As improbable as it may seem, given the ideologically straitjacketed and politically correct nature of the American Library Association, I am currently scheduled to speak at the ALA conference this Sunday, July 12, at a panel discussion entitled “Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping.” Here is the ALA’s description of the program:
Islam is not new in America; over 40% of the Muslims in America are African-Americans. The change is within the Muslim immigration trend, that’s grown 38 fold over the past three decades. Arriving from all over the world, China, Trinidad and Tobago, Bosnia, and Somalia, Muslims are a diverse population speaking different languages and practicing different costumes [sic! sic!]. Even the Muslims from the Middle East are not a homogeneous population. Yet the faith that binds the populations is what is often singled out and often misunderstood. Portrayed as a terrorist religion, many Muslim families and children end up victims of hate messages and harassment. This program will offer a brief overview of the cultures and literatures of the Muslim populations and the ties that bind the faith with Judaism and Christianity. Learn how your library can serve as a key forum for Islamic tolerance and all beliefs, through interfaith dialogue and programming.
Panelists include Dr. Marcia Hermansen, Director of the Islamic World Studies Program and Professor in the Theology Department at Loyola University Chicago; Dr. Esmail Koushanpour, Emeritus professor, Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, & Former Executive Director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Greater Chicago; Alia Ammar, Ph.D., Chief Neuropsychologist, Geriatric Care Association & member of the Islamic Foundation North; and…me.
How I came to be included on this panel is a story in itself, and one day I hope it will be told, but as for the panel itself, let’s just say I won’t be packing my bags just yet. The following Open Letter is circulating on ALA mailing lists right now, and I won’t be in the least surprised if the bemused multiculti elites of the ALA cave in to this pressure — in fact, I’ll be surprised if they don’t. My commentary is interspersed:
Free Speech Death Watch Alert: “An Open Letter to ALA & the Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Roundtable,” by Tara Lannen-Stanton of Queens Library, July 7 (thanks to all who sent this in):
An Open Letter to the American Library Association & the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Roundtable
We, the undersigned, would like to voice our concerns regarding the inclusion of Robert Spencer in the EMIERT panel “Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping.” As we are sure you know, Mr. Spencer is founder of the web sites “Jihad Watch” and “Dhimmi Watch”, author of such books as The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion; The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades); Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith; Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West; Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t; Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs; coauthor, with Daniel Ali, of Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics; and editor of the essay collection The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims.
Even the most cursory overview of Mr. Spencer’s oeuvre makes it clear that in fact he has no place on a panel whose aim is to dispel stereotypes about Islam.
Over the years I have posted many, many mainstream media news stories about Islam and jihad that insist that Islam is peaceful and tolerant, and that any Muslim acting otherwise is transgressing against the teachings of his own religion. And indeed, one would be extremely hard-pressed to find even one mainstream media news story since 9/11 that enunciated any other view. It is curious that after such a sustained and large-scale effort, the ALA and the professors signing this Open Letter would still find it necessary to “dispel stereotypes about Islam.” Why is it that Islam is so vulnerable to such stereotyping, whereas Buddhism, say, isn’t? Or as Don Feder recently put it, “If Islam Is So Peaceful, Why Do They Have To Keep Reminding Us?”
Anyway, it’s quite obvious that Hermansen, Koushanpour, and Ammar represent the dominant and stereotypical view of Islam, whereas I will be, if I end up speaking, an actual dissenting and non-stereotyping voice, articulating an actual different point of view and perhaps stimulating people to think about these issues, if they care or dare to do so.
Indeed, we, as librarians, scholars, and individuals are deeply concerned by ALA & EMIERT”s choice of Mr. Spencer for such a panel: Mr. Spencer espouses a view of Islam as a system of belief which is essentially violent, undemocratic, totalitarian, exclusive and at war with all non-Muslims.
In fact, no. In reality, I report on the words and deeds of Muslims who espouse “a view of Islam as a system of belief which is essentially violent, undemocratic, totalitarian, exclusive and at war with all non-Muslims.” If Islamic leaders and spokesmen would stop espousing such a view of Islam, so would I. But like the EU wonks who have criticized Geert Wilders for his film Fitna, as if he originated the violent and supremacist words of the Islamic speakers featured in the film, so it is comforting and comfortable for these blinkered profs to pretend that it is I who originated and perpetuated such a view of Islam. They cannot and will not face the implications of the fact that it is actually Muslims, in large numbers, who originated and are perpetuating such a view of Islam. They don’t want to face that fact themselves, or they don’t want American non-Muslims to know it, or both.
Mr. Spencer in fact goes as far as to equate Islam with fascism. According to him,
The misbegotten term “Islamo-fascism” is wholly redundant: Islam itself is a kind of fascism that achieves its full and proper form only when it assumes the powers of the state.” (www.jihadwatch.com/islam101)
One would think that a group of college professors would be capable of reading carefully enough to notice the “by Gregory M. Davis” notation at the very top of the Islam 101 page, but a university education, and university educators, ain’t what they used to be.
In any case, I have no use for the term “Islamofascism” myself, because it is ahistorical and misleading, among other reasons. I wouldn’t say that “Islam itself is a kind of fascism,” since the term “fascism” itself is used so promiscuously (generally by Leftist professors) as to be essentially empty of meaning, and I am not interested in engaging in a comprehensive examination of its actual meaning in order to determine whether or not it is used appropriately of Islam or not. I prefer to let the texts and teachings of Islam speak for themselves; and certainly to say that Islam “achieves its full and proper form only when it assumes the powers of the state” is to echo the statements of so many Islamic authorities throughout history that it is hard to see why it would “stereotyping” to take note of that fact.
Hence a question arises as to the justification for inviting a speaker who cannot see anything positive about Islamic beliefs, cultures, societies, histories, etc. to talk to an audience in order to dispel negative views of Islam.
I hereby challenge any of the academics and librarians who have signed or will sign this Open Letter to prove even one inaccuracy in my statements about Islam, from any of my books or articles or 20,000 posts here at Jihad Watch. To speak accurately about Islamic texts and teachings, and how Muslim leaders make use of those texts and teachings, is to speak neither negatively or positively about Islam. It is simply to speak the truth.
Do I call for resistance to Sharia-inspired efforts to restrict freedom of speech in the West and to limit the equality of rights of women with men? Yes, I do, and so should you.
We are indeed saddened and puzzled by ALA”s choice for their panel, especially in that this appears to be a rare opportunity to educate people about Islam against the backdrop of an overwhelming atmosphere of ignorance, and negative stereotyping (For example a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released right before Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo shows that only 1 in 5 Americans have a favorable view of Islam & 60 percent of Americans believe the Muslim world is at war with the United States. (http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/06/02/us.muslims.poll/)
And of course Muslims have not done anything to lead to such views. Only I have.
We hope that you take our concerns into serious consideration. While we are not advocating censorship or the removal of Mr. Spencer from the panel…
Of course you aren’t!
…and we affirm the values espoused in the ALA Library Bill of Rights, we ourselves advocate the choice of panelists who would be able to highlight in a rational and scholarly manner the richness, complexity, and multifaceted elements of Islamic cultures, societies and beliefs if we are to engage in meaningful discussions of Islam that can truly go beyond negative stereotypes. It would be unfortunate for such a distinguished organization as ALA to perpetuate such negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims and for panel attendees to return with those stereotypes to their home libraries and for such stereotypes to negatively affect services to Muslims. However, we look forward hopefully to a respectful and courteous information session on Islam.
Tara Lannen-Stanton, WorldLinQ Coordinator, New Americans Program, Queens Library
Kaoukab Chebaro, Middle East and Islamic Studies Librarian, Columbia University
Karim Boughida, Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Content Management, George Washington University
Dr. Alan Godlas, Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Georgia
Simon Samoeil, Curator, Near East Collection, Yale University Library
Beth Whipple, Research Informationist/Assistant Librarian, Ruth Lilly Medical Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
Kristin Lalonde, Library Assistant, Arab American National Museum
Dr. Ali Hassan, Ohio State University
Dr. Omar Khalidi, Aga Khan Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
*Our opinions are our own and are not the opinons of the institutions or organizations we are associated with.
Please feel free to add your voice of support or dissent in the comments section. Thank you.
Joining these learned analysts in the comments section is Justin Stearns, Assistant Professor of Religion, Middlebury College.
Anyway, I took them up on their invitation to dissent and added this in the comments section:
You say: “Please feel free to add your voice of support or dissent in the comments section. Thank you.”
Thank you for the opportunity to voice a note of dissent.
In my work I perpetuate no stereotypes. I merely quote authoritative Islamic texts, and show how Islamic authorities interpret those texts. I have repeatedly called upon Muslims of good will to repudiate in a definitive fashion those the elements of Islamic teaching and tradition that are violent and supremacist, and am happy to work with any who do so.
One wonders if your misrepresentation and vilification of my work will really serve the cause of reform within Islam and the fostering of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims. I suspect that on the contrary, by ascribing the exposure of the violent and supremacist elements of traditional Islamic teaching to stereotyping, you are actually sandbagging the efforts of genuine Islamic reformers, by denying that there is anything that needs reform.
The only losers in such an effort will be those in majority-Muslim countries who are fighting for freedom of speech, equality of rights before the law, and other rights denied or restricted by the vision of Sharia that Islamic jihadists are laboring to implement. In other words, you are on the wrong side in the great international struggle for human rights.
I doubt I will be allowed to speak at the ALA convention. And that will be one more proof of how deeply corrupt and thoroughly compromised such institutions are in America today.