The task force isn't operated by overly enthusiastic college students. Its professional staff, based in the Washington, D.C., area, includes coordinators who provide legal advice, teach students to lobby, write letters on their behalf, and help them overcome "obstacles" such as college administrators' concerns about violating the separation of church and state.
The Muslim Accommodations Task Force is a project of the Muslim Student Association of the U.S. and Canada. MSA's mission is to enable Muslims here "to practice Islam as a complete way of life," and its "main goal" is "spreading Islam," according to its website. The association calls itself the "landmark Muslim organization in North America," and says it has chapters on 600 campuses.
On MSA's website (www.msa-national.org), the sort of inclusive language used by the Muslim Accommodations Task Force gives way to hard-hitting advice for insiders. One downloadable publication --"Your Chapter's Guide to Campus Activism" -- describes how activists can advance political positions such as "restoring justice within the Palestinian territories," and opposition to the Patriot Act and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The cover features a student with a megaphone, and the slogan "Speak Out! Stand Up! Say It Loud!"
MSA views itself as America's moral and political vanguard. "As Muslims, we are a nation elected by God to lead humanity," the guide announces. On campus, that means initiating "mass mobilization" through "direct action campaigns" à la the 1960s, when students were "itching to fight" for change.
The guide explains how Muslim student groups can obtain funding, identify coalition partners and "bodies of power" on campus, work within student government, and use the media. "Marches, rallies and protests on campus" can "generate massive amounts of exposure for your MSA and its cause," it advises.
In all these endeavors, however, establishing credibility is vital to success, the guide emphasizes. Activists must "take full advantage of the open-minded environment" on campus, and skillfully employ the language of patriotism and rights. "[M]obilization commences the moment you speak in a language that resonates with your audience," the guide adds.
Thus, activists should take care to position themselves as mainstream Americans. "Make use of terminology like 'our country,' 'our security,' and 'we, the American people,' " the guide suggests. "Unless you identify with the people, you will never gain the legitimacy to criticize state policies," though "identifying yourself as an American" will not necessarily preclude criticism.
Activists should also frame their objectives in language that Americans embrace. "Most Americans identify with concepts such as 'justice,' 'self-determination,' 'human rights' and 'democracy,' " the guide explains. "These terms will be constructive when delivering your message, regardless of the issue."
NOTE: It is not my style to quote whole sections of an article, but here it is was necessary to expose the tactics of MSA. In a subsequent article, I will quote what this article said about accomodations for Muslims at Georgetown University.