Finally being able to meet Daniel Pipes in person was a great opportunity, with his visit to University of California, Irvine (UCI). He was hosted by Hillel at UCI and the Hillel Foundation of Orange County. A forty-five minute trip through rare light traffic brought me early for the event to UCI and the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall on the sprawling campus.
I was anticipating some sort of protest by Islamist interests, which always appear when Professor Daniel Pipes speaks at a California University campus. The exterior of the lecture hall was peaceful as a few elderly Jewish men and I found our way inside. Upon entering the 448 seat auditorium, I immediately noticed about forty to fifty Islamist students monopolizing the center area in the steep seating area. Most wore black, blue, and red Keffiyeh's that Islamists and faux revolutionaries have taken to wearing, ostensibly in support of the Palestinians against the “oppressive” Israelis.
Professor Pipes' subject matter, “The Threat to Israel's Existence: Why It's Back, What It Means,” predictably brought out the annoyed regulars.
I sat down in one of the rear rows and watched as people filtered in. As the event started, the auditorium had over three hundred in attendance, with about one hundred Islamist students dominating the center area. An individual representing the “LaRouche Youth” had handed me one of their magazines before this, which I left under the seat.
The event coordinator introduced Daniel Pipes and he began his presentation. Having followed Daniel Pipes closely since 9/11 and reading his books and writings till I was bleary-eyed, I was more than familiar with a lot of his positions. He is certainly not crippled academically by political correctness. The giggling and inaudible snide comments started and then fifteen minutes into the event, one Islamist youth stood up in the middle of the crowd and started shouting, “Daniel Pipes! Daniel Pipes! Daniel Pipes!” The rest of the Islamist youth, on this queue, then stood up and began to loudly shout in unison, “Anti-Israel! No to oppression! Anti-Israel! No to oppression!”
I heard a shout, “All of you out!” I assumed it was one of the uniformed Police officers ringing the top level of the auditorium. The Islamist youth then began to march out after this choreographed demonstration. After they left, the rest in attendance began to applause, whether glad they had left, or in moral support of Professor Pipes. He finished his presentation and a question and answer session began. I was about to write a question down to have sent up to him, but Daniel answered it in context of another person's question.
I respect Daniel Pipes greatly. He was in this arena while the rest of us were still getting our socks on, and he has stayed consistent in his efforts and views ever since. His intellectual and academic discipline is peerless. Furthermore, his courage in the face of insurmountable odds, whether death threats, violent protest, or public slander from all quarters, has earned him the respect of the society of warriors.
But I don't agree with him on some points. A recent biography of him in Philadelphia Magazine, “Radical Departure - Is the country's most controversial Middle East scholar mellowing?” states, “The discussion has changed, and the man once considered the most hard-line anti-Islamist finds himself worried about critics holding a darker view: that Islam is an inherently evil religion.” The article states that “by a five-to-one margin, readers of his own website now disagree with him about his take.”
I am one of them. I think I speak for an even wider majority of Americans who are by and large silent.
We live in a free society, unlike many in Muslim dominated countries and cultures. A society founded on Judeo/Christian ideas. A pillar of that freedom is academic and intellectual freedom – freedom of mind and conscience. The freedom to critically examine any belief system or individual and hold them up to the scrutiny of intellectual study and objective critique – and ideas to rise or fall on their merits. This is foundational to American excellence and superiority in the global arena.
Since 9/11 the academic offering from a wide spectrum of thought has made its way into this free marketplace of ideas. Professor Pipes is just one – in fact, the point man – of many now well known academics who have published and distributed their work, like Steve Emerson, Robert Spencer, David J. Jonsson, Brigitte Gabriel, and Ibn Warraq to name a few of many more well known authors. It is within this structure of many different scholarly views that the American people have learned exactly what the Koran says and what Muslim believe.
The Internet, as an arm of the alternative media, further magnifies this research. As the war against Islamic terror continues, it is myriad incidents like the Saudi religious police preventing the escape of “unveiled” girls trying to escape a burning school, the brutal and destructive conduct of the festival of Ashura, or Palistinians dancing around with the entrails of their victims or their own dead, that cannot but impel any rational person to utterly reject anything Islam because of its effects on culture.
Furthermore, in the context of the Palestinian/Israeli "conflict" that the Islamic world uses as a club to beat the West over the head with, the defeat of the ideology of fundamentalist, expantionist Islam is foundational to the resolution of this conflict. Until a wider reform movement happens in a more tangible way within, not only Muslim dominated countries, but the West as well, people will be forced to choose between the two. Until then, we stand with Israel.
Additionally, the conduct of Islamists/Muslims in America as they protest, and coerce, and try to threaten and intimidate the mainstream population into submission to their demands, whether through the courts and legal means, or to silence legitimate debate through means such as I witnessed first hand tonight, and we have seen in other quarters, further deepens the resolve of those who oppose them. America is not an effete European culture like France, to cower before the tyranny of the few, yet are long on patience. Still, that tolerance not being inexhaustible, we do not acquiesce to threats and coercion, and we will certainly not submit.
Daniel didn't sugar-coat his comments to the audience of supporters of Israel either, and very bluntly stated the challenges coming for the nation would be great. His comments certainly diverged from the “happy talk” incessantly coming from “official” government and media sources. He encouraged all to stay intellectually engaged, not with the extremists and closed-minded, but the open, and those uninformed with the particulars of the challenges facing Israel, whether friends, family or people we interact with every day.
As the lecture broke, I joined the throng at the front of the auditorium. I was seconds away from introducing myself to Mr. Pipes at the podium, when a representative from Hillel grabbed him and they went to take a group picture with the kids of Hillel.
There are memories that stick in people's minds from events like this, and the sight of Daniel Pipes squirming into the center of a group of this university's Jewish kids is one. It was the crest of this evening, as this man, in all points their champion who has over the years stood ram-rod straight in the face of some pretty blistering hate directed against them in the arena of the war of ideas, modeled the courage and integrity in the face of opposition that they to will be called to reproduce in the days ahead as their lives become more intertwined with the wider Jewish community and the Nation of Israel. Good for them!
I finally – finally – had the chance to shake Daniel's hand and introduce myself before another supporter accosted him and turned him away. But heading home, I was really in high spirits. True, the Nation of Israel is under a lot of fire from many different directions, but her impending demise is greatly exaggerated. The world has still not seen the half of what this small nation and people are capable of, especially in her sure history ahead.
Daniel Pipes' ongoing debriefing on the event is listed here:
My Disrupted Talk at the University of California-Irvine
February 1, 2007
•The Holocaust Chronicle Online•
We support the work of Jewish-American History on the web! Stop by their electronic
emporium for many unique Jewish and Christian related items!
To return to Salem the Soldier's Homepage
"America At War" site, just click on the 'S'
Daniel Pipes - In The Arena At UC Irvine copyright © 2007
Michael A. Baker.
Full reprint with written permission only, except for the inclusion of brief
quotations in a review or article. This material is copyrighted to prevent
altering or reproducing for profit. Permission is granted to the reader to
forward all writings from "Salem the Soldier's Homepage/Michael A. Baker,"
without altering, to friends, groups or other ministries or to copy for similar
or personal use.