200 S Elliott Rd
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
As Triangle community members, we value the important work by Extraordinary Ventures, including services for autistic and developmentally challenged youth, and providing a venue for important events.
We have been saddened to learn that on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, ICON will invite Diana West to speak at Extraordinary Ventures in Chapel Hill, NC. This is a disturbing development for peace and justice loving community members in the Triangle and beyond.
Diana West has been known for virulent hatred against Muslims and immigrants. She has contributed to the paranoia that Muslims want to take over the country and establish their religious law (Shariah law) in violation of the local and federal laws. Writing in a website WND.com (WND spearheaded conspiracy theories about Obama’s U.S. citizenship and challenged validity of birth certificate released by the Obama White House), West has said, “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.” (source, 6/13/13)
Diana West has also endorsed Donald Trump’s xenophobia against immigrants. While writing in a website by Frank Gaffney (quoted as “anti-Muslim conspiracist and gadfly” by The Washington Post), West opined,“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…” (source, 8/26/15)
Learn more about Diana West HERE.
In the past, ICON lecture series has invited such racist and bigoted speakers:
- Roy Beck, who has spoken at white nationalist organizations like Council of Conservative Citizens.
- Jim Simpson, who believes that immigrants are trying to “destroy the culture” in the United States.
- Mark Krikorian, who asserted that Muslims are a “vicious people” and they celebrate 9/11 as a Muslim holiday.
- John Guandolo, who claimed that the goal of the Muslim Students Association is to “recruit jihadis” and “spread disinformation”.
Hate speech has real life consequences for the marginalized communities. Muslims, and immigrants in general, have been demonized and dehumanized by the forces of hate. Laws and policies have been introduced against them, including in North Carolina, as a result of concerted efforts by these forces. Diana West has contributed to the hysteria against Sharia law, which has led to the anti-Sharia movement throughout the country, including in North Carolina. NC General Assembly members passed anti-Sharia law that was signed into law by Governor McCrory in 2013. In a study of 100 anti-Sharia 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 (source).
There is a dramatic rise in attacks against Muslims as a result of hate speech and institutional Islamophobia. Muslims, and people perceived as Muslims, are attacked and murdered throughout the country. Three Muslim students were murdered in execution style in Chapel Hill in early 2015, an incident that many believe was an anti-Muslim hate crime. Victims of that heinous crime, Deah, Yusor and Razan, belonged to Muslim Students Association, the same organization that was demonized by Guandolo.
As Triangle community members, we urge Extraordinary Ventures to say no to the voices of hatred and bigotry. Many of the speakers invited by ICON series have played a role in institutional oppression against Muslims and immigrants. Hosting such bigoted voices at Extraordinary Ventures will harm marginalized communities and negate the mission of Extraordinary Ventures. We request Extraordinary Ventures to cancel Diana West’s upcoming speech and the future lecture series by ICON. We look forward to working with you to build a peaceful, just and loving community.
(A version of this letter will be emailed to ICON)
Abrahamic Initiative on the Middle East
Black Workers for Justice
Jewish Voice for Peace – Triangle NC
Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia
Muslims for Social Justice
Triangle May Day Unity Coalition
Triangle SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice)
Witness for Peace Southeast