WORCESTER-- Some area Muslims are upset about a speaker scheduled to give a lecture tonight at the College of the Holy Cross, saying he spreads messages laced with anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic remarks.
The speaker is Daniel Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum. Peace activists and university faculty and students here have signed petitions protesting his statements and the forum's "Campus Watch" Web site.
The petitions are circulating on city campuses and at Anna Maria College in Paxton. The petitions state that the Web site offers selective and slanderous representations of various colleges and universities and individual faculty members with the assumption that there is a correct way to represent a subject as complex as the Middle East.
Petitioners did not ask that the invitation to Mr. Pipes be withdrawn, but that his controversial Web site be brought to the public's attention.
Mr. Pipes is scheduled to speak at 8 p.m. in the Hogan Campus Center Ballroom on "Militant Islam and the War on Terror," a free lecture that is open to the public.
Holy Cross senior Awais Ahsan, president of the Muslim Endeavor to Create Cultural Awareness -- or MECCA, for short -- said Mr. Pipes has written some "very derogatory depictions of Muslims," including references to what he calls their strange-smelling foods and sense of hygiene.
Mr. Ahsan said Muslims are required by their religion to follow "salat," the practice of prayer five times a day. They are also required to wash themselves in a prescribed way, a ritual known as "wudu."
Cleansing oneself is done continually throughout a day, he said, which is contradictory to what Mr. Pipes implies.
Muslim students from Holy Cross, Clark and Worcester State College are planning to protest tonight and to ask questions of Mr. Pipes after he finishes speaking.
"He's for a war against Iraq," Mr. Ahsan said.
Mr. Pipes' speaking engagement is sponsored by the college's Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture, a campus Peace and Conflict Studies Program, the Wilmington, Del., educational foundation Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts in Worcester.
Imrana Soofi, director of American Muslim Community Link in Worcester, said sponsorship by the Jewish federation was particularly upsetting, considering that Muslims have attended numerous interfaith services here to promote communication between Jews and Muslims.
"The Jewish community has gone through experiences of being targeted," she said. "Why sponsor a speaker who is going to suggest such things regarding another community?"
The intercollegiate institute's support is troubling, as well, she said, because of its conservative movement on college campuses.
The Muslim community is also concerned about the potential negative impact of Mr. Pipes' speech and the possibility that he will support profiling, targeting and monitoring Muslims. Such talk encourages harassment, intimidation and causes schisms between the Muslim community and the community at large, she said.
"We experience bad things by what he says," Ms. Soofi said.
Boston lawyer Imran Nasrullah, who lives in Ashland, said he objects to Mr. Pipes' strategy of hiding behind the war on terrorism to bash Muslims and their religion.
While Islamic fundamentalists have been identified as terrorists, not all those who follow the Islam faith are fundamentalists. An estimated 7 million Muslims live in this country.
"His is a collective grouping of Muslims of various shades and levels of belief," he said. "He never says what is the standard to declare a person an Islamist or a fundamentalist."
The impetus to bring Mr. Pipes to campus began with Holy Cross political science professor David L. Schaefer, who earlier was instrumental in stopping the Rev. Michael Prior, a London professor, from speaking because of the educator's alleged anti-Semitic leanings.
Mr. Schaefer said the Jewish community, of which he is a member, is eager for harmonious relations with the Muslim community. He sees no reason why Muslims would feel irate or defensive about a lecture that criticizes Islamic fundamentalism.
"There's nothing in the invitation to Mr. Pipes that is cause for offense on the part of the Muslim community," the professor said. "He is invited as a scholar, and not in connection with Campus Watch."
Long before Sept. 11, he continued, Mr. Pipes established himself as an academic expert on Islam.
Mr. Pipes is author of 11 books, many dealing with the Middle East. He is a columnist for the New York Post and The Jerusalem Post, according to his Web site.
He received a doctorate in history from Harvard University and spent six years studying abroad, including three years in Egypt. He has taught at the University of Chicago, Harvard and the U.S. Naval War College. Mr. Pipes has made appearances on such network television programs as "Crossfire," "ABC World News," "CBS Reports," and "NewsHour" with Jim Lehrer. He has written for publications including the Atlantic Monthly, Commentary, National Review and New Republic.
Mr. Schaefer said Mr. Pipes' 1994 book, "In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power" is an informative survey of the difficulties in establishing a stable free government in the Islamic world and does not command readers to subscribe to any one position.