[Editor's Note: A quote attributed to Professor George Bisharat of the University of California's Hastings College of Law has been corrected.]
Academic self-congratulation reached new heights at the University of California, Los Angeles on March 21, 2012, with "An Event Honoring Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl." Abou El Fadl—Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor in Islamic Law and chair of the Islamic Studies Interdepartmental Program at UCLA—was feted by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, the UCLA School of Law Journal of Near Eastern and Islamic Law, the UCLA School of Law Muslim Law Students Association, and the UCLA School of Law Critical Race Studies Program. Eighty students, professors, and community members gathered to commemorate "the world's leading authority on Islamic law and Islam, and the prominent scholar in the field of human rights," according to the event description. In reality, Fadl is an apologist for radical Islam who routinely denies valid concerns over the human rights abuses inherent to Sharia (Islamic) law while charging its critics with "Islamophobia."
Cheryl Harris, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights at UCLA, opened the event by hailing Abou El Fadl as a hero in "the struggle against Islamophobia in America." Persecuted for the "sins he has committed . . . from the sin of being a scholar to standing up against the egregious vilification of Muslims in the West," Abou El Fadl—in Harris's fevered imagination—is a victim of slander from both liberals and conservatives. Ratcheting up the melodrama even further, she then declared that "the Korematsu trope has been recycled in the post-9/11 world against Muslims," referring to the 1944 United States Supreme Court case deciding the constitutionality of the order to intern Japanese-Americans during WWII. This ludicrous comparison has been made on more than one such occasion; it never seems to lose its appeal to academic peddlers of victimhood.
Continuing this theme, George Bisharat, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, reveled in sinister—albeit imaginary—campaigns to stifle academic freedom. He focused on a March 2011 Hastings conference that he organized titled, "Litigating Palestine: Can Courts Secure Palestinian Rights?" The conference featured a roster of anti-Israel speakers advocating the delegitimization of Israel through U.S. courts—otherwise known as lawfare. Because of the radical, one-sided nature of the conference, local Jewish leaders expressed their reservations to Hastings dean Frank Wu, who subsequently canceled his welcoming address and the law school's official co-sponsorship. Bisharat objected to Wu's actions, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that "opponents had wrongly accused the conference of 'Israeli-bashing." Yet journalist Stephen Schwartz, who attended the conference and reported on it for Campus Watch, wrote:
In fact, that's exactly what took place at the conference. The anti-Israeli rhetoric of the participants was notably extreme, and even bizarre. . . . Hastings officials were correct in withdrawing their sponsorship and canceling the participation of their dean in this effort.
Bisharat's bitterness lingers, for he again chastised Hastings officials for withdrawing their sponsorship and, in the process, implied that a plot of sorts was behind the decision:
Our dean began to hear from alums who claimed to be upset over the lack of balance of the conference. . . . It was only later that we learned due to a leaked email was that this wasn't just a spontaneous act of a few individuals, but rather what had occurred was that the conference had come to the attention of the local Jewish Community Relations Council and it was the Council that reached out to Hastings alums and who essentially orchestrated and organized the campaign in conjunction with several other organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. So what initially presented itself as the action of a few individual alums who were upset with the conference turned out to be something considerably more threatening, I would say, and serious.
Sherman Jackson, who now occupies the Saudi-funded (and grandiosely titled) King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, followed, explaining that it was a "matter of duty to come and speak here today." Adding to the chorus of voices lauding Abou El Fadl's heroism against the supposed onslaught of American Islamophobia, Jackson—also known as Abdal Hakim Jackson—then noted:
I am an African-American convert to Islam. I live in a so-called democratic country. America has been a 'democratic' country for two-hundred years, and yet has a past of deep racial issues. . . . Fadl's struggle is our struggle as a nation. What happens to Khaled happens to us.
Having stated at a December 2009 convention that "his primary commitment was to Allah, not to America," Jackson's contempt for American democracy is no surprise.
Jackson congratulated the students in attendance for having the "courage to stand up against Islamophobia" by celebrating Abou El Fadl's storied career and concluded his talk with an Arabic adage: "Those who are silent in the face of injustice are dumb mutes." As an advocate for implementing the barbarism of Sharia law in the U.S., Jackson clearly does not apply the same standard to himself. Moreover, it takes no "courage" to participate in an event characterized by intellectual and political uniformity.
Echoing the previous speakers, Susan Slymovics, UCLA anthropology professor and director of its Center for Near Eastern Studies, concluded the evening with another fawning tribute to Abou El Fadl, whose "brave research," she claimed, "has raised awareness about racism and Islamophobia both domestically and abroad." If "raising awareness" about a phenomenon that does not exist—Muslims in America and throughout the West continue to thrive and enjoy the same rights and privileges as everyone else—and that is designed to silence legitimate criticism while avoiding much-needed reform is a mark of courage, then Abou El Fadl is the bravest of men.
Using the occasion as an opportunity to claim widespread Islamophobia and to bash Israel, the U.S., and the West—all the while demonstrating a comical capacity for self-regard—these four speakers provided a fitting tribute to Abou El Fadl, who has made a career out of doing exactly the same thing. He should feel honored, indeed.
Judith Greblya co-wrote this article with Cinnamon Stillwell, the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, which commissioned this work.