A response to Dr. Jackson
The purpose of this open letter is to seek clarification on your letter of Dec. 3, 2009, which defended the Muslim Student Union at USC. As an old Trojan, class of ’78, with an abiding love for my alma mater, I am concerned about the strong tone of censorship in your letter. In the 1970s, I remember robust political conversations on campus and no apparent effort by the faculty or administration to hamper dissenting commentary. Dr. Michael L. Jackson, I am confused by your frequent use of words “intolerance,” and “tolerance,” and I request that you more clearly define their meaning in the context of university policies. Are there no elements in the current and general practice of Islam that should not be tolerated? For example, should the florid anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism spewing from international and domestic Muslim media be tolerated? Are students at ’SC allowed to criticize Islamic practices in Saudi Arabia but not in Los Angeles? What are the rules?
I remember well the anti-Apartheid campus efforts at ’SC in the 1970s. Young men and women on campus organized to garner student awareness of racial separatism in South Africa. Certainly, students could not disrupt South African officials explaining and defending their political beliefs. But I do not remember any administrator requiring, in your words, “tolerance” and “respect” for belief systems based on discrimination. Should feminist organizations at ’SC campaign against gender apartheid in Islam, would you attempt to silence them? Must Jews tolerate and respect Koranic charges that they are the sons of apes and pigs? Must Christians stay silent about the vast persecutions of their communities throughout the Islamic world?
You declare the MSU to be “an outstanding organization,” and state that it has “never engaged in any activities that presented concerns to the university.” Why then did the administration require that the MSU remove a Hadith advocating killing Jews “hiding behind trees?” You criticize the accusation that the MSU “has ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood, but you do not refute this charge. Would your opinion change if you had documentation corroborating ties to the Muslim Brotherhood? Would students at ‘SC then be permitted to openly criticize the MSU, and would you join them?
Does your demand for political tolerance extend to faculty at ’SC? Are you aware that Dr. David Lloyd, professor of English at USC, is a member in the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel? Is this tolerance? Does your demand for respect extend to the MSU? I read that the following commentary was offered on the USC MSU’s listserve; unedited, it would be news to the scholars at USC’s Shoah Foundation: “holocust schmolocost…..that whole thing drives me nuts. there arent that many holicost surviviers. most of those guys havent experienced anything — except possibly excess. its a tool the zionists use… but to be honest wonder how effective it is these days”
You conclude your letter with the requirement that “we each must pledge to encourage respect for human rights and dignity on our campus, in our society and in the global community.” But some students at ’SC feel that promoting human rights, particularly those of women, require criticizing the practice of Islam in many parts of the global community. Are you trying to silence them?
Thank you in advance for responding to this loyal son of Troy. I look forward to a dialogue with you and other professors at ’SC on this most important issue. Fight on!
Phi Beta Kappa, 1978