Phyllis Chesler was abruptly disinvited to speak on the horrors of honor killing at a symposium hosted by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
A feminist scholar who has been critical of the silence from other feminists on the abuse of women in Islamic societies, Chesler's topic was "Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings.”
The talk was to be delivered at an April conference entitled “Violence in the Name of Honor: Confronting and Responding to Honor Killings and Forced Marriage in the West.”
Hosting the event were the university law school and the Saudi-funded King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies.
The King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas, according to its website, was established with a contribution of $20 million from the Saudi government in the 1990s. It is part of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. Speakers included officials from law enforcement and a woman described as a survivor of attempted honor violence. The focus seemed to be on honor violence in the west. It is an interesting event to be sponsored by the King Fahd Center and the last-minute withdrawal of an invitation to a feminist scholar who has been outspoken on Islamic violence against women has certainly brought some excitement to a sleepy corner of academia.
The Daily Caller gives some behind the scenes information on the rescinding of the invitation:
Emails obtained by Campus Watch (CW) from University personnel who requested anonymity show that early on the morning of April 7, a triad of professors – Joel Gordon, Mohja Kahf, and Ted R. Swedenburg – pressured Center director Thomas Paradise to cancel Chesler’s appearance. They were joined by a dean—the emails point to Arts and Sciences Dean Todd G. Shields as the likely suspect—who threatened to cancel the symposium and freeze funding for the Middle East Studies Program (MEST), a unit of the King Fahd Center, if Chesler spoke.
The professorial trio plotted to isolate and besmirch Chesler, should their efforts to disinvite her fail. The three demanded that a “qualified” speaker—i.e., one who disagreed with her—follow Chesler’s remarks, that MEST “publicly withdraw its sponsorship,” and that it provide copies of “Islamophobia Is Racism,” a flagrantly biased, pro-Islamist bibliography “created by a collective of academics inspired by the Ferguson syllabus, for distribution at the symposium.”
To complete their virtue signaling, a statement would be read “condemning Islamophobia and bigotry, and affirming [MEST’s] commitment to gender justice and diversity.”
Chesler was charged with “Islamophobia,” a verbal weapon created to question the emotional stability of its targets and silence all criticism of Islam rather than advance debate. Its use against Chesler, herself a psychologist, is not the last irony of this episode.
Some opponents also resorted to violence to silence an outspoken opponent of violence against women. According to emails dated April 7, a window was “shattered” at the private home of Fahd Center director Paradise further to intimidate him into cancelling Chesler’s lecture. A faculty email that day states “the insurance co will replace it [the broken window] without a formal police report too which makes it all easier.”
How much easier is made clear by the fact that despite this first-hand account obtained by CW, the University of Arkansas Police and the Fayetteville Police Department informed CW that there are no records of broken windows either at Paradise’s house or at a university building. No report filed means no investigation, no paper trail, and no publicity—smart moves if the goal is to shield the University from bad news rather than apprehend the perpetrator(s).
The Fayetteville campus is home to a Muslim Students Association, which reportedly is funded by the Saudi government. The emails, according to the Daily Caller, indicate that the organization was rallying against the Chesler appearance.