Last Monday night I spoke at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This was the campus I was most looking forward to visiting and simultaneously least looking forward to visiting, for a variety of reasons: I lived in Chapel Hill for seven years myself, graduated from the university, and still have some close personal connections there; I’ve had unfriendly exchanges with the academic propagandists Carl Ernst and Omid Safi, both of whom are professors there; and as I anticipated arriving there and then walked through the campus again it was hard to keep from thinking about the 2006 freelance jihad attack of Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, which took place in a central area of the campus, a place I know very well and of which I have many memories — a place which upon revisiting, even though there is no sign that anything out of the ordinary ever happened there, brought even to me a peculiar and unsettling vividness to this issue.
Before the talk I walked through campus with an old friend, and in due course we passed through Saunders Hall, home of the Religious Studies Department — a place where I spent a great deal of time many years ago, the place where I first began reading the Qur’an and studying Islam, the place where so many things happened that have proven to be decisive in the course my life has taken. I found Omid Safi’s office, but didn’t find Safi, and neither he nor Ernst showed up for my talk. As it happened, James Taylor was in town playing a concert for Obama, and as Taylor is a big local hero, few people turned out to discuss the global jihad. But Taylor wasn’t the only reason why people stayed away: Aisha Saad of the campus chapter of the Muslim Students Association told The Daily Tar Heel that the MSA decided not to come out to see me: “We do not see it setting the stage for a productive discourse but rather falling into a circular discussion that perpetuates stigmatized and superficial conceptions of a diverse community.”
Uh huh. Well, pardon me if I find that a bit odd, not to mention disingenuous. I myself am always ready to defend my views. Ernst and Safi have both consigned me to the circle of hell reserved for “Islamophobes,” but neither has ever deigned to point out even a single inaccuracy in anything I have written about the global jihad or Islamic supremacism, and neither of them had the decency or courage to come out to my address and talk things over. Neither did the MSA.
Here again, I suspect this is a tactical decision. The MSA cannot answer what I say, and for their part Ernst and Safi certainly can’t either. So the easiest route is simply to stay away, and to pretend that I am beneath notice, while continuing to indoctrinate their impressionable captive audiences about “Islamophobia.”
Well, my standing challenge to Ernst and Safi is worth repeating. I would be happy to debate them at a time and place of their convenience. They cannot deny that people are reading my books (in fact, many more people than are reading their books, and I don’t even have their captive audience of college students who have to read my books because I put them on my syllabus), and so if they really believe that what I am saying is so far wrong and easily refuted, they should take up my challenge and wax me in a debate, so as to end my baneful influence.
But they don’t dare try. Now isn’t that interesting?
Meanwhile, I was challenged, but the challenge came after the event, from an unexpected quarter. One person who did show up for the talk was the son of an old housemate, now a student at the university himself. While this led me to meditations on the fleetingness of life and the rapid passage of time, this young man was concerned about more pressing matters. He asked me privately after the address if I thought that I was attracting the wrong kind of crowd: loutish, thuggish commenters at Jihad Watch, shouting for vengeance, that sort of thing. Didn’t I think I was inciting people to violence?
This is a common charge, so I thought it worth mentioning this question and discussing it here. In the first place, of course, there hasn’t been any violence committed in my name or inspired by me. I hope that there never will be, but if there ever were, I wouldn’t really be any more responsible for it than the Beatles were responsible for the Manson murders just because Manson invoked “Helter Skelter” as his motivating force. I don’t tell people to commit violent acts or take the law into their own hands, and anyone who does has nothing to do with me. When I stand up to defend the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, the equality of rights of all people before the law, and Constitutional rule in the U.S., against Sharia supremacism, there is nothing in what I am saying that anyone could reasonably construe as incitement.
As for commenters, as I have said many times before, comments here are largely unmoderated, and people of all perspectives comment here, including jihad apologists. If I am responsible for one comment I am responsible for all of them, which would mean attributing to me all sorts of contradictory positions. Comments that are racist, genocidal, etc. will be removed when we see them. Commenters who are anti-jihad should bear in mind that if we discard our civilizational principles in order to defend them, there is no use defending them at all. And they should not be stupid, and avoid handing the jihadists and their allies ammunition — because make no mistake: the jihadists need “Islamophobia,” and they’re looking for it. When they don’t find it, they manufacture it. I have some evidence that pro-jihad commenters, sent from some very interesting sources, have planted hateful and genocidal comments here in order to try to discredit the site. And the manufacture by Muslims of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. attests to how politically useful such attacks are: they deflect attention away from jihad activity while implying that resisting the jihad leads to the victimization of innocent people.
The fact that actual hate crimes against Muslims are relatively few indicates that Americans are in the main decent people who respect the principle that people are innocent until proven guilty. But the fact that my old friend’s son would even ask this question indicates how effective the media’s preoccupation with nonexistent “backlash” against innocent Muslims every time a Muslim is caught plotting jihad violence has been. And of course the mainstream media has often aided and abetted the effort by American Muslim advocacy groups to claim for themselves protected victim status that would absolve them from all scrutiny and criticism.
I was glad to answer the question, as I would have been glad to answer any and all questions from the MSA, or Carl Ernst, or Omid Safi. But they chose not to risk exposing the hollowness of their own positions.