On Friday, news outlets reported that Stanford University, one of the nation’s finest, would bar the public and media from attending a talk by 3 self described “former terrorists” who speak out against Islam.
The best known of the trio, Walid Shoebat, is a right-wing Christian fundamentalist convert who has made a lucrative career out of denouncing Islam and telling his personal story about being part of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. [Shoebat is often called “self-described” because there has been, to date, no independent confirmation of his story. While he regularly appears on national television, Walid Shoebat is a pseudonym that he uses for safety reasons.]
Critics call Shoebat an Islamophobe with a shady background who tries to play down his anti-Semitic end-times beliefs when speaking on college campuses and in front of adoring pro-Israel crowds. Defenders say he simply tells it like it is about the danger of Islam and the roots of Middle East terrorism, and that everyone needs to hear his message.
As I wrote back in February in Muzzlewatch:
To understand how disturbing it is that Jewish groups promote a Christian Zionist like Shoebat, it helps to understand the end times belief.
As an evangelical Christian, Shoebat has a vision that goes beyond annexing the entire West Bank–a vision that he avoids mentioning to his Jewish audiences. In private, though, Shoebat explained that he believes there will be “a great battle at the end…the children of Ishmael versus the Jewish community. Christians believe [the Jews] will…recognize that Jesus is the Messiah in the end.” Then he added, “but that is beside the point, this is not my agenda in the universities.”
Just to be clear, the belief is that Jews will either convert or be incinerated so the Messiah can return. Peace, reconciliation and happy Jews are not exactly end-time goals.
Nathan-Kazis continues later:
Keith Davies, an Irish Jew now living in Pennsylvania, is Shoebat’s agent and tour manager. Davies has no qualms about sending Shoebat to speak to Jewish groups without mentioning his Christian Zionism: all that matters, Davies says, is Shoebat’s willingness to speak for Israel. But Davies clearly feels that if attention is called to his evangelism, Shoebat’s credibility may suffer: immediately after I interviewed Shoebat and asked about his religious beliefs–particularly pressing him on details of his Christian Zionism–I received a call from Davies instructing me not to mention those beliefs in this article. If I did, Davies warned, it would “hurt Israel.” And Davies is protective of his own image as well; upon being emailed the quotes to be attributed to him in this article, Davies replied, “This is a disgusting article and I will [not] have anything further to do with you.”
Earlier we condemned UC Davis, a public university, for giving a bigot like Shoebat a platform. Because it’s private, Stanford University has wider latitude, but they should have the integrity to stand behind their decision. (When faced with a similar decision, Princeton apparently cancelled a Shoebat appearance in 2005 while Columbia limited attendance “at the last minute”).
Instead, Stanford thought they could have it both ways: they tried to avoid charges of censorship by the campus Republican group by agreeing to host the event, but then attempted to avoid the perception that they were hosting bigots by banning the media and the public.
Instead, they should have made a decision either way and faced the consequences.
In the end, their clumsy strategy backfired, and the uproar caused by the announced ban made them backtrack. The media was invited, and a small group of supporters was allowed to occupy the front rows at the event, according to the Stanford paper.
The paper said:
In fiery speeches marked by some jeers as well as periodic applause, the men called on the audience to open its eyes to what they said were the dangers of the religion.
“Islamic terrorism wants to establish hegemony around the world,” said Walid Shoebat, the last man to take the podium. “Once it gains strength, that’s when you will see the true face of Islamic fundamentalism.”
The ex-terrorists also said that Americans needed to “wake up to the dangerous realities of the Islamic faith.”
The men also criticized the vilification they said they have suffered for their remarks, saying that the liberty given to critics of Judaism and Christianity is not always extended to critics of Islam.
“Every time we say things in the media, we are being looked at as Islamophobes, racists, hate-mongers, you name it,” Shoebat said. “Once you start saying ‘Islam,’ that’s it. That’s where the buck ends.”