U.C. Irvine's Modern Middle Eastern Studies Professor, Mark LeVine has a serious problem. He is part of a movement within Islam seeking to present a new face to the world. But since February 9, 2009, LeVine has been throwing temper tantrums. Eleven Muslim students were arrested for disrupting visiting Israeli Ambassador, Michael Oren, during a conference sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Orange County, California.
The audience had gathered to listen to the Ambassador, but the disgruntled activists decided that the event was actually about them and their need to vent political frustrations. At timed intervals, the students rose, and harangued the foreign dignitary. Each student was escorted from the room, leaving the University's guest to compose himself and resume the lecture.
LeVine is irritated. He says the Muslims' behavior:
"deflected attention away from their cause and played into deeply ingrained stereotypes of irrational and unreasonably angry Muslim men."
Scribbling damage-control in several newspapers, LeVine does more flips and twists than our Arial Free-style Olympic Team to convince the public that the students were blameless martyrs of an oppressive power-structure.
"The context of the students' rowdy, and to some "uncivil," protest has to be considered in judging their actions. Ambassador Oren represents a state that has engaged in a 43-year long occupation and settlement enterprise; has, as part of this process, committed large scale and systematic violations of the most basic human rights of Palestinians, from land expropriations to extra-judicial killings to numerous war crimes. Ambassador Oren's appearance at UCI was part of an extremely sophisticated, well funded and self-described "propaganda" campaign…with the goal of presenting Israel in the most positive light possible on campus."
"Indeed, against such a powerful bloc of forces, we can ask how already marginalized Muslim students should be expected to protest against the Ambassador's appearance. How polite should students really be expected to be in this situation? Is demanding that they be 'civil' and 'respectful' itself an infringement on their free speech rights in a situation where speakers represent powerful and normally untouchable interests or groups? In short, are there situations when marginalized voices have little recourse accept to push the boundaries of polite debate in order to get their messages heard?"
Dramatic, but absurd. It supposes that educated students voluntarily attending a lecture by the Israeli Ambassador have only recently emerged from the land of Troglytes and are oblivious, instead of well versed, in the fact that Palestinians consider their country to be occupied by Israel and themselves, the innocent victims. It also pretends that the eleven "martyrs" are besieged freedom fighters, and not university students with access to the same venues and resources to organize their own protests and lectures.
After his infantile justification for what was nothing but an embarrassing lack of good manners, LeVine needs to get back to work scrubbing the image of the cause he champions. He might try sending another invitation to Ibrahim El Houdaiby, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, hosted by LeVine at Irvine in 2008.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the oldest politically radicalized Islamic organization, with something of a nasty reputation, and El Houdaiby is feverishly trying, like his American friend, to spread the good news that the Brotherhood is changing. While the organization claims to advocate freedom concerning internet use, rock music, and foreign study, there is one area in which little change can be detected: Israel.
Propaganda on the Brotherhood's site, ikhwanweb.com, is proof that, for the Brotherhood, its position on Israel will not be part of the organization's face lift:
2. Israel sure looks like a concentration camp. Here is a video that lists some "not so cool" facts about Israel.
LeVine published his own manifesto on the classification of Muslims. According to him, the US has it all wrong. Those we consider moderate Muslims are dictators, our "radicals" are tired "Mao-like" revolutionaries. The real "radical Muslims," those LeVine pines for in, "We Need More Radical Muslims," are those who listen to Islamic heavy metal music, advocate for women's independence in true republics, and study in foreign universities. This is promising…at least as far as liberation for Islamic women and higher education go.
What is problematic is that LeVine, as his friend El Houdaiby, think that the new, "Rad Islam," is compatible and consistent with the entrenched idea of Israel as the chief agent of evil in the Conflict.
LeVine touts participation in organizations that:
"bring Israeli and Palestinian scholars together to imagine new ways to approach their country's history and current trouble."
If LeVine actually wishes to put a new face on Islam, he might do better than promote El Houdaiby's Muslim Brotherhood which is still "radically" engaged in demonizing and working for the destruction of Israel.