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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Instructor has right to wrong ideas

    It’s been an eventful year in American foreign policy. From Ukraine to Ebola to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the country has become divided on essential questions about the role of the U.S. in the world.

    On the issue of ISIS in particular, the political finger-pointing and indecisiveness exhibited by the U.S. government were enough to make Americans fume with frustration. And then, Musa al-Gharbi came along and blew the top off of it.

    Al-Gharbi, an adjunct instructor at the UA and affiliated academic with the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts, published a column on the website Truthout titled, “How much moral high ground does the U.S. have over ISIS?”

    In his column, al-Gharbi argued “that the United States is actually a greater threat to peace and stability in the region than ISIS,” and he claimed that the U.S. military is full of soldiers with ties to white supremacist groups or who have committed acts of sexual violence and torture during foreign campaigns. The column was quickly picked up by The Washington Free Beacon, Fox News, and LibertyNEWS.

    When I initially saw the headline, I had the expected reaction: disgust, confusion, anger.

    “People often say I am drawing an equivalence between America and ISIS,” al-Gharbi said in an email. “… The question isn’t, ‘Does the U.S. have moral high ground,’ but instead, ‘How much?’ There is no equivalence to be drawn. … I stand by my remarks, while pointing out that they have been widely misrepresented.”

    After separating the conservative spin from what al-Gharbi actually said, it becomes obvious he is not the America-hating national threat he was portrayed to be.

    I still disagreed with what he had to say.

    “Until these problems [in American society and the armed forces] are better addressed,” he writes, “the United States’ efforts to undermine ISIS will be akin to using a dirty rag to clean an infected wound.”

    As Veterans Day came and went, I celebrated those in my family who had served and considered the metaphor that compared our military to a dirty rag. I find it offensive.

    But those same veterans served so that all Americans could maintain their freedoms — including the right to free speech.

    Those who are calling for al-Gharbi’s resignation or termination are off base. Al-Gharbi is not a professor; he’s an adjunct instructor with one course, and it’s not confirmed if he’s even teaching at the university next semester. In his work with SISMEC, al-Gharbi has helped dozens of UA students and researchers publish good, thorough analyses of conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa. The column on Truthout was not written in association with SISMEC in any way.

    This is simply a case of a UA alumnus, on his own time and in an independent media outlet, deciding to share a rather unpopular opinion. And he’s not the first person affiliated with a college campus to do so; Columbia University visiting professor Andrew J. Bacevich penned a column with a similar thesis for the Washington Post.

    And that’s OK.

    “One of the greatest treasures of America is that its citizens are free to speak their minds and express their opinions on issues,” said Lt. Col. Dale Barnett, Army ROTC professor of military science. “The Wildcat Battalion is preparing the next generation of leaders for the Army that safeguards and guarantees that right, along with the others we enjoy as Americans.”

    Perhaps it’s ironic that al-Gharbi is able to make his comments about the U.S. military precisely because of the sacrifices that military has made for him.

    It’s also ironic that those who claim the loudest that their free speech is being compromised in modern America — the right-wing media — were the first to try revoking the free-speech rights of al-Gharbi.

    Everyone encounters perspectives they disagree with, and for those who live in the U.S., they have the right to express their disagreement. However, just because they disagree does not mean they can simply have someone fired — or, god forbid, deport them, as so many of al-Gharbi’s opponents were proposing.

    Aside from the obvious idiocy of that proposal in al-Gharbi’s case — he was born in the U.S; where would he be deported to? — imagine applying that logic every time someone said something deeply offensive. Where would we all be?
    Certainly not in the U.S.

    Emilee Hoopes is a molecular & cellular biology sophomore. Follow her on Twitter.

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