The Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project (IRDP)—a program of the University of California, Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender (CRG)—recently held its third annual conference, "Critical Discourses on Islamophobia: Symbols, Images, & Representations." As in previous years, speaker after speaker decried an imaginary racist, imperialist, Orientalist Western juggernaut, while disregarding the very real predations of Islamism.
The first day of the conference brought in approximately eighty people at its peak, including a number of women in hijab (head scarf), typing furiously on laptops. Others sported keffiyehs and dreadlocks; a smattering of Arabic and French could be heard; and a scruffy, bearded fellow wandered around with what appeared to be a journal under his arm, Historicizing Anti-Semitism, that one suspects is not exactly kosher. It was just another day in Berkeley.
Hatem Bazian, IRDP director, Near Eastern studies senior lecturer, and conference convener started out by apologizing for the forty-minute delay in kicking off the event. He chalked it up to "Muslim Time"—a reference to the popular phrase among African-Americans, "Colored People's Time"—and joked that "Swiss watches run forward, but Muslim watches run backward." He thanked the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—an Islamist organization posing as a defender of civil rights— for its participation in the conference (Zahra Billoo, CAIR Northern California Executive Director, spoke the next day) and for partnering with CRG to produce the 2011 report, "Same Hate, New Target: Islamophobia and Its Impact in the United States"—a report that falsely accuses a number of public figures of perpetrating "Islamophobia." Bazian also thanked "individuals who send us hate mail" for demonstrating "the need for this conference," about which, he claimed, there had been "considerable chatter," including "wild" and "threatening" statements. All this "despite the fact that we have the first Muslim president," he added, chuckling. This sarcastic reference to the American public's perception of Barack Obama's Muslim background would be repeated throughout the day as incontrovertible evidence of "Islamophobia."