Muslim Hunting: David Horowitz's Antagonistic Career

Smear Machine

Yet there's little evidence that the memo was ever put into play outside of the overactive imagination of its author.

"It's one memo that they found that some crazy guy had written that was never in any way accepted by anyone or implemented anywhere, even by the Muslim Brotherhood," says Haris Tarin, director of the Washington, D.C., office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "The idea of American Muslims on college campuses who have never been to places like Egypt having some affinity to the Muslim Brotherhood is absurd."

Still, sharia has become a bogeyman for even seemingly sensible conservatives. Two years ago, Oklahoma passed a constitutional amendment—with 70 percent of the vote—banning its use in state courts. For Horowitz, it's a topic that reliably kicks up dust at colleges.

Ellen Weinstein
Ellen Weinstein
In the late ’60s, David Horowitz (far right) was a member of the New Left and editor of Ramparts magazine.
Courtesy David Horowitz Freedom Center
In the late ’60s, David Horowitz (far right) was a member of the New Left and editor of Ramparts magazine.

Last January, the Ohio State University student paper ran the same "Where Are They Now?" ad that appeared at Florida State. The Lantern's staff was pummeled with e-mails and calls from students. Horowitz chimed in from the sidelines, clearly enjoying the furor.

Freedom Center ads are almost a yearly rite at UCLA, where the Daily Bruin regularly receives alternating waves of attacks and counterattacks. One side clamors for a muzzle, the other wants Horowitz to have his say.

"At MSA, we've met with the communications department and made it clear we don't want David Horowitz's ad published," says Haidar Anwar, a UCLA student who serves as president of MSA West, an umbrella group. "We've brought it up to the dean of students as well. But after we met with them, David Horowitz published another ad."

If your business depends on pissing people off, it's important to have steady reports of success from the battlefront. That's what funders want to see. And from 2001 to 2009, groups like Horowitz's received $42 million in donations, mostly from large conservative charities, according to the Center for American Progress.

"These people are very deliberate in how they do things," Tarin says. "Some of them focus on college campuses. Some of them focus on law enforcement. Some of them focus on churches and Rotary clubs and senior citizen homes. It's an industry."

Horowitz swats down any talk about his role in spreading Islamophobia. Because his work is mainly focused on campuses, he can wrap himself snugly in the First Amendment and claim he's just offering another academic perspective. "If you use the words 'Muslim' and 'terrorist' in a sentence or a paragraph, you're an Islamophobe," he says. "That's just an attempt to silence critics, which is what I am. I am not a person who is hostile to Muslims."

But it's hard to appreciate the distinction, considering Horowitz's track record of insult. Even if he chooses his words carefully, it's the suggestion and innuendo clinging to the bottom side of his rhetoric that gets the job done. And critics have taken note, including Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project.

"There's no question that there are extremist Muslim groups in the United States. The problem is when it goes from particular extremist to all Muslims," she says. "I think Horowitz is just coming up to the line of Islamophobia and not stepping over it." For that, he has the legions behind him.

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