Santorum Speech Sparks Protest

A POWDER-KEG FOR SANTORUM
Terrell Woods

Protestors wear masks from the film, “V for Vendetta,” at a speech by former Penn. Senator Rick Santorum yesterday. See story, page 3.

CLARIFICATION APPENDED

Protesters disrupted a speech delivered by former Republican senator Rick Santorum yesterday that described radical Islam as “the most difficult enemy the West has ever faced.”

Five Harvard students wearing masks and three hooded non-Harvard affiliates with signs confronted the neoconservative, two-term Pennsylvania senator, interfering with his responses during the question and answer period after the lecture.

The atmosphere became more heated when one student, Tariq N. Ali ’09 questioned the Senator’s facts about Islam. Santorum accused Ali of being an Osama Bin Laden apologist, interrupting his comment and telling him to “stop apologizing for Osama Bin Laden.” [SEE CLARIFICATION BELOW]

During the speech, delivered before a packed auditorium in Harvard Hall, Santorum said that radical Islamicists—not terrorists—were the real enemy of the United States.

“The overwhelming answer is that we’re at war with radical Islam, but we never hear that term used by policy makers” Santorum said during his lecture. “I believe it is the greatest enemy America has ever faced.”

Santorum said that to combat radical Islam, the U.S. needs to maintain an offensive stance, educate the American people, disarm the enemy, and involve the Islamic world in the process of halting the spread of radical Islam.
“If Islam does not confront and deal with its radical elements, then we are going to be on a tough collision course,” Santorum said.

In interviews after the event, students said that his words falsely implied that Islam was not compatible with ideas like justice, peace, and equality.

“We think that there is a fundamental disagreement over what we believe the religion to be and what he interprets it as,” External Relations Chair of the Harvard Islamic Society Fauzia Shaikh ’10 said. “He seems to believe that Islam requires a reformation for these problems to be fixed. We want to achieve the same ends...but we don’t want to lose our Islamic identity.”

In an interview before the event, Santorum said yesterday’s speech was similar to talks he gave at campuses in Pennsylvania during the controversial Islamofascism Awareness Week, held the last full week in October.

The speech, entitled “The Gathering Storm of the 21st Century: America’s War Against Islamic-Fascism,” was organized by the Harvard Salient and sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

CLARIFICATION: The Nov. 6, 2007 news article "Santorum Speech Sparks Protest" incorrectly implied that Santorum accused Ali of being an Osama Bin Laden apologist after Ali challenged the accuracy of some of the senator's factual statements on Islam. In fact, the accusation came later, after Ali disagreed with Santorum's opinion that the actions of terrorists could be explained in part by Islam.