Berkeley’s Hatem Bazian on Paris Attacks: It’s the Islamophobia, Stupid!

Only in academe can a panel discussion on Islamic terrorism turn into an exercise in obfuscation and denial. Titled “Shooting Rampage in Paris: Free Speech, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Religion, Islamophobia,” the recent University of California, Berkeley panel—which promised to “start a dialog” on the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks in Paris—featured six professors from a variety of UC Berkeley departments.

This mixture produced an array of contrasting views, yet neither of the two Middle East studies specialists involved—anthropology professor Saba Mahmood and Hatem Bazian, a Near Eastern studies lecturer and founder of the Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project—addressed the topic in a forthright manner, but deflected controversial issues and issued apologias for terrorism.

The large audience of students, faculty and community members filled Booth Auditorium in UC Berkeley’s law school, Boalt Hall, where Saba Mahmood began the discussion. She claimed to be a “longstanding defender of the right to free speech,” yet condemned “the wide call in European and American media to recirculate and celebrate the [Charlie Hebdo] cartoons” and Slate editor-in-chief Jacob Weisberg’s promise “to escalate blasphemous satire,” which she likened to an “escalation on the attack against France’s most beleaguered minority”…