Daniel Pipes is a Harvard-trained academic, prolific author, columnist, and high-profile Middle East analyst. He's also a wildly controversial polemicist. He has made a career defending Israel, bashing "militant Islam," and claiming that all Muslim fundamentalists must be seen as "potential killers."
Still, it is disturbing to hear that fears for Pipes' safety arose this week at York University, and nearly prevented him from speaking there.
The Jewish Student Federation had booked him to appear next Tuesday in the Student Centre restaurant. But the centre backed out after some students warned that Pipes might offend, or trigger protests, with his provocative views.
Instead of buckling, York President Lorna Marsden and her staff plan to salvage the event by offering Pipes another, more secure venue. They're doing the right thing.
The uproar at Concordia University in Montreal on Sept. 9 is clearly being felt at campuses elsewhere in Canada. Students there rioted to prevent a speech by Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu. It was ugly.
Silencing partisan public debate is not the Canadian way. It's especially odious at a university where academic freedom and wide exchanges of ideas are to be encouraged.
No topic, not even the Mideast conflict, should be off-limits, provided Canada's laws against preaching hatred are respected. And while protest is an accepted tradition at controversial events, physical intimidation and violent disruption are not.
However offensive Pipes' views may be to some, York University is right to save this event. It is time Canadians drew a tough and principled line on this academic chill. And Toronto, the country's multicultural capital, is a fine place to draw that line. We are a diverse family. We must also be a tolerant one.