I just returned from a delightful day at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spoke to a Religion class in the afternoon and gave a talk open to the general public in the evening.
Although I give many such talks, both of yesterday’s were notable in many ways. In particular, it was refreshing and encouraging to see so many thoughtful university students, willing to engage in serious discussion about issues without being imprisoned by shallow cant and hateful propaganda.
I was particularly heartened by a large number of Muslim students who attended my evening talk and challenged me with a number of tough questions in what was a generally fair-minded and illuminating discussion. Many of them came up afterward and thanked me for speaking honestly and forthrightly about the threat that radical Islam poses to all of us. If any of them read this, I extend my personal thanks to them in return.
Long have I insisted, contrary to the baseless slanders of people from American Muslim advocacy groups whom I have debated, that I am not a “hatemonger,” “anti-Muslim,” or “Islamophobic” (whatever that means). Such slurs, of course, are just tactics to silence their critics. I do not endorse, and have tried to discourage, calls by people commenting here to bomb Mecca, or expel all Muslims from the U.S., etc. If we cannot defeat Islamic terror except by abandoning our principles of justice and equality of rights for all, it does not need to be defeated, because we will have effectively joined forces with it.
As I say on my Bio/FAQ page: “Any Muslim who renounces violent jihad and dhimmitude is welcome to join in our anti-jihadist efforts.” Last night I had the exhilarating opportunity to speak with a number of young Muslim men and women who were willing, in vivid and vigorous contrast to the stifling Edward Said-inspired straitjacket that strangles most honest discussion of these matters, to discuss forthrightly the elements of Islamic theology, law, and tradition that give rise to jihadist violence. That is not to say that they agree with all my analyses or prescriptions “” and some of the disagreements were sharp. But they gave me hope that there could be a genuine movement for reform within Islam that would truly work to refute radical Islamic theology on Islamic grounds “” that is, a genuine renaissance, as another Muslim put it to me not long ago. A renaissance would be opposed both to the reformation that gave the world Wahhabism and to the narrow and deceptive apologetics that all too often pass for reform. For that, once again, thanks to all.