A University of California, Berkeley professor is requiring 100 students to create Twitter accounts and post comments about “Islamophobia,” anti-Islamist Muslim activist Tarek Fatah reports.
In his Toronto Sun column Wednesday, Fatah, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, describes the “panicked message” he received from a Berkeley student taking a class taught by Hatem Bazian. Bazian directs the school’s Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project.
Though the Twitter posts are a part of the student’s grade, he wrote that it felt unethical because “he’s basically using us as unpaid labor to work on his agenda.”
Most of the students are not Muslims, Fatah writes.
The class has Islamophobia in its title, Bazian wrote in response to questions from Fatah. It “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.”
Bazian also serves as chairman of American Muslims for Palestine, a group which has repeatedly defended Hamas and featured speakers who say their ambition should be to challenge Israel’s legitimacy as a state. During one conference, Bazian explained that universities are “the front line [for the Palestinian cause] moving forward, the front line. Why? Because this is the next generation.”
Fatah points out that none of the student Twitter posts he has seen so far “challenged the validity of the term” Islamophobia. The term has been applied to everything from vandalism at mosques to terrorism-support investigations to criticism of American Islamist political groups.
Bazian widened the definition last summer, to cover Muslim political opponents. In a column for Al Jazeera, Bazian criticized the Egyptian army for forcing President Mohamed Morsi–the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for office–and for statements and imagery used to criticize the Islamist group.
The arm “unleashed a deliberate ‘Othering’ campaign against the Brotherhood and its supporters that was highly Islamophobic, deploying a barrage of anti-Muslim tropes to achieve the desired outcome,” Bazian wrote. Millions of Egyptian Muslims took to the streets in the days and weeks before the military stepped in, demanding Morsi’s ouster. Their criticism was rooted in policy failures and a perception that Morsi placed entrenching Islamist power above the needs of the masses.
Fatah remembers the flack Middle East Forum Director Daniel Pipes took in 2002, when he launched “Campus Watch” to document “the mixing of politics with scholarship.” But Bazian’s required Twitter assignment shows that Pipes, “the scholar of Islam, with a dozen books to his credit, was right to be concerned.”