Yesterday, it was announced via press release that the joint Washington Post and Newsweek blog On Faith will be hosting an "online dialogue" from July 22-27 during which Muslim clerics, thinkers, and related figures will discuss "religion, terrorism and human rights."
Titled "Muslims Speak Out," the event is being held in conjunction with Georgetown University and perhaps not coincidentally, religion, international affairs, and Islamic studies professor John Esposito will be one of the panelists.
Esposito, along with being a regular contributor to the On Faith blog, is the founding director of Georgetown's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. It is so named after its Saudi patron, Prince Alwaleed bin Talel, who is not known for his moderate views. Neither, by the way, is Esposito who has consistently taken an apologetic stance towards Islamism, not to mention demonstrating a marked hostility towards the efforts of the United States and Israel to combat such forces.
Esposito's commentary to this effect has garnered him several entries in the Campus Watch "Quote of the Month" feature, including the following gems:
Esposito explained that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter; and that terrorism, as seen in the case of Israel's or the Tel Aviv regime's treatment of Palestinians, can and has been used to legitimate wanton violence and continued acts of oppression.
Esposito speaking at the Conference for Civilisational Dialogue at Malaya University, September 1997. (link to source)"While stories on global terrorism and domestic threats are important to us all, at the same time how many stories have gone one step further and focused on the thousands of Muslims indiscriminately arrested, detained, monitored and interviewed and not found guilt or released for lack of evidence; the number of Islamic charities shut down but despite the passage of years not successfully prosecuted; the continued detention of Muslims like Prof. Sami al-Arian..."
Esposito blogging on March 28, 2007 at On Faith about Sami al-Arian, the former University of South Flordia professor imprisoned for aiding the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad. (link to source)
"I have the world's greatest job because I've been saying the same thing for 30 years. Can anybody else make that claim?"
Esposito speaking about "Understanding Islam" at the University of Missouri, April, 2005. (link to source)
Esposito has indeed been saying the same thing for some time and his words offer no more illumination to students of Middle East studies today than they did 30 years ago. His inclusion in "Muslims Speak Out" hardly bodes well for a well-rounded and objective look at a crucial topic. But considering some of the unsavory characters on the panel, Esposito will be in good company.
The entire event is emblematic of the continuing blindness in this country as to who constitutes true allies among the Muslim community, as well experts in Middle East studies on related issues. The fact that Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes, who's in charge of "building bridges" between America and the Muslim world, is a devoted acolyte of Esposito's work says it all.