Hana Baig is a junior English major and a member of the Stony Brook University Muslim Student Association.
On Wednesday, April 22, 2015, I walked out of the notorious David Horowitz event on the brink of pulling out my hair in frustration, while simultaneously fighting the mad desire to laugh hysterically. While I had faced various degrees of Islamophobia before, I had never quite had the pleasure of sitting in a lecture hall, less than five yards away from a man at a podium, as he spewed offensive lies about Muslims, the Arab world and the Muslim Student Association. About my people.
The advertised topic was the Iran nuclear deal; however, David Horowitz, notorious provocateur, spent the bulk of his time talking about the Israeli-Palestinean conflict and about Muslims. Horowitz stood at his pulpit and attempted to use his right to freedom of speech to mask his prejudices, like a cheap cellophane cover over a basket of rotten fruit. It is a true testament to the Stony Brook student community’s intelligence and political awareness that Horowitz’s audience was far from tacit. Numerous audience members stood up and voiced their indignation and disbelief at his utter ignorance.
When I walked out of the Javits building that day, I was extremely hurt and disappointed, and I did not think that I would ever walk out of a Stony Brook classroom feeling that personally offended ever again.
On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, I was proven wrong.
In the aftermath of the fiasco that was the David Horowitz event, Dean Ecklund came to the MSA general body meeting one week after the event to address all of us on behalf of the administration. This was much needed, and I feel comfortable speaking for the entire MSA when I say that we greatly appreciated Dean Ecklund’s emphatic reassurance that Stony Brook University does not agree with David Horowitz’s Islamophobic ideas.
My disappointment came when during that very meeting, our chaplain, Sanaa Nadim, asked Dean Ecklund if there was going to be some kind of official statement from the administration regarding the event. To this, Dean Ecklund responded by saying that instead, the MSA should make a statement itself and post it on the MSA website.
This dismissal irked me, and it irked many of my fellow MSA members as well. David Horowitz did not just stand on stage and make Islamophobic comments—he attacked the MSA as an organization, claiming that the MSA is a front for a recruitment organization for terrorist groups. With this libelous, inflammatory claim, Horowitz managed to attack an established, beloved organization on campus, while simultaneously providing justification for more Islamophobic attacks towards MSA members—verbal and otherwise.
Horowitz made horribly offensive statements, but sadly, with his reputation, they were not entirely unexpected. What is unexpected, however, is the fact that after Horowitz came to Stony Brook University and attacked the MSA—an organization that has done nothing but positively contribute to campus life—the Stony Brook administration refuses to officially condemn the bigotry perpetuated by Horowitz. The MSA should not have to make a statement about this, as Dean Ecklund suggested. The MSA is the victim in this issue. It is absurd that that the Stony Brook administration refuses to take responsibility for events that occur on its own campus, and I am extremely disappointed that the administration has remained silent on this matter.
While the administration’s response has left much to be desired, I am very proud of how the Stony Brook student community reacted to Horowitz’s narrow-mindedness—with disgust and disbelief. This, in and of itself, gives me hope that the future here at Stony Brook will be far better and brighter than Stony Brook is today.
Clarification: May 7, 2015
In an email, Chaplain Sanaa Nadim asked The Statesman to clarify that the opinions expressed in this Letter to the Editor do not reflect the views of the Stony Brook University Muslim Student Association.