A diverse crowd of about 200 members of the Penn State community gathered last night to hear a lecture by Daniel Pipes, a nationally recognized commentator on the Middle East.
Pipes' lecture and past political commentary created some controversy, causing some offended students to walk out and others to silently demonstrate their opposition.
Pipes spoke for 20 minutes about the "delicate issue" of the war on terror. Students were able to ask questions for the remaining 40 minutes.
Pipes said the United States is focused on the violence of terrorism and has not yet identified militant Islam as the enemy, which he said is the real threat. He said militant Islam groups like the Taliban are "highly intolerant of those who disagree with them" and see the United States as an obstacle on their quest for control.
Pipes said defeating militant Islam and strengthening a non-extremist, moderate Islam could lessen the violence.
"Militant Islam is the problem; moderate Islam is the solution," Pipes said.
Some students opposed Pipes based on past controversial comments he has made on television and in writing.
About six pairs of students stood and faced the audience during the question and answer period with toilet paper wrapped around their mouths and signs that opposed Campus Watch, a nationwide organization run by Pipes.
According to the Web site www.campuswatch.org, the organization "reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them." Students who opposed Pipes said Campus Watch criticizes professors.
"This is an attempt to silence people in the academic community who disagree with his very conservative and one-sided opinion of what Middle Eastern conflict should be," Ian Thompson (junior-international politics) said.
Thompson said the Web site lists the names of professors who have made questionable assertions according to Pipes. He said it implies that professors with opinions different from Pipes' are wrong.
During the question and answer period, the audience wrote questions on note cards and submitted them to Pipes. A regulator of the lecture, Tuvia Abramson, read and selected which questions Pipes could answer.
Some audience members were annoyed that about half of the questions were censored and not answered by Pipes. A few people walked out when Pipes wouldn't answer certain questions.
"So you're going to choose what you want to answer and what you don't?" one student called out.
Abramson said he was censoring the questions to avoid conflict with a sensitive subject. He said Muslim students might be offended, and he wanted to ease the tension of the situation.
Other people weren't offended by the lecture.
"He was less controversial than I expected. I heard he was going to be extremely biased against the general Muslim population," Rachel Chain (junior-history) said.
Organizer Nomi Deutch said despite the opposition, she felt the program was successful.
"I'm glad everyone came out. There was a good diversity of students," Deutch said. "I hope that we started some sort of dialogue on campus."