From the Field

Anti-Muslim speaker Diana West heads to Chapel Hill


Manzoor Cheema • Oct 17, 2016
Anti-Muslim author Diana West, above, will speak in Chapel Hill on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.
Anti-Muslim author Diana West, above, will speak in Chapel Hill on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.

On Tuesday, the ICON Lecture Series will continue its parade of bigotry in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, when it features Diana West, an author and political commentator known for her aggressive and false critiques of Muslims and immigrants.

West’s appearance comes at a time when community members are still grappling with reports of an attack on a Muslim first grader in nearby Cary, North Carolina. She will speak at Extraordinary Ventures in Chapel Hill, the home of a local nonprofit organization and site of all of the ICON Lecture Series events.

Diana West is often noted for her calm demeanor, but her words about Muslims and immigrants are harsh. She often claims there is no difference between “radical Islam” and every day Muslims. Flatly, West has said “the more Islam there is in a society, the less freedom there is.” 

Diana West is known for casting all Muslims as an inherent problem with statements like this: “The more Islam there is in a society, the less freedom there is.”

She has contributed to the paranoia that Muslims want to take over the country and establish religious law in violation of the local and federal laws. Writing for WND.com, West asserted, “If our leaders really wanted to prevent ‘another 9/11, they would have long ago admitted the obvious: that the world of Islam, from its terrorists to its kings, is engaged in the latest historical cycle of jihad to extend the reach of Islamic law (Shariah). They would have decided that ‘profiling’ isn’t worse than terrorism. They would have halted Islamic immigration not only to stop more jihad cells from forming but also to prevent Constitution-endangering, pro-Shariah demographics from forming, too.” 

After the Democratic National Convention, West called speaker Khizr Khan, father of fallen Capt. Humayun Khan, a “Sharia supremacist” and asked, “don’t you people vet your speakers?”

West has also endorsed Donald Trump’s xenophobia against immigrants. While appearing on Frank Gaffney’s radio show, West said,“I think that what we are both reacting to is … the normalcy of his [Donald Trump’s] reaction to a crisis. He reacts, even though he’s an extraordinary human being that is in a category by himself for all manner of reasons, he is reacting like a normal person would react to the loss of a border, to the invasion by alien hordes, to this destruction of America as a sovereign nation, and I think that what we see happening…”

In the past, ICON lecture series has invited such racist and bigoted speakers as:

  • Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA and speaker for white nationalist organizations like Council of Conservative Citizens.
  • Jim Simpson, who claims that immigrants are trying to “destroy the culture” in the United States.
  • Mark Krikorian, executive director of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, who asserted that Muslims are a “vicious people” and they celebrate 9/11 as a Muslim holiday.
  • John Guandolo, law enforcement trainer who claimed that the goal of the Muslim Students Association is to “recruit jihadis” and “spread disinformation”.

Diana West and the anti-Shariah movement

Hate speech has real life consequences for the marginalized communities being attacked. Muslims, and immigrants in general, have been demonized and dehumanized by the peddlers of hate. Laws and policies have been introduced against them as a result of concerted efforts by these forces.

Diana West has contributed to the hysteria against Shariah law, which has led to the anti-Shariah movement throughout the country, including in North Carolina. These bills have been called a solution without a problem, but that didn’t stop the North Carolina General Assembly from passing an anti-Shariah measure that was signed into law by Governor McCrory in 2013. In a study of more than 100 anti-Shariha laws introduced in the country, it was found that 80% of these laws were introduced by the same legislators who introduced voter suppression, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-labor union, and anti-immigrant laws.

There is a dramatic rise in the attacks against Muslims alongside the rise of hate speech and institutional Islamophobia. The 2015 execution-style murder of three Muslim students is still on the mind of many in Chapel Hill. The victims of that heinous crime, Deah, Yusor and Razan, belonged to Muslim Students Association, the same organization that was demonized by Guandolo.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Inspired by these words, social justice forces are uniting to challenge the forces of hate. Multiple coalitions in the Triangle Area of North Carolina have been launched to challenge the voices of hate and bigotry.

Manzoor Cheema is a Fellow at the Center for New Community.

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