The University of Wisconsin’s Muslim Students Association (MSA UW) describes itself as “a religious, educational, cultural, and social organization” that “seeks to establish a place for students to engage in an Islamic environment and supports its’ [sic] members in being Muslim examples in society.” “We strive to educate students of all backgrounds about our beautiful religion of Islam,” says the group, and to “erase misconceived notions of Islam.”
In November 2003, MSA UW co-sponsored the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s Third National Solidarity Conference at Ohio State University. This event encouraged its attendees to pressure university administrations nationwide to withdraw any investments they may have held in companies that conducted business with the Israeli government or the Israeli army. Among the event’s co-sponsors were various chapters of ActionLA, Al-Awda, the Al-Bireh Palestine Society, the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, BADIL, Code Pink, the Committee for Justice in Palestine, Duke Divest, the Institute for Policy Studies, Jews Against the Occupation, Jews for a Free Palestine, Left Turn, MADRE, Malia-Collective of Italian American Women, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Friends of Sabeel, and SUSTAIN.
In June 2006, Mir Babar Basir, a recent graduate of UW-Madison and a former president of MSA UW, endorsed the ideas of Kevin Barrett, who co-founded the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, an organization which believes that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated not by Muslim extremists but by members of the Bush administration. “This is not just Kevin Barrett’s idea,” said Basir. “It’s legitimate to think that the U.S. government was involved.”
In October 2007, MSA UW took exception to an on-campus appearance by the conservative social commentator David Horowitz, who spoke about the dangers of radical Islam. Horowitz’s speech was part of the itinerary for the Terrorism Awareness Project’s Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. Characterizing Muslims as a demographic victimized by Americans’ prejudice and intolerance, MSA UW vice president Sarrah Abulughod said, “We want to explain what it is like to be a minority and face struggles.”
In October 2007, MSA UW collaborated with the organization In Your Hands (IYH) to launch a campaign called “86” Gitmo—Shut It Down, a protest against the U.S. government’s alleged abuse and torture of Islamic detainees — mostly al Qaeda and Taliban combatants captured by the American military — who were being held in Guantanamo Bay. MSA UW and IYH jointly pledged to hold demonstrations for 86 days, through January 11, 2008 — the sixth anniversary of the arrival of the first group of detainees in Guantanamo.
In November 2007, MSA UW co-sponsored an appearance by guest lecturer Jamal Badawi, who, in an IslamOnline Internet forum, justified Muslim suicide bombings as a legitimate tactic of jihad. Badawi is affiliated with such organizations as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Fiqh Council of North America, and the Islamic Society of North America.
At the November 2007 MSA UW event, Badawi told the audience: “Islam is peace through the submission to God and the acceptance of his grace and guidance,” and said that those who call Islam inherently violent are guilty of using “the ‘cut-and-paste’ approach” of selectively citing only examples (i.e., of Muslim terrorism) that seem to support their thesis. Moreover, Badawi said that “jihad” does not mean “holy war” but, rather, “exerting maximum effort” to become a better person; that “people need to consider the historical context of Muslims’ actions, as there have been instances where Muslims were surrounded by a violent world and needed to use violent means to protect their community”; that while “there are violent Muslims,” there are also “violent Christians and violent Jews, but these people do not reflect on the religion as a whole”; and that “nowhere” does the Koran “tell Muslims to kill nonbelievers.”
In November 2007, MSA UW protested a scheduled campus appearance (slated for the following month) by Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist who had since renounced Islamo-fascism and its jihadist objectives. According to the MMD Newswire, MSA UW expressed concern that Muslims at the university would feel intimidated “by other Americans as a result of Mr. Shoebat’s speech and presence.”
In May 2008, conservative author and commentator David Horowitz gave a speech at the UW campus, shortly after having placed in the university newspaper an ad stating, factually, that the Muslim Students Association was created by the Muslim Brotherhood and was part of its jihad network. In response to the ad, MSA UW adorned the bulletin board outside its campus office with an anti-Semitic flyer caricaturing “David Whorowitz” as a Jew dressed in a Nazi uniform. The caption read: “Horowitz Awareness Week: Bring your white sheets and brown shirts and COME ON DOWN! Flaming crosses and Stars of David will be supplied to those who arrive early.” Further, the flyer describe Horowitz as an “Israeli apologist and Judeofascist.”
In February 2010, MSA UW objected strongly to a speaking engagement at the University of Wisconsin by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an American Enterprise Institute scholar who has harshly criticized Islam’s oppressive and intolerant aspects. MSA UW president Rashid Dar accused Ms. Ali of depicting Islam as a religion of “barbarism,” “backwardness,” and “monstrosity.”