Students protest prof's op-ed calling Islam hostile to LGBT rights

Students at Wake Forest University are protesting a professor’s column arguing that Muslim immigration to the United States should be restricted in the name of gay rights.

Shannon Gilreath, a professor of law and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies wrote the op-ed, Europe’s Islam problem and U.S. immigration Policy, for The Washington Blade on January 19, arguing in it that Islam fundamentally clashes with gay rights.

“I come from the American Left. I am a feminist. I am a gay rights activist,” he begins. “Consequently, the argument I am about to make for tighter U.S. controls on immigration of Muslims may surprise some readers. It shouldn’t.”

Gilreath goes on to claim that “Islam is endemically antithetical to the well-being of gay people,” contending that “If anything approaching this kind of destruction had been unleashed under the banner of any political organization, the Nazis or Klan for examples, the Left would be quick to condemn and short on tolerance for adherents who ask us to believe that they only subscribe to the ideology’s nonlethal tenets,” but that “because this mayhem is perpetrated in the name of religion...the gloves stay on.”

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“American liberals don’t want to hear this argument,” he explains, “because they share, ironically, with American conservatives a rather unreflective commitment to the defense of religion at all costs.”

The article spawned a demonstration on campus by students who claimed that his article was “offensive and overgeneralizing,” according to the Old Gold & Black, though Gilreath told Campus Reform that he was only informed of the student-led protest on the quad when some of his students told him of the “effort to respond to this article” organized with the hashtag “#banshan.”

“I must say that I'm mercifully unaware of most things except when sympathetic students or colleagues send things to me,” Gilreath explained. “I wrote the article in The Blade, which I considered most temperate. That touched off a firestorm. Students organized a protest of me; certainly faculty have brought pressure for a formal statement disavowing me as inconsistent with principles of inclusion.”

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“In this current climate when ‘fascism’ is an everyday accusation leveled against someone, students seem to forget that it was university students who undertook the first book-burnings in Nazi Germany,” he noted, saying, “Diversity of ideas matters.”

Rebuttals to his article by fellow academics have already been published by Harper Jean Tobin, the director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Brett Boyce, a scholar and writer from Washington D.C.

“Gilreath also attacks the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, which he claims to have ‘read cover to cover,’” Boyce observes, snidely suggesting that “Perhaps he was speed-reading.”

In another response to the article, Rakin Nasar, a junior at Wake Forest, accuses Gilreath of arguing based on confirmation bias, asserting that “It is strikingly obvious that Shannon Gilreath only searched for evidence that Islam causes violence.”

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“Shannon Gilreath’s evidence over-exaggerates how homophobic Muslims are,” Nasar says, arguing that “we should not pretend that only Muslim majority countries are homophobic,” citing Russia as an example of another homophobic country while also disputing Gilreath’s reference to British Muslims demanding Sharia law.

“I pray that no one forces their way of life onto Shannon Gilreath,” he concludes, “but I also pray he does not force his way of life onto anyone.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @kassydillon