On Monday, April 16, Walid Shoebat and two other former terrorists-turned-anti-jihadists, Kamal Saleem and Zak Anani, are slated to speak at Stanford University. Sponsored by the ASSU Speakers Bureau, the Stanford College Republicans, and The Stanford Review, the "Three Ex-Terrorists," as they bill themselves, are likely, based on past talks, to offer forth a rare evening (on college campuses, anyway) of pro-Israel and pro-American perspectives on the battle against Radical Islam. The only problem is, the public isn't invited.
It seems that the Stanford administration has deemed the "Three Ex-Terrorists" too "controversial" for public consumption and based on alleged safety concerns, has barred anyone other than students and faculty from attending the event. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article on the subject:
The students thought the public would be able to attend the event, but were told a couple of weeks ago that attendance would be restricted due to "security concerns," said Megan Reiss, president of the Stanford College Republicans.
"At a private school, we're not subject to the same rights as public schools," Reiss said. "But I'm writing an op-ed piece right now saying they may have the right to do this, but it's going against Stanford's tradition of allowing the free flow of ideas."
Stanford spokeswoman Elaine Ray said security was not the university's concern.
"We're not worried about violence," she said. "This is a controversial speaker, and we want to make sure that our students have a constructive dialogue."
Ray declined to say what made Shoebat so controversial that attendance should be restricted at the 595-seat Kresge Auditorium.
Call it a hunch, but it's more than likely that the controversy surrounding Shoebat and his fellow speakers has a little something to do with their politics. For some reason, speaking out against Radical Islam on universities and college campuses these days is considered controversial, while all too often, speaking out in favor of or opposing any efforts to combat Radical Islam, is considered perfectly acceptable. Indeed, in a press release on Stanford's sudden change of heart, one of the student organizers of the event makes that very point:
Megan Reiss, one of the college students helping to organize the event complains; "Stanford University Administration has gone out of their way to make the staging of this event as difficult as possible, and it has been a most frustrating experience. It seems there is a double standard in which the outside public and press have not been barred on other events where speakers openly support terror organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah and even Al Qaeda."
Anti-Israel and at times, anti-Semitic, speakers also seem to be welcome on college campuses. This may explain why Stanford enacted no such restrictions when DePaul University political science assistant professor Norman Finkelstein, who has made a career out of being a pseudo-Holocaust denier (even as he continues to claim that his own parents were Holocaust survivors) and who was initially hired at DePaul by its Nation of Islam connected director of World Islamic Studies, Aminah McCloud (recently blogged about by Campus Watch here), spoke there earlier this year. As noted by a student quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle article referenced above:
By contrast, the public was welcome to attend an event with the controversial DePaul University Professor Norm Finkelstein, who accuses Jews of using the Holocaust to gain sympathy, said Jessica Chernick of Students for an Open Society.
Security concerns are the typical excuse given for such restrictions. An appearance by Walid Shoebat at Columbia University, along with another ex-terrorist and a former Nazi Hitler Youth member, I wrote about late last year, garnered the same sort of last-minute security changes, resulting in 75-120 people who had RSVP'd being turned away at the door.
Perhaps when repentant terrorists and others opposing Radical Islam stop being labeled "controversial" and Holocaust deniers and proponents of Radical Islam stop being given the welcome mat, the "security concerns" of Stanford and other university administrations will be taken more seriously. In the meantime, such hypocrisy calls for continued scrutiny.
Update (April 16): According to an article in the Stanford Daily, it appears that Stanford's administration has reversed its decision not to allow outside media into the "Three Ex-Terrorists" event. All the publicity surrounding the university's ban on public attendance led to complaints from media outlets and finally to director of university communications Elaine Ray's admission that "There will be some outside press." However, the public, as of this writing, is still being barred from the event.
Update (April 23): The Stanford Daily has an editorial out today on the "Three Ex-Terrorists" talk, calling it "one of the most controversial events of the year" and "a disappointing forum that had more than its fair share of indoctrination." Apparently, the irony of attaching the labels "controversial" and "indoctrination" to those who critique radical Islam rather than those who softpedal or promote it (which is all too common in Mideast studies departments these days), was lost on the Stanford Daily editorial staff.
The only other piece on the event was written by Adnan Majid, vice president of the Islamic Society of Stanford University, who provides a mocking account of the evening. It seems the Stanford Daily could find no one who actually supported the event or who would at least provide an unbiased perspective to review it.
Update (April 29): Lee Kaplan provides a detailed report on the "Three Ex-Terrorists" talk at Frontpage Magazine.