Opinion

Letter to the editor: 'Islamophobia' article mischaracterizes Muslim experience

Four students respond to a March 13 article in The Daily Cardinal opinion section on Islamophobia.

Image By: Kaitlyn Veto- Cardinal File Photo

We are an extremely concerned group of students from a variety of backgrounds who are appalled at the op-ed by Kort Driessen entitled “Islam's flaws cannot go unnoticed in discussing the term 'Islamophobia',” published on March 13, 2017.

Some of us are Cardinal staffers, and we would like to make it very clear that Kort Driessen’s op-ed does not represent our paper and does not represent our views as staff members. We are ashamed that this racist article was not only associated with our campus, but published in the same pages as our work.

Driessen’s piece had many problematic elements, but one of the biggest concerns we had was the fact that he is coming from a position of power and privilege as a white male and not as a Muslim woman, who thereby experiences the consequences of the language he used to characterize the experiences of Muslims. Driessen almost appears to recognize that privilege at the end of his piece, when he suddenly expresses concern for the very real plight of many young women in the Middle East and North Africa. However, by that point, Driessen has already made it abundantly clear that his concern for young Muslim women exists only insofar as it works in service of his ultimate goal of explaining why bigotry toward Muslims ought not be stigmatized. Devoid from the piece are the accounts of the Muslim girls on this campus experiencing anti-Muslim racism and violence. Nor is there any mention of UW-Stout student Hussain Saeed Alnahdi who was beaten to death in October of last year. No, it isn’t enough for Driessen to advocate for more bigotry. He also has to paternalize the objects of his derision.

Driessen isn’t alone in advocating for these positions. In fact, many of Driessen’s talking points are similar to those of David Horowitz and Robert Spencer, two prominent anti-Muslim extremists who have both been documented and criticized by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. The fact that these talking points are so chillingly similar to known extremists is concerning at best and indicative of a far larger problem at worst.

It is quite likely that some will look at the pain and frustration outlined in our letter and think “but what sort of precedent does this set for free speech on our campus?” The answer is simple: a correct one. This is not an issue of free speech. While Driessen is free to post whatever he wants on his own forum, we believe that a university newspaper should have higher standards than an uninformed, false, and harmful piece. We are a research institution, and we should not be printing works that are firmly in the realm of fiction. Furthermore, keeping these sorts of baseless claims out of the Daily Cardinal is not censorship, it’s community control. We’re open to other viewpoints. We’re not open to racist fabrications and myths. If Driessen had penned a well-researched article after reading works by Muslim scholars or consulting Muslim professors on campus, we would welcome his discussion.

Although the editor-in-chief and managing editor put out an apology about the nonconsensual use of a photo of a Muslim woman from Islam Appreciation Week in connection to this op-ed, it was half-hearted and insufficient. The fact that the information published in this piece mirrors that spread by extremists warrants more than the removal of an inappropriate photo and a warning notice at the beginning of the op-ed stating that it doesn’t represent the views of the Daily Cardinal. Removal of the entire article from circulation would be a better solution, and anything less is to be complicit in allowing hate and discrimination to be circulated in our community.

 Erik Franze is a freshman majoring in international studies and Spanish who has written for The Daily Cardinal; Kelly Ward is a senior majoring in communication arts and gender and women’s studies, and is a sports writer at the Cardinal; Shaadie Ali is a junior majoring in geological engineering and geology; and CV Vitolo-Haddad is a doctoral student studying communication arts. Do you have something to add? Please direct all comments, questions and concerns to edit@dailycardinal.com.

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