SEATTLE – Who is the enemy in the war on terrorism? Seattle-area Muslims fought hard to block the appearance this week of a leading terror expert whose answer to that question, some believe, strikes too close to home.
Former Harvard professor Daniel Pipes, who has been in high demand by the mainstream media since Sept. 11, says he experienced unprecedented opposition prior to his lecture at the University of Washington Wednesday night.
Calling Pipes a “rabid Muslim/Arab-hater,” Jeff Siddiqui of the American Muslims of Puget Sound distributed a letter expressing “profound shock” that Pipes had been invited and urging organizers to cancel the event, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the university’s school of international studies.
Pipes, who speaks Arabic, has a Ph.D. in history from Harvard and served in the U.S. Departments of State and Defense. The author of 10 books, he was director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and currently heads a Philadelphia-based think tank, the Middle East Forum.
“Indeed, it is not unlike having a Nazi speak about the security of the U.S.A., or a KKK member speak about crime,” Siddiqui wrote to event organizer Edward Alexander, an English professor at the university.
The Muslim leader suggested that if Alexander did not cancel the speech he should at least send out a letter of contrition for inviting Pipes and allow a 10-minute response by a Muslim.
“I am sure there will be many items from his speech that will need correction because truth and accuracy are not his strong points where Islam, Arabs or Muslims are concerned,” Siddiqui wrote.
On Wednesday a crowd that included many Muslims and Jews, crammed into the lecture hall after having their bags inspected, leaving hundreds outside unable to enter. Pipes was escorted into the auditorium by police, who were notified in advance of possible trouble, along with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I can’t think of any precedent, my own or anyone else’s, where the attempt to suppress freedom of speech by militant Islam in the United States has been quite so blatant,” Pipes told WorldNetDaily prior to the event.
In his response to Siddiqui, Alexander said: “I hope you won’t be shocked to learn that I can’t comply with your request that I cancel Mr. Pipes’ lecture or that I express public contrition for arranging it or that I allow you or one of your acolytes to preside as grand inquisitor and judge of his remarks.
“Apparently you are not aware of the age-old conventions regarding public lectures (and free speech) in this part of the country,” Alexander said. “There is no requirement that a lecture touching on radical Islam must be ‘answered’ by an Islamic radical, any more than a lecturer on fundamentalist Christianity must submit to a harangue at the end of his talk by a Christian fundamentalist.”
Pipes’ address, “The War on Terror and Militant Islam,” drew loud applause at several points during which he called on the U.S. to make its Middle East policy consistent with its stated principles in the war on terrorism. Pipes said afterward he had never before been interrupted by applause in a speech.
“We should be grateful to the Israelis, that they are willing to deal with their local terrorists,” he said to a thunderous ovation.
Already a number of Muslims had walked out in disgust. At the mention of Yasser Arafat’s name, a man at the back yelled, “He is my hero!”
Another got up in the middle of the lecture, angrily spewing invectives at Pipes and exiting with, “You are a racist.”
Pipes received another ovation when he stated that the U.S. should tell the Saudis, the country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, “either you are with us or against us.”
In a reference to the interruptions by Muslims, Pipes said the suppressive tactics of militant Islam of which he spoke were at work even as he spoke.
Militants and traditionalists
Outside the hall before the lecture, Humza Chaudhry, president of the school’s Muslim Student Association, handed out literature denouncing Pipes and called him a liar and a bigot.
Chaudhry told WorldNetDaily he supported Pipes’ right to speak but questioned the judgment of those who invited him.
“He is very careful to make the (distinction) between what he calls traditional Islam and militant Islam; the problem is that a majority of (Muslims) fit into his category of radicals,” Chaudhry said. “What he constitutes as radicals are people who follow the traditional Islamic faith, and what he would like to see is Muslims who have a compromised version of their faith, which is compromised to the state of Israel.”
Pipes insisted that he does not hate Islam or Muslims. Moderate Muslims are the biggest victims of militant Islam, he pointed out, referring to countries such as Algeria where thousands have died in a militant insurgency. There is a battle over the soul of Islam, he maintains, between moderates and militants.
In his introduction of the speech, Alexander noted that Pipes’ warnings last May about the dangers of al-Qaida to the U.S. – several months before Sept. 11 – were reviled as racist by some Muslims. Columbia University professor Edward Said scoffed at “highly exaggerated racial stereotyping” that talked of hijacking jetliners and blowing up buildings.
Siddiqui charged in his letter that “Daniel Pipes has in the past, suggested getting rid of Muslims in America, he has declared that Muslims and Islam are incompatible with the ‘civilized west.’ He has on many occasions, warned America of the ‘Islamic threat’ and suggested that Muslims should be stopped from coming to this country.
“If he goes any further he will be in the same company as Hitler when he told Mussolini the Jews were like ‘TB baccillii (sic)’ and must be eradicated.”
Much of the campaign in Seattle against him was “purely fabricated,” Pipes said. “It just puts words in my mouth that are completely anathema, throwing Muslims out of the country, and things like that. Total fabrication.”
Several Muslims who attended the event referred to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C., lobby group, as a source of information on Pipes. The group, which casts itself as a promoter of civil rights, has published condemnation of Pipes on its website, referring to him as an “Islamophobic pundit.”
Pipes told WorldNetDaily that CAIR and related groups have tried to discourage forums for his ideas from inviting him or following through with an invitation.
“They shadow me all the time,” Pipes said. “I’m happy to report, so far as I know, I have not been disinvited, so it’s not worked. But, nonetheless, it tends to intimidate and shut down the free discussion of Islam, militant Islam and Muslims. If they don’t like it, they don’t want it discussed.”
Pipes claims his critics are not interested in discourse.
“They do not discuss the issues I discuss,” he said. “They take things out of context. Most of the time they take one quote of mine from 1990 in a National Review article where I was characterizing the European view of immigrant Muslims. Admittedly it wasn’t as clear as it should have been, but I wasn’t writing with the expectation of being misquoted.”
Pipes says CAIR, which has had representatives invited to the White House, is one of the groups in this country that defines itself as moderate but instead practices and associates with a militant brand of Islam.
CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad once worked for the Islamic Association of Palestine, considered by U.S. intelligence officials to be a front group for Hamas operating in the United States. CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper denies any connection between CAIR and IAP. Nevertheless, CAIR defended the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development – a U.S.-based group accused of channeling funds to Hamas – when President Bush decided to freeze its assets. CAIR charged that the move could give the impression that “there has been a shift from a war on terrorism to an attack on Islam.”
While Pipes stresses that the vast majority of Muslims are not militant, during the question and answer time after his Wednesday speech he said 80 percent of mosques, websites and organizations in the United States are dominated by militant Islam. The 13 Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military all have been “handpicked by militant Islamic groups,” he said.
Moderate Muslims are silenced by militants at this “radicalized moment,” according to Pipes. Those Muslims who are against militant Islam are “weak, fractured and hapless,” he said.
The goal of the U.S. government should be to help moderate Muslims “modernize Islam” and thereby weaken the militants.
Amin Odeh, who represents a local group called Voices of Palestine, told WorldNetDaily after the speech that “it wasn’t as bad as I expected.”
“At least he made it clear that he wasn’t against Islam,” said Odeh, who left the Middle East 11 years ago but still has family in the Palestinian territories. “He made a clear difference between Islam and militant Muslims. But it wasn’t positive. We are in a time of crisis and we shouldn’t be scaring people. He was encouraging this theme of let’s go get them. Even though he was focusing on militant Muslims … this didn’t give us any hope. It was just scaring people; the same thing that Bush is doing, the same thing Sharon is doing to his people, so that any measure they take will be justified.”
Odeh, who holds public debates and lectures at schools, said the group was launched after the second Intifada began last fall, “to educate people about the facts, because we believe the media is biased.”
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