Students in Professor Hatem Bazian's class at the University of California at Berkeley are required to publicly denounce Islamophobia on Twitter while designing strategies to help Islamic groups improve their outreach efforts.
Bazian is a founder of "Students for Justice in Palestine" at Berkeley, where he teaches in the Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies departments. One of his classes, "Asian American Studies 132AC: Islamophobia," requires students to tweet about Islamophobia, according to Tarek Fatah, a columnist for the Toronto Sun.
Fatah wrote that he received an email from a student in Bazian's class who claimed: "I've been told by one of my professors I will be required, as part of my grade, to start a Twitter account and tweet weekly on Islamophobia. I can't help but feel this is unethical. This is his agenda not mine."
Bazian is a leading expert on the topic of Islamophobia. He has worked on projects aimed at countering Islamophobia, according to his personal website. He is also the co-founder of Zaytuna College, the first Muslim college in the United States.
The student claimed that Bazian was using his class as "unpaid labor" for his agenda:
There are 100 students in the class, all of us forced to create individual Twitter accounts. I'm not wholly clear on what our final project is yet (I find it very interesting that he excludes both the Twitter account requirement AND the final project from his official syllabus), but we have to meet with a group in San Francisco, and our class will be surveying people of color on the impact of some ads put out by [anti-Sharia blogger] Pamela Gellar. Now I'm no Pamela Gellar fan, I think she's nuts, but I feel … between the Twitter stuff and the final project he's basically using us as unpaid labor to work on his agenda.
Gellar is blogger and noted critic of Islam. She was responsible for creating a controversial advertising campaign that labelled radical Islam "savage."
The course description on Berkeley's website suggests the student's account is accurate.
"Students in the course will contribute to the documentation of Islamophobia in the community, and develop remedies and policy recommendations," according to the course description.
Zaytuna College, Bay Area Shura Council (a non-profit organization of mosques), the Council on Islamic Relations, Mosaic TV, Arab Talk Radio and Illume Magazine are all listed as community partner organizations for the course.
A representative for Berkeley did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Bazian.
Bazian did offer this statement in response to Fatah's column, however:
My course is designated as an American culture community engagement scholarship class … Students are asked to send at least one posting per week on something related to the course content, be it from the actual reading or anything they read or came across. The class is titled De-Constructing Islamophobia and the History of Otherness … [Students] are asked to post based on … examining Islamophobia through looking at earlier historical examples.
Fatah wrote that this was ample evidence that the professor was forcing non-Muslim students to become advocates for Bazian's agenda of "Muslim victimhood in America, irrespective of how it's defined or whether it exists," according to The College Fix.