Although expert Daniel Pipes came to the University of Oklahoma to talk about militant Islam Tuesday night, he instead found himself spending a lot of time talking about his organization's 2-week-old Web site, www.campus-watch.org.
Students and others who attended the forum, which was held at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, fired questions at Pipes about the Web site, saying that the site asked students and professors to spy on other professors.
Pipes opened his talk addressing the issue, after a story and several letters to the editor ran Tuesday in the OU student newspaper.
The Web site is a project of the Middle East Forum based in Philadelphia, where Pipes is the director. He said the forum is a "small think tank."
"We are not seeking to impeach the freedom of speech or derail anyone's career," Pipes said. "We are seeking to improve Middle Eastern Studies. If you don't like it, you can ignore us or criticize us, but we have the right to criticize others in our profession."
The Web site states that, "Campus Watch consists of American academics concerned about U.S. interests and their frequent denigration on campus. Those interests include strong ties with Israel, Turkey and other democracies as they emerge; human rights throughout the region; a stable supply and a low price of oil; and the peaceful settlement of regional and international disputes.
"Campus Watch will henceforth monitor and gather information on professors who fan the flames of disinformation, incitement and ignorance. Campus Watch will critique these specialists, and make available its findings on the Internet and in the media."
Several OU students and faculty at the lecture criticized the Web site, saying it was asking students to spy on their professors.
Two student groups handed out fliers as people entered the museum defending academic freedom and speaking out against war.
Mohammad Alramahi, president of the OU Arab Student Association, said the Campus Watch Web site was against academic freedom.
"If you want students to be spies, what kind of education are you going to have?" Alramahi said.
Stefanie Collins, president of Amnesty International, was representing OU students against war.
She said Pipes is encouraging war, and war is not the answer.
"War does not solve the problem, and that's what he's advocating," she said.
Both Collins and Alramahi said they were not against Pipes lecturing at OU because he has a right to express his opinion. They just wanted the right to express their own opinions, as well.
Pipes said after the lecture that he was not disappointed at the attention his organization's Web site drew at the lecture, but was not happy with the distortion of what the Web site represents and its purpose.
"I am delighted that it has succeeded," Pipes said. "Our message has gotten out there."
The Web site was launched Sept. 18 and has already received 100,000 hits and 2,000 e-mails, Pipes said.
Pipes encouraged anyone who disagrees with the Web site to go to www.campus-watch.com.
He said the Web site is "dedicated to celebrating student activism for human rights, congratulating and supporting those professors unafraid of presenting a vision of justice, and confronting those who would see academic freedom and freedom of speech suppressed in the name of fighting terrorism."