On April 11th, 2013, I participated in a public forum entitled "Islamists Rising in the Middle East: Where Next for America?"
The panel was held at the University of California at Davis, (UCD), as a free event for the community, organized by the student club of the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI).
As an alum of nearby UC Berkeley, I expected some interest in the program, having previously documented campus radicalism in California.
The panel included a leading scholar on the Middle East, Daniel Pipes, known for well-informed and well-traveled insights. His main theme for the evening was that radical Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution.
Joining Dr. Pipes and myself was Elan Journo, a thoughtful author on international affairs and ARI professional.
Our panel explored fundamentalist Islamic text, law, theory, and practice, the rise of the third Jihad, global Islamic violence and terrorism, the concept of abrogation (later Koranic verses replace earlier, more peaceful ones), martyrdom ideology, UN Bias against Israel, and how the Revolutionary Republic of Iran has long deceived the West about its nuclear proliferation program.
Interestingly, 4 days before the terror attacks in Boston, we also focused on Central Asian radicalism, including Chechen Islamists.
The audience was polite and offered sincere applause at several points. There was a spirit of calm, thoughtful learning, and the organizers and attendees are to be complimented for inviting, allowing, and participating in the event. We did not hold back from castigating violent Islamist actions and Jihadist ideology. One self-identified Muslim Student Association leader rose to challenge our views, but he offered not a single rebuttal to our fact-based presentation.
All good, right? Except for the fact that on the day of the event, the California Aggie, the weekly student newspaper, published a letter to the UC Davis Chancellor condemning the "hate" speakers as "racist" and "Islamophobic."
This pre-emptive, censorious, and libelous attack, by an organized group of campus students and faculty leftists, failed to prevent the event, but threats of disruption required campus police and security to be present, at taxpayer expense (the student group received no funding from the University for the program).
However, a week later, it was revealed in a letter to the editor at the Aggie that the UC Davis administration had been intimidated into responding to the students with its own letter full of careful language opposing "hate speech."
Campus officials might do well to note and advise in the future that free speech implies no feelings protection for those who assert "offense" at speakers whose views they detest. The truth may hurt, but that doesn't make it hateful.
Unfortunately, the radical students had another trick up their sleeve. They proposed Senate Resolution 21, asserting concerns about the event and longstanding upset with author David Horowitz, and UC Santa Cruz teacher Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, frequent critics of abusive bullying of Jewish students on UC campuses.
This resolution follows similar student government resolutions passed at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara condemning "hate speech."
The bottom line is that there is a dedicated political strategy within radical Islam to smear critics of Jihadi violence as "discriminatory," proclaim offense at "hate speech," and label scholarship and teaching about human rights abuse and mass murder of Christians, for example, throughout Araby and the Middle East, as "Islamophobic."
If I needed a further clarification of just how far left the campus environment has become, this was a fresh reminder. But, what is interesting in my own case is that I truly do distinguish between radical Islamism and pro-West, peaceful Muslims who specifically and forcefully and repeatedly reject extremist, violent Islamism.
It is one thing for soft-hearted, utopian liberals to preach peace and to wax lovingly for all mankind. They often have no background in military-security affairs, and no standing in the circles of patriotic defense of our country. Mere sentiments by fools with a poor grasp of reality.
Of course, we know the hate-America crowd cheered the Boston Marathon massacre (that's you, UN Rapporteur Richard Falk, and Palestinians on the streets), but they aren't liberals; they are enemies of decency.
It is quite another path for conservatives to offer dialogue and connection to Muslim anti-Islamists. We are rooted in hard-headed knowledge of, and advocacy against, such Islamo-fascist behavior as female genital mutilation and honor killings, and Sharia-based murder, beheadings, fatwas, incitement, and persecutions emanating from Madrassas, mosques, the Arab media, and radical Imams.
It is therefore constructive and credible for severe critics of violent Jihad to note and applaud Muslim critics of anti-Americanism, and of anti-Christianism and anti-Semitism as well.
On April 15th, 2013, the day of the Boston Islamic terrorist attacks, I was on a flight to the Republic of Turkey to participate in a media tour and build relationships with advocates of positive relations between Americans and moderate Muslims.
In a series of televised interviews and private meetings with business, political, and cultural leaders, I offered appreciation to Muslims who have repeatedly stood up against radical Islam, violence against the West, terrorism, and the kidnapping of the Koran by extreme voices.
Indeed, there are non-radical Muslim scholars and thinkers who have long denounced Jihadi terrorism and reject their violent interpretation of the Koran.
Turkey, a majority-Muslim nation of over 75 million citizens, is an American ally. A member of NATO, Turkey hosts both Patriot Missile Defense against threats by the Assad regime in Syria, as well as Forward Based X-Band radars that couple with Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries to help protect Europe, Israel, the U.S., and Turkish territory from Iranian ballistic missile threats.
Strategically located between Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, Turkey has its hands full seeking resolution to its own decades-long terror problem in the form of the Marxist-Kurdish PKK, along with regional challenges in Cyprus/Greece, Armenia/Azerbaijan, and the Balkans.
Turkey must also deal with refugees from Syria, fallout from Iraqi sectarian violence, a powerful neighbor in Russia, and the aforementioned Iran.
Turkey is not perfect. The modern Turkish state is less than 100 years old, and has bounced between military rule and democratic progress.
Current Prime Minister Erdogan is credited with economic growth and stable politics, but has been dismissive of concerns about his treatment of his critics. His attitude towards Israel has been unfriendly, though the Turks are now at the table of reconciliation with Israel after a controversial Israeli apology for the Mavi Marmara deaths of a few years ago.
Historically, the Ottoman Empire, which lasted over 600 years, was unlike the bloodthirsty modern Arab wars against Israel and the West. Today, Turkey remains rooted in Kemalist secularism, though it now seeks passive, not aggressive, treatment of religionists (read: more religious schools and dress are allowed).
By most standards, though, Turks model modernity for the entire Muslim world.
Impressive Istanbul offers cultural riches, dynamic economic opportunity, a diverse private sector, and the famous, gracious hospitality of the Turkish people.
The Turks are confident, conspiratorial, and clever. They are also respectful of religious minorities, and completely opposed to violent Islamists who have declared war against reason and humanity.
Traditions of flexibility and pragmatism, along with growing economic power, political maturity, and diplomatic sophistication have made the Republic of Turkey the key to building bridges between the East and West. Diplomats and investors alike are therefore grabbing onto Turkey's rising regional star and hanging on for the ride.
This is all lost on un-informed student radicals at UC Davis, who have failed on all fronts. They failed to take the opportunity to learn from a scholarly panel; they failed to stop the campus community from hearing some truthful free speech about radical Islam; and they are unaware of conservatives with bona fides in confronting the Jihad (Daniel Pearl was my boyhood pal) who engage with and applaud moderate Muslims who regularly speak out against both militant and politically hostile Islamism.
But, of course, radical Islamists and their leftist defenders actually have no interest in secularist Muslims, or the honorable goal of befriending and encouraging them in the battle for the future of both Islam and Western peace, freedom, and security.