Jonathan Brown, director of Georgetown University’s Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU), brooks no disagreement. Having expelled this writer from a February 7 apologist lecture on Islamic slavery that provoked nationwide outrage, Brown ejected me from another Georgetown event on March 16.
I achieved infamy as a “Jihad Watch correspondent who had written sensationalist pieces about Georgetown events” according to Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of the über-establishmentarian Foreign Policy in her March 16 online article, “Islamophobia Inc.” Jihad Watch publisher Robert Spencer comprehensively rebutted this “lurid fantasy.” (For the record, I also report regularly for Campus Watch.)
Brown was visibly surprised when I entered Georgetown’s Alumni House for the opening dinner of the Peace Requires Encounter Summit. The summit ostensibly sought to “build relationships” — apparently only with those approved by Islamic supremacists — co-sponsors included the Muslim Brotherhood-derived Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Franciscan Action Network (FAN), and Unity Productions Foundation (UPF), a producer of pro-Islam films.
UPF’s Daniel Tutt, of Marymount University, invited me via email to the Friday-Sunday summit after I registered for the screening of UPF’s latest production, The Sultan and the Saint. Upon spotting me at Friday evening’s kick-off, an agitated Brown demanded that I leave the invitation-only event before summoning Tutt, who obsequiously acknowledged his mistake in having invited a “noted Islamophobe” who had “slandered” Brown. Tutt apologized to me before I left, but at Saturday’s screening he asked if I would disrupt the showing, a paranoid inquiry I denied.
Tutt’s previous writings demonstrate why he holds such a sinister perception of Islamic supremacism’s critics or as he puts it, a “growing right-wing populist reactionary neo-Fascist network.” He maintains that the current “intensification of Islamophobia must be understood and diagnosed primarily, but not exclusively, as the outcome of capitalist exploitation.” This false view excuses Islamic supremacist behavior and blames “the system.”
Alas, the feature film presented an equally whitewashed view of Islamic history with an examination of the 1219 meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and the Egyptian sultan al-Malik al-Kamil in Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. The film — as narrated by actor Jeremy Irons — falsely contrasts St. Francis “preaching about the Lord of love” while the “medieval Church still holds to the vision of a ferocious, vengeful God who summons believers to war.” Various scenes show al-Kamil as a boy reciting Quran 2:256, a verse often misunderstood by non-Muslims as documenting Islamic tolerance, and Muslims praying the Fatiha (Quran 1:1-7) with the key omission of its last verse. According to numerous authoritative Islamic interpretations, its terms condemn Jews and Christians. Irons avoids any such disquieting analysis as he concludes the film, stating that “angry, dehumanizing words sparked violence today as before. Transcending differences, the road to peace runs through the common humanity that we all share.”
This approach ignores facts documented by many historians, including Frank M. Rega. In his book on the St. Francis-al-Kamil meeting, Rega noted that St. Francis understood the Crusades as “part of an ongoing just war in response to Muslim invasions of Christian lands,” including the 846 Muslim sack of Rome. University of Nantes historian John V. Tolan traces the historiography of this encounter over the centuries to show that twentieth century scholars “presented the two as men of peace far above the fray between fanatical crusader and jihadists.” Francis becomes “a sort of spiritual forebear to…those who oppose colonial violence and war in the Middle East — up to and including the two Iraq Wars of George Bush father and son.” These insights, coupled with UPF’s past distortions about modern Muslims, Muslims fighting Nazism in World War II, and Muslims enslaved in America, place The Sultan and the Saint firmly within this politicized, apologetic historiography.
Following the Georgetown screening before an audience of around seventy, the panelists stressed interfaith relations, while avoiding disquieting inquiries into Islam. UPF co-founder and film director Alex Kronemer focused on the film’s psychological analysis of violence and made evolutionary arguments about how humans “are wired to see differences and fear them.” As he has previously written, he is the “product of a Jewish-Christian marriage” who, after a life of spiritual seeking, converted to Islam’s “message of compassion and tolerance.”
Marie Denis, the co-president of Pax Christi, a leftist, anti-Israel Catholic pacifist group, chided Catholics for “pointing to imagined violence in another community.” Rather, they should reflect upon the film’s depiction of well-known Crusader atrocities (e.g. the 1099 sack of Jerusalem) that ignored the brutality of Muslims like al-Kamil’s uncle, the renowned Crusader opponent Saladin. Meanwhile, along with FAN Executive Director Patrick Carolan, Denis signed a 2014 letter opposing American military strikes against the all-too real violence of the Islamic State.
Former UPF employee and Muslim writer Laila Alawa, a “huge fan of being politically correct,” evoked her past radical tweets, including the illiberal admonition that “free speech has consequences.” Ahmed Younis, former national director of the radical Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and current Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and Washington Post writer Elizabeth Bruenig completed the panel. Bruenig has written approvingly of President Barack Obama’s 2015 politicized remarks concerning the Crusades and promoted the falsehood that Israel threatens Middle East Christians.
With prominent attendees enjoying catered buffets undisturbed in Georgetown’s hallowed halls, the summit made a mockery of its “Islamophobia” hysteria. Meanwhile, Brown benefits from Saudi largesse, while promoting his views at events to which critics have no entrée. Clearly, those who feel besieged by nefarious “Islamophobes” are demonstrating a case of projection. Such behavior confirms Spencer’s analysis of “Islamic culture” as “extremely brittle and insecure.” Yet there will be no escaping this writer in the future.
Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter at @AEHarrod. This article was sponsored by Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.