A Jihad Watch reader attended the Georgetown University presentation on "Islamophobia" last week and kindly sent in this report. I wrote about this presentation here before it happened, saying that it would not be a true academic inquiry, amassing the facts and training the student to make an informed judgment, but an exercise in propaganda, attempting to manipulate attendees into holding certain opinions and skewing the presentation to ensure that those opinions would be the only ones anyone could come away with. This report shows that that was indeed what it was, with professors Daniel Varisco and John Esposito openly avowing that they have no interest in genuine academic discussion and inquiry, but merely in using their university positions as a forum for their propaganda.
One obvious indication of that is their refusal to debate me because they don't want to give me a forum at Georgetown (or any other university). The fact is, they already gave me a forum at Georgetown by examining me as a subject in this presentation. But they want to remain in entire control of that forum, only telling the students what they want them to know about me and other supposed "Islamophobes" — while by contrast, I stand ready to debate them or any of the other pushers of the "Islamophobia" myth.
In other words, I am willing to stand before public challenges to my work, and risk being shown up and proven wrong. They aren't. They are clearly afraid of me and my influence, or I wouldn't have been mentioned at this little charade of an academic forum at all; but they're so desperately insecure about their position that they don't think it can stand up to challenge. Meanwhile, while they deride me as a propagandizing "Islamophobe," I am willing to discuss, debate, explain, and defend my positions, which is what a real academic should do. They have the positions, the power, the prestige, and the paychecks, and I do not. But in the final analysis, their refusal to debate me or any "Islamophobe" is a clear and certain indication of who the real propagandists, and the real academics, really are.
A genuine seminar on "Islamophobia" would have someone like Varisco or Esposito and someone like me, and the discussion would be on the question of whether concern over jihad terror and Islamic supremacism is legitimate or whether it is just "Islamophobia," and on when, if ever, legitimate concern over jihad becomes "hatred and bigotry." It would examine whether "Islamophobia" is a genuine concern over the vilification and victimization of innocent Muslims, or a term used to intimidate people into thinking that resisting jihad terror is somehow wrong. That could be a genuinely illuminating discussion. I'm willing. Varisco and Esposito aren't. And that tells you everything.
I attended the briefing: "Khutba vs. Khutzpa: Islamophobia on the Internet" by Dr. Daniel Varisco at the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) at Georgetown University on 2/26/2014. About two dozen people attended and sat around a conference table and side chairs. About a handful identified themselves as professors when Varisco asked. Varisco and John Esposito (GU Professor and Founding Director of the ACMCU) were at the head of the table.
Varisco began with "What is Islamophobia?" Esposito asked Varisco if he had seen the recent posting from Robert Spencer about a pill for Islamophobia. I had read this satirical piece, but it seemed as if no one else in the room had. Varisco looked as puzzled as everyone else. I don't recall he said anything. Esposito shared details about it with everyone. He explained that the piece had him with CAIR announcing the discovery of a pill for Islamophobia. Esposito shook his head as if he couldn't believe such craziness. I recall laughter around the table and someone (not sure who because people were walking past me — it could have been Esposito) saying, "If only it were that easy."
Varisco based his definition of "Islamophobia" on the 1991 Runnymede Trust Report describing it as "unfounded hostility towards Muslims and therefore fear or dislike." He mentioned that he finds fascinating a 2008 book by Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg that looks at political cartoons and stereotypes. Apparently they conveyed the idea that Islamophobia is what he called "a social anxiety."
He said "Islamophobia is not new, nor has it been without critics." He referenced Saracens (John Toland, 2002), " a very sore plague," and the Venerable Bede, who died in 735 CE. He had a slide citing Dante's Inferno Canto 28 (1314), with a picture of Mohammed gutted in the Inferno. He mentioned a film that he wants to see, L'Inferno, a 1911 Italian silent film by Giuseppe di Liguro. He included a picture of a 2010 video game called Dante's Inferno and commented that Mohammed had been removed from the game.
He showed a slide of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary (1797), and he pointed out that payments of trust to the Barbary state were 20% of the United States Government's annual revenues in 1800. He mentioned Royall Tyler and The Algerine Captive (1797), which deals with the issue of the Barbary Pirates through a character in the book.
The next section was on social anxiety in our country regarding Muslims and "purported Muslims." He mentioned that the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith was called "The Ontario Mohamet." He had a slide of a section of the Supreme Court Building frieze from 1930s which shows Mohammed with a Quran and a sword "as a lawgiver," next to Charlemagne and others.
Then followed a section entitled "Surfing the Islamophobic Turf," a slide of websites:
- Answering Islam: a Christian – Muslim dialogue (he pointed out there is no dialogue).
- Clarion Project
- Jack Chick – www.chick.com (He said that Chick hates Communists, Catholics, and Muslims, and views all these as satanic. Varisco added he grew up in a Fundamentalist Baptist house and his church had "Chick tracts." He had a copy of The Prophet, which he passed around. It is a cartoon book that claims that Islam is a Catholic plot. He mentioned other Chick comics by Alberto Rivera that focus on secret books in the Vatican, and he showed samples that blamed some Vatican secrets on the KGB. The comic book has information on the back about how to get Jesus into your heart. He mentioned you can get an App in iTunes for a Chick Tract Pack.
- Frontpagemag (Obsession movie)
- Jihad Watch. He had a Robert Spencer quotation: "Islam itself is an incomplete, misleading, and often downright false revelation…" He included the Jihad Watch site posting about this talk today and Robert Spencer's statement that he would be happy to debate Varisco and is available to do so. He said, "I have no desire to debate Robert Spencer." Both he and Esposito added, "When you see who his friends are, you'll know what we're up against." They both nodded in agreement about that.
Then followed "Fallacy Watch," a random collection of slides from the presentation.
One depicted a flier from George Washington University's Young Americans Foundation, saying, "Hate Muslims? So do we!" I was not sure what his point was about this, as I was not familiar with it. In looking this up later, I saw that it was a fake, fabricated by foes of the YAF to discredit it. Varisco did not point out during his presentation that it was a fake, but used it to show misconceptions that people have about Muslims.
Varisco said that another fallacy was that Arab = Muslim. He included a picture of Eurabia: Land of Dhimmitude by Bat Ye'or. He also mentioned his own Tabsir blog, which he runs. He had a slide of a comment that "Islam is evil and immoral at its core," and another about Mohammed as a pedophile and cruel to women, from Bibleprobe.com/muhammed. He had a photo of a half-buried woman with stones around her. Regarding this stoning photo, Varisco commented: "I'm not saying these things don't happen, but the use of them and disinformation is a concern…"
He showed something from www.joelstrup.com depicting Muslims as antichrist, mentioning Psalm 83 and Revelation 9:17. He went on to display sample pictures from 1843 which said that Muslims are the 5th and 6th trumpets of Revelation. He also depicted as Islamophobic the idea that jihad against non-Muslims is a central belief, and downplayed concerns that Muslims want to take over the world. Among voices countering this, he mentioned Americans against Islamophobia, Professor Juan Cole, Omid Safi's "What Would Mohammed Do?," and more.
Then he moved on to explain how to combat Islamophobia:
- Emphasize contemporary diversity of Muslim views.
- Create sites that respectfully counter existing Islamophobic sites.
- "Recognize no religion is pure."
- Study diversity.
- "Study Islam with a small 'i'."
Q & A:
1. There was a question regarding popular culture. Esposito mentioned that Islamophobic websites score high on the Alexa website, which shows how many hits a website gets. Esposito said that he is soon going to launch a five-year program investigating Islamophobia. With it, he said that he would bring forth "alternative narratives to impact social media," in order to reach a significant number of Americans.
2. A student asked: "Speaking as the only black person in this room, if Islamophobia is not a race issue, how is it a dangerous thing to have an opinion?" He mentioned that his father is from Somalia and he knows about "extremist Islam." Varisco said, "No religion is pure," and responded with something to the effect that Somalia was not allowed to rule itself, and began speaking about the Arab Spring and the history of dictators in many Muslim countries. Muslims fighting Muslims is an "environment where hate has taken over." He said that pluralism is a problem when "what you're saying is dangerous." His example: burning the Quran.
3. Question/comment: "It's a weak argument that Islamophobia goes way back." Esposito explained the connection between Islamophobia and the right wing, specifically evangelicals. Varisco explained that "tribe is an issue. In Yemen, tribe is civil society. Tribal systems have been affected."
4. Question/comment re: In Afghanistan you have tribes vs. Pakistan. All is funded by Saudis and Qatar. Varisco agreed that we should ask who is funding whom.
5. Question re: Why not debates? Varisco discounted the idea of debates, implying they have little or no value. His example was a recent debate on evolution between Bill Nye and Ken Ham (a skilled debater). The answer from both Varisco and Esposito was that it would give Robert Spencer legitimacy to debate him at Georgetown. Varisco said: "I would never give a person like that a forum. There is little value to debating Islamophobic speakers in academic settings, since it gives them a forum."