Some have asked me to tell more about my having been disinvited from speaking at an Australian university quite a number of years ago. (I briefly alluded to the experience in a prior blog entry that was entitled "From a ridiculous obnoxious arrogant lunatic.")
Truth be told, alas, I don't recall many of the details. I don't even recall which university it was or in which Australian city it was located. It happened during the lead-up to a trip to Australia — I've made four or five such trips to lecture, and this was not the most recent nor even the second most recent of them — during which I was going to be lecturing at a number of schools there. I was still in the United States at the time. Suddenly, though, I was not welcome.
I was given some of the background of my disinvitation by whomever it was locally that had been setting up the lecture. It seems that somebody at the school discovered that I appeared on a list of "Recommended Professors" at Campus Watch, something affiliated with the Middle East Forum or MEF. I had not previously been aware of that fact. As Campus Watch itself notes of its list of recommended professors, "Individuals listed here are done so at Campus Watch's initiative; they have neither asked to be included, nor have we asked for their authorization." Now, the MEF was founded by Daniel Pipes, a very controversial scholar of the Middle East (originally a medievalist) whom I do not recall ever having met. Apparently, my association with Dr. Pipes — such as it was! — was enough to convince some quick-thinking administrator or other at that Australian school that I was likely to be a fire-breathing, offensive, and divisive anti-Muslim bigot.
It's unfortunate that he or she hadn't instead run across an article like one that was published in the Christian Science Monitor on 1 November 2018. That date was far too late, I know, but it was hardly the first such piece to have appeared and it had the advantage of actually quoting me:
"The conservative Christian college where Muslims feel welcome: Being a tiny minority in a community can amplify differences. But at BYU, a common history of being the "other" leads to a learning atmosphere of empathy."
Heck, even this 13 March 1999 New York Times piece by Gustav Niebuhr –who also quotes me — might have helped:
Snap judgments are, it seems, often wrong. But who could ever have guessed that?