Islamic Feminist Responds After Duke University Cancels, Then Reinstates Her Speech

As usual, the forces of extremist Islam attempted to rule the day. At the end of the day, Asra Nomani, the author of “Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam”, won the day

(Time) This past week, University of Michigan students watched American Sniper after the university first cancelled the film’s showing amid protests from an Arab-American Muslim student that the film offended her. The episode at Michigan was like my own painful experience at Duke University after a Muslim student group recently blackballed me.

Tuesday night, while Islamic State fighters gained new ground in Syria, I walked onto a stage at Duke University to argue for a progressive, feminist interpretation of Islam in the world. Staring into stage lights, I counted the number of people looking back at me: nine, not including my parents and son.

“I would have come here to speak to just one person. To me, it is simply a victory to stand before you,” I said.

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Five days earlier, the Duke University Center Activities and Events had cancelled my talk after the president of the Duke chapter of the Muslim Students Association sent an email to Muslim students about my “views” and me, alleging that I have a nefarious “alliance” with “Islamophobic speakers” and noting that a Duke professor of Islam, Omid Safi, had “condemned” me. After I asked for evidence against me, the Center for Activities and Events re-invited me. A spokesman for Duke said the university regrets the misunderstanding.

We constantly hear about the need for moderate Muslims to speak out against the hardcore version of Islam being spread around the world, particularly in mosques and schools. When one does, the forces of hardcore Islam work overtime to stop them, and the so-called free speech loving Liberals rarely, if ever, come to the defense of the moderates. In this case, where were the liberals in defending a feminist Muslim?

This experience goes beyond feminism to a broader debate over how too many Muslims are responding to critical conversations on Islam with snubs, boycotts, and calls for censorship, exploiting feelings of conflict avoidance and political correctness to stifle debate. As a journalist for 30 years, I believe we must stand up for America’s principles of free speech and have critical conversations, especially if they make people feel uncomfortable.

By standing on stage, I was standing up to the forces in our Muslim communities that are increasingly using tactics of intimidation and smears such as “Islamophobe,” “House Muslim,” “Uncle Tom,” “native informant,” “racist” and “bigot” to cancel events with which they disagree.

Kudos to her. There needs to be more brave Muslims willing to stand up to the Muslim student groups, which are often linked to and backed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Will Liberals also stand up for people like her? It happens here and there, but, too often they side with the extremists.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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