A community college in Oregon is getting slammed for giving in to pressure from a branch of an organization that once was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terror funding trial and censoring a class on Islam.
“An Islamic supremacist hate group like CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations] must not be allowed to intimidate our nation’s educational institutions and dictate how young Americans are to be informed about the Islamic jihad threat,” Pamela Geller, of Stop the Islamization of America wrote.
The dispute erupted when officials at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore., were pressured by CAIR to cancel a class proposed by a teacher, Barry Sommer.
He explained he followed procedures to obtain approval for his “What is Islam?” extension course.
“In Mid-October, I applied at the Continuing Education Department to teach my class on Islam. I filled out the requisite paperwork and assumed that the school did some checking. I submitted a basic syllabus for the course,” Sommer explained.
Approval came in due course, Sommer reported, but when the word of the course actually started getting out, the attacks started.
“On December 1st, the course went available online at Lane Community College as well as in their printed catalogue, at which point I sent out a press release to my friends and colleagues and some of the media in town that I know,” Sommer said.
He said he even was interviewed by the local television station.
“I did the interview and evidently within a few hours of when the interview was broadcast, CAIR got wind of it and issued the press release,” Sommer said. “In response they [the college] cancelled my class with no explanation.”
Officials at the school were not available for comment, but said in a prepared statement, “It was the desire to have a more intentional conversation about how to move forward that led to the decision to not proceed with the new noncredit class.”
The Washington state CAIR chapter had spearheaded the opposition to the class. Leader Arsalan Bukhari said Sommers gave them several reasons for concern.
“There are three main concerns. One is the person’s own views that he very publicly airs. He has a website he maintains where he has a cartoon picture of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban,” Bukhari said.
“That’s something that people should know by now is very insulting to Muslims. The second is, we’re wondering what kind of educational background he has. And of course, he’s a member of ACT for America. He’s the Oregon chapter head. That’s also one of the red flags that we saw,” Bukhari said.
Bukhari accused Act for America President and founder Brigitte Gabriel of being anti-Muslim.
“That organization’s national leader has said that Islam is evil and you know, things like that. Those are the three main concerns we had,” Bukhari said.
Listen to an interview with Bukhari:
Sommer said he believes that his association with ACT for America was the only reason CAIR objected.
“CAIR considers Brigitte Gabriel and ACT for America a vicious, anti-Muslim hate group. They used that it seems in their press release as a springboard to say that I know nothing about Islam. They gave the usual list of vitriol, that I’m an Islamophobe, hate-monger, anti-Muslim and all of that,” Sommer observed.
But he said it’s now beyond that.
“This is no longer about me. This is about a much broader issue, not only of free speech but of how CAIR continuously intimidates and browbeats people whose opinions they don’t like,” Sommer said.
“Knowing the history of CAIR, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism funding trial and slush money to Hamas; a leader in the Flying Imams trial,” Sommer listed.
“They’ve been distanced by the FBI. The FBI doesn’t want to have anything to do with them. So, there’s numerous problems with them that need to be addressed in order to stop them from doing what they are doing,” Sommer said.
Sommer has sought out legal assistance and has contacted the American Center for Law and Justice to consider representing him.
Listen to an interview with Sommer:
Bukhari told WND an “unbiased” person such as a “Muslim activist” should teach the course.
“We could have a Muslim activist as long as the person presents the information in an unbiased way. If they’ve demonstrated the ability to show information to be accurate,” Bukhari said.
“The key is accuracy. It’s not positivity or negativity. If someone asks a question, the person teaching the class should be able to give an answer that is accurate,” Bukhari added.
Sommer confirmed that he is not trained in Islam, but he has the credentials to teach the course.
“I started studying Islam and the Middle East about 20 years ago after the Achille Lauro hijacking and the killing of Leon Klinghoffer,” Sommer explained. “Leon Klinghoffer was Jewish and he was the only one killed on the ship. I started asking some questions and wanted to know more. It didn’t make sense to me.”
Sommer said the turning point in his immersion in Islamic studies came 12 years ago.
“I jumped with both feet into heavy research and study of in-depth research and study on the issue. I am a self-taught researcher and lecturer. I’ve done numerous lectures here in town on Islam,” Sommer detailed.
Sommer believes the incident reveals the influence on academia.
“This is just one more piece of proof that academia in general not only leans hard-left, but also has an ideological agenda based on that left-leaning ideal. Anything that falls outside of their version of tolerance, diversity and multi-culturalism will not be tolerated,” Sommer said.
“I agree with David Horowitz when he talks about the problems we have in the colleges and schools mainly due to the type of people who teach the courses and the course material that has been coming across the desks recently,” Sommer stated.
“It’s a sad state of affairs when a college is, for whatever reason, afraid of free speech that might make some people uncomfortable,” Sommer observed.
Sommer says from history, he thinks the school might have been concerned about CAIR’s actions in response to the course.
“It would not surprise me to find out that some of the administration of LCC felt that there could be some problems with that and used that as part of their decision in deciding to cancel the class,” Sommer added.
Gabriel said the maneuver is typical of CAIR.
“CAIR’s method is to attack anyone who dares to expose the threat of radical Islam, and specifically the threat of Islamic terrorism,” she said.
“They do this because, as confirmed by members of Congress, the Justice Department and the FBI, they have a clear connection to the terrorist organization Hamas. It is evident to anyone who takes a close, objective look that CAIR’s real mission is to bring about the rule of Shariah Islamic law in America, and it resorts to every propaganda tactic available to divert attention from this mission.”
She cited a quote from Omar Ahmad, CAIR co-founder, who told the San Ramon Valley Herald in 1998, “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Quran should be the highest authority in America.”
“The record is clear: CAIR uses smear tactics to hide its own record of terrorist links and criminal activities,” said Gabriel. “When CAIR speaks, all freedom-loving Americans should be wary.”