derived from exploitation and societal inequalities cannot uphold an objective policy on speech. We must sharpen our critiques of institutions that stifle dissent while organizing for a society capable of equitably meeting the needs of ecological existence.

As Frederick Douglass told us, “This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

— Dan Walls, Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering

 

Contact Dan Walls at dwalls ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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