The first few meetings of TU Purpose were conducted by the group’s Interim President, because President Alvaro Watson was at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania having been chosen for a competitive internship. Ten to fifteen students attended which was seen as good for a virtually unknown, newly founded campus organization.
The first speaker invited by Purpose was Dutch Parliamentarian and Leader of the Party for Freedom Geert Wilders. He is considered controversial for his position on Islam. He believes the Koran should be banned in the Netherlands and migration of Muslims into the Netherlands should be stopped.
Wilders’ quotes “I believe we have been too tolerant of the intolerant.” and “We should learn to become intolerant of the intolerant.” have become rallying cries for the far left.
Wilders’ beliefs come from what he feels has happened to the culture of the Netherlands in search of multiculturalism brought on by the extremity of liberal political correctness. Multiculturalism is defined as "of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture."
Alvaro explains, “Purpose invited Mr. Wilders while he was on his Freedom of Speech Now tour. We wanted to understand, through educating ourselves with first-person information, Wilders' stance on Islam as a religion, a political and militant ideology, and a theocracy.”
Alvaro continues, “We also wanted to learn why it was the Muslim world rejects Wilders and finds his observations deplorable and his opinions intolerable. We believe if one is genuinely concerned with advancing or guiding society toward a greater, better place for all, one cannot go through life simply ignoring and avoiding the discussions and explorations of controversial issues.”
Alvaro notes, “Islam is being talked about on a worldwide basis. We wanted to offer students a view from another country that had already tried a politically correct approach to assimilation versus multiculturalism. America is dealing with this same dilemma in many communities. If you choose not to live in denial of this, you are outside of political correctness and pay the consequences.”
Alvaro details, “The October 20, 2010 Wilders event had been planned for weeks before the start of that fall semester. Because Purpose was a new organization, we reached out to the College Republicans (CR) student group for help in organizing the event. On October 16, we were given notification of a death threat. Under pressure, the CR pulled out of the event.”
“On October 19, the CR President told the school newspaper he did not support what we were doing and found it unfortunate. The Student Senate President said that he had never felt ashamed of being a student at Temple until they allowed the Wilders event to resume as planned. The following day he came up to me at the event and thanked me for seeing this event through, because it was important. He also offered me any help in the future should I need anything. ”
Alvaro recounts, “Many liberal student groups - TU and Philadelphia International Socialists and Democratic Socialists, TU Muslim Student Association, TU Students for Justice in Palestine, TU Feminist Majority, TU All Sides, TU Student Government Senate - loudly protested our decision to host Wilders labeling us racists.”
“They were successful at first in having the Temple Senate pass a resolution to shut down our event and request that we rescind our invitation. The Muslim Student Association told Student Activities they had received a death threat.”
“Upon hearing this, we did decide to shut it down. Then we requested the death threat emails, and our requests were not acknowledged. It appeared desperate people would do desperate things to shut down an event they opposed so much. We decided then to move forward and put the event back on.”
Purpose was accused of “supporting and perpetuating hate and racism” in hosting Wilders. Purpose was labeled “bigots for singling out an underrepresented population.” Alvaro Watson was personally labeled a “hypocrite, because I was a social work student.”
Alvaro has found, “The moderate Liberals do appreciate our group. Most of the professors oppose us though with some of the braver ones actually referring to us as bigots.”
Attention was gained at the top level, “The President of Temple University released a generic statement expressing support for all organizations to host whomever they wanted for the purpose of academic discourse.”
The TU Purpose October 20, Wilders event marked the first time Geert Wilders spoke on an American college campus. Alvaro summarizes “He talked about his experience with being censored in the Netherlands for speaking about and questioning Islam.”
Alvaro continues, “He told us that a few months earlier in February, he had been denied entry into the U.K. where he had been invited by Lord Pearson of Rannoch and Baroness Cox, members of the House of Lords (the upper chamber of the British Parliament) to show his film Fitna in the Palace of Westminster. The Home Secretary had labeled him an 'undesirable persons' who was regarded as constituting a threat to public policy, security or health.”
Alvaro notes, “Wilders blames the embrace of political correctness and multiculturalism for these hardships. He has been living under 24/7 security protection because of the constant death threats. He wanted us to know what is coming to American by showing us firsthand what has happened to him and continues to happen. It’s a combination of a warning of what is ahead and a call to awareness and vigilance to secure and maintain the freedoms and liberties that are assured by our U.S. Constitution.”
Alvaro details, “The Wilders event had upwards of 500 persons of all creeds, religions, ethnicities and political affiliations. Students seem to listen with an open and very curious mind. I was surprised that the Boos were actually balanced by an equal amount of favorable applause. I felt I had created something meaningful for free speech and critical thinking which had been my goal.”
“I was not surprised when some students from the Students for Justice in Palestine group began giving speeches as opposed to asking questions at the microphone. This created an immediate atmosphere change to one of flying insults and a hostile environment shutting down the event.”
“We were rushed out with security along with Wilders. Later, I was told that students were just dropping off their purses and other personal belongings anywhere without anyone to watch them; because they were rushing to make sure they could gain entry into the event. Backpacks and purses were not allowed into the event.”
Alvaro reflects, “It was not until after Purpose hosted our first speaker Geert Wilders that our state, country and, still much more, our campus and city of Philadelphia learned who we were. After Mr. Wilders’ appearance, it became tough to recruit new members because both of the Socialist student organizations, with assistance from the Philadelphia International Socialists, along with the left groups detailed above, all began a campaign to assure that Purpose was known as a bigoted organization.”
Alvaro knows he and the members of Purpose are not racists, and he finds the experience “surreal”. He believes the liberal agenda lives and dies by perpetuating a myth that all people of a specific race, creed, or religion think alike or always vote in a block. The myth also includes acceptable free speech is only speech in lock step with the liberal agenda which will be enforced by political correctness.
Alvaro is ¾ Latino and was born in El Salvador. His maternal grandfather was an American citizen whom graduated from Boston Mass, was a Captain during WWII, and taught in El Salvador. He married a Salvadoran native, and had Alvaro’s mother before returning to the US. Alvaro came to America as a child and gained his US citizenship as a young adult.
Alvaro hopes all Americans value their right to freedom of speech and ultimately will respect this same right for all in America whether they agree with what is expressed or not. He knows many Americans don’t understand what it is in reality to live without it. He hopes Americans, and especially students, will not give up this freedom out of fear of being labeled a racist or bigot.
In reality, being called a racist or xenophobic has become an expected first response to views outside of political correctness no matter how relevant they may be. Street or event protests in response to an opposing view being presented are commonplace. Ironically, the right of “free speech” in America is what gives those that engage in this behavior the right to do so.
Part 1 – Free Speech & Critical Thinking
Part 3 – Socialist & Muslim Student Outrage
Part 4 - Upholding Intent & Moving Forward