Dr. Daniel Pipes spoke tonight at UCI. His topic: Islamic extremism.
First, what didn’t happen, unlike earlier this year, members of the Muslim Student Union didn’t try to shout him down.
What did happen was a Muslim Student Union-led walkout en masse, so, it was a disruption of a different kind as the MSU members did violence to Dr. Pipe’s free speech rights using a kinder, gentler tactic. (Memo to the MSU: you can protest outside and hand out all the flyers you want. But pause to reflect on how your actions and fear of violence caused seven hired police officers to be present – vs. no police hired to protect MSU events on campus – how does that look? Also, big hint here: stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America. If you are not a citizen, you clearly should not pledge allegiance – but for goodness sake, out of politeness, respect and protocol, STAND, if you can. I stand at a respectful position of attention when other nations pay respect to their flag. When in America, you should do the same. Not to do so looks bad, very bad.)
As the MSU walkout emptied about half of the room, Dr. Pipes continued his remarks. Then the lighting system when dim several times, at one point almost plunging the room into darkness. Dr. Pipes just smiled gently from the podium.
As for the content of Dr. Pipes’ speech, it was all rather academic and reasonable. There was nothing he said that was extreme or at variance with what I learned while a Strategic Studies major at Claremont McKenna College with two years of Arabic and a semester overseas studying Islamic political thought in Cairo Egypt. Ironically, had the members of the MSU and their supporters stayed to listen, they would have heard Dr. Pipes say that going into Iraq and staying was a mistake and that we should not take responsibility for running Iraq and caring for Iraqis. Same with Iran. Toppling Iran or preventing their acquisition of nuclear weapons yes. Occupation, no. In this, Dr. Pipes draws a closer analogy to the defeat of Soviet communism during the Cold War in 1991, rather than the defeat and total occupation of the Axis powers in1945 – two examples he brought up three or four times in the course of lecture.
Dr. Pipes’ main thesis was that America needs a coherent strategy to deal with Islamic extremism of the type that took its political cues from Italy and Germany circa the 1920s and 30s and first developed indigenously in India and Egypt. In this, I am in full agreement with Dr. Pipes, both as to the origin of modern Islamic totalitarianism as an ideology that aspires to global conquest, as well as in the need for a comprehensive strategy. As Dr. Pipes said: this is not a war against terrorism, terrorism is a method. This is a war against Islamic extremism. To win this war Dr. Pipes said that we will need the assistance of moderate Muslims who seek to modernize their faith. He was confident that this was doable, if very difficult.
As if to underscore this point, the last question of the evening was asked by a young woman wearing a traditional headscarf. She asked Dr. Pipes what happens if Muslims don’t want to modernize? If they decide they want to remain “traditionalists” and won’t give in. Dr. Pipes tried to clarify the question, but in the end said that the war must then go on until Islamic extremists do decide to modernize and give up attacking the West. “And if they don’t give up,” she persisted. “Then we continue,” Pipes replied, adding that Muslims such as herself in America have more to fear in losing their lives to extremist Muslims than they do from any generalized fear of an American response that may put their community under greater scrutiny. The young woman protested that Dr. Pipes was apparently stating that all terrorists were Muslims. Pipes responded to the effect that most terrorists were Muslim extremists and to pretend otherwise is foolish. He then cited the recent cases of a Bosnian Muslim yelling “Allah akbar” who opened fire in a mall in Utah, killing five and wounding four, and of the gunman who, yelling “Allah akbar” in a Jewish community center in Seattle last year, killed one and wounded five.
I’m glad I attended the event. Perhaps next time, the Muslim Student Union members and their supporters will figure out that they can have their free speech without infringing on the free speech rights of others. Oh, and remember, don’t remain defiantly seated next time during the Pledge of Allegiance – it really ticks most Americans off – a lot. If you are a guest in our nation, act like it – otherwise, don’t de too shocked when some Americans don’t particularly want you around.
All the best,
California State Assemblyman, 70th District