A university professor who wrote an article equating the 9-11 suicide-hijackers with American colonists who fought the British has been given an award for speaking out on controversial issues.

M. Shahid Alam, professor of economics at Northeastern University, was honored by the National Lawyers Guild with their Free Speech Award on Thursday.

In his article, Alam wrote: “On September 11, 2001, nineteen Arab hijackers too demonstrated their willingness to die – and to kill – for their dream. They died so that their people might live, free and in dignity.”

Alam said the 9-11 attacks “were a cataclysmic summation of the history of Western depredations in the Middle East: the history of a unity dismembered, of societies manipulated by surrogates, of development derailed and disrupted, of a people dispossessed. The explosion of 9-11 was indeed a “shot heard ’round the world.'”

Announcing the award, the leftist National Lawyers Guild noted Alam has been heavily criticized by commentors such as Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and scholar Daniel Pipes, director of the think tank Middle East Forum and a presidential appointee to the board of the United States Institute of Peace.

Guild member Bin Ahmad, a third-year law student at Northeastern, said Pipes “goes on national television and calls Dr. Alam a ‘radical Muslim’ and a ‘bomb thrower’ with ‘venom towards America.”

“These are outrageous allegations based on a selective and distorted reading of Dr. Alam’s writings,” she said. “Additionally, Dr. Alam has been the target of physical threats and harassment after excerpts from one of his recent essays were posted on websites of known, extreme right-wing organizations.”

Alam, according to the news release is the author of three books, “Governments and Markets in Economic Development Strategies,” “Poverty from the Wealth of Nations,” and “Is There an Islamic Problem?”

Jonathon Foglia, another Northeastern student-member of the Guild said Alam deserves the Free Speech Award because his work epitomizes the type of thought and expression the First Amendment protects.

“Dr. Alam is a man of profound scholarship and enviable bravery,” Foglia said. “His work is clearly core political speech. Anytime self-professed ‘patriots’ threaten and intimidate individuals on the basis of published words, we must all rally to the defense of the First Amendment and people such as Dr. Alam.”

The National Lawyers Guild recently defended New York lawyer Lynne Stewart, a member, on charges she helped a radical Egyptian sheik Omar Abdel Rahman pass secret messages to his followers urging terrorist attacks.

Stewart, 65, was convicted Feb. 10.

Alam’s article was publicized in December by weblogs such as Jihad Watch and Little Green Footballs, which posted an e-mail to the professor from an angry reader, Dean Levitt.

Alam e-mailed back, saying, “Why is it that the only hateful mail I have received is signed by Levitt, Hoch or Freedman?”

Levitt wrote:

You are a disgrace to your position. How dare you state the those people killed that their people “might live, free and in dignity”? Where is your sense of justice and pride in the country that allows real freedom? You tell me what freedom and dignity the women in Afghanistan lived with! I await your reply.

I am a South African living in the US and I witnessed the transition from a one party dictatorship to a free democracy in SA and no children and civilians were slaughtered like bugs to do it. The South African people had nothing to lose yet they lived and died for freedom with real honour and dignity. There is no justifications for terrorism and by doing so, you make yourself complicit in murder. Learn from South African history that one need not use terrorist tactics to achieve goals and then educate yourself professor that one need not justify murder.

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