There has been much controversy lately on our campus. In lieu of recent events involving an ad taken out by David Horowitz and the numerous responses from supporters of the Muslim Student Association, we are fortunate to have world-renowned author and scholar Daniel Pipes come to UCSB. Though he was not involved in the recent controversy, his area of research deals directly with some of the issues raised by these events. This presents itself as a great opportunity to hear from an academic who has spent decades studying the Middle East, specifically how Islam has influenced and shaped many cultures.
Daniel Pipes was born and raised in Boston by his mother and father, both immigrants from Poland. His father, Richard Pipes became a known anti-Soviet. As a college student, he originally majored in mathematics, but his interests shifted to history and the Middle East after he traveled extensively during his college years. He attended Harvard, where he completed his undergrad and Ph.D. in history. Now he is the director of the Middle East Forum, and an accomplished author. The Middle East Forum is a think-tank allowing the public to have access to, and become involved in his extensive research and discussions on the Middle East.
Controversy follows Pipes wherever he goes, as he is highly critical of American universities and the ways they teach Middle Eastern Studies. Pipes recently described the general approach taken when discussing Middle Eastern countries in university classrooms as the following: "Whoever is hostile to the United States deserves defending and whoever is friendly deserves critique." Among his grievances concerning Middle Eastern Studies, Pipes says difficult subjects are not confronted. These include jihad, channel slavery, Muslim anti-Semitism and the barbaric nature of Saddam Hussein's regime. Many of these topics are largely ignored on campuses, as they are viewed as potentially harmful to the Muslim population. In this age of political correctness, students are urged to shy away from connecting negative political and social problems to religion, even when the political, royal and organized schools of terror are all proudly connected to one common ideology: militant Islam.
Intellectual debate is the cornerstone of Pipes' interest in getting students and other members of the public involved in Middle Eastern issues. His lecture will bring academic diversity to an ongoing discussion in which his opinions - along with his level of knowledge - are rarely represented. Members of the audience are encouraged to ask questions and voice their opinions after his lecture.
Pipes has received harsh criticism from universities and many members of the media for his views. He asserts militant Islam is a reflection of 1920's totalitarianism. While the roots of Islam go back much further, this ideology is one of fascism read in the context of Islam. He has been called an "Islamophobe," and many say he does not want peace in the Middle East because he supports an Israeli victory in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Pipes is clear that Islam as a faith is not the problem - it is the radical reading of the Koran that leads to this militancy.
Since Sept. 11, Islam has been in the public area and many people have learned about this religion, which is supposed to be the "religion of peace." Pipes is quick to point out how Islam can be, and is, a peaceful religion for the vast majority of its followers. He distinguishes between the personal faith of Islam and militant Islam, and asserts that moderate Islam is the solution to a religion that has become radical. Islamists believe they are the holders of the only truth and they need to defeat the West. This religious component added to fascism makes militant Islam very powerful. To blame this radicalism on terrorism, Pipes says, is a euphemism for militant Islam. Terror may be the tactics of a radical group, but terror is not an ideology.
College Republicans look forward to having Daniel Pipes share some of his research and opinions, and to elevating the discourse on the topic of the Middle East with a Q&A session after his speech. Admission is free tonight at Embarcadero Hall, with doors opening at 8:15 p.m.
Avalon J. O'Lone is a second-year biology major.