I spoke on February 10 at the University of California-Berkeley to a crowd of about 550; a sizeable number could not get in. As I had expected, this was the most out-of-control talk of the roughly one thousand I have given, with a core group of about 150 Islamists, Palestinian radicals, and far-leftists constantly disrupting me, mostly with insults that I would prefer to forget.
The best and fullest account of the event is by Cinnamon Stillwell, "Fascism at UC Berkeley: Muslim Student Association Disrupts Daniel Pipes Lecture," at ChronWatch. There are some 200 comments on this – some from others who attended the event – at "Daniel Pipes at UC Berkeley," LittleGreenFootballs.com. (For first-hand accounts, see comments #27, 28, 86, 94, 107, 125, 126, 135, and 214) One person ("zombie") has posted pictures of the event. (For zombie's narrative of them, see #145 at the LittleGreenFootballs.com site.) In addition, the school paper, the Daily Californian, covered the event in an article titled "Staunch Israel Backer Attacks ‘Militant' Islam."
The videotape that my hosts were supposed to make of this event did not happen, so before commenting in any depth on what happened I am waiting to get hold of one of the several others made that evening. For the moment, suffice to say that the vice-chancellor of the university present at this event, plus the UC police arrayed at it in large numbers, both showed weakness in permitting the disruptors to dominate. I should not have been subjected to this treatment. To make matters worse, none of the offenders was arrested. I shake my head with dismay at this; and a second time on recalling that UC-Berkeley is a taxpayer-funded institution.
And this observation: The same Muslim Student Association which is under federal investigation for financing terrorism and perpetuating violence and had a direct role in disrupting my talk (as outlined in an e-mail dated Feb. 10 from "sajidah the berkeley girl") is sponsoring at Berkeley on February 13-15, 2004 a conference titled "Liberation Through Islam." Two items here are worthy of note: the session on "Preparing to Die" and the "special live talk from prison by Imam Jamil Al-Amin." Al-Amin, for those unfamiliar with the name, is a convicted cop-killer; but at Berkeley he is fêted as a distinguished speaker. (February 12, 2004)
Feb. 17, 2004 update: Several more articles have appeared on this event:
- "Time to Take a Stand Against Campus Terror," a blistering editorial from FrontPageMag.com focuses on the culpability of UC-Berkeley's administration for allowing such disruptions to take place and makes this important point: "Both of the Islamo-fascist organizations that disrupted the Berkeley event – the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine – are officially recognized student organizations funded by student fees. There is no excuse for funding organizations who are self-declared enemies of the free exchange of ideas. The University of California needs to suspend both offending groups and withdraw their funding."
- "The Pipes Speech," by Lee Kaplan of dafka.org, also at FrontPageMag.com. Kaplan focuses on the content of my talk.
- "Raucous crowd lays into Mideast pundit Pipes at U.C. Berkeley speech," by Joe Eskenazi in the Jewish weekly of San Francisco.
- "Firebrand Theater: Daniel Pipes as a cool medium," a long, strange, impressionistic piece, looking almost exclusively at the audience reaction, by Tim Cavanaugh of the libertarian magazine, Reason.
In addition, the national campus director of Students for Academic Freedom, Sara Dogan, wrote an open letter to the vice chancellor of UC-Berkeley, John Cummins (who, as I noted above, was present at the talk).
It's interesting to note that my opponents appear not to have written anything on this incident; I guess it's not exactly something they are proud of.
Feb. 20, 2004 update: I have posted a number of first-hand reports on the talk and a statement on the event by the American Jewish Muslim Alliance.
Feb. 26, 2004 update: Robert M. Berdahl, chancellor of the University of California-Berkeley, sent this letter in response to a protest about the way the university handled my talk:
February 26, 2004
I would like to respond to your inquiry about the recent lecture of Daniel Pipes on the campus.
The University faculty or some student groups occasionally have invited controversial speakers to the campus. We believe it is important to have all points of view expressed, regardless of the likelihood of criticism that ensues from those who hold opposing viewpoints. When Daniel Pipes was invited by Hillel to speak, we anticipated that pro-Palestinian students would use the occasion to protest, and we planned accordingly.
When we hold an event on campus that we can reasonably anticipate will produce heckling and potential interruptions, our purpose is to assure that the speaker is able to deliver his or her message and complete his or her speech. We can neither insist that only those who agree with the speaker attend, nor can we silence those who attend and disagree with the speaker. We can and do require that anyone who interrupts a speaker leave the event, if necessary at the insistence of the police. We took such action at the Pipes speech.
As the Daily Californian noted in its coverage:
Throughout the speech, a handful of loud commentators were escorted outside by the police, and a large faction of Pro-Palestinian students made a dramatic exit toward the end of Pipes' speech. Pipes' supporters often shouted back for those students to listen. And somewhere in between, the moderate Jews, Muslims and community members said they found little resonance in Pipes' words and even less of an opportunity for real discussion.
Did the campus meet its obligation to preserve the right of a speaker to present his or her message? I believe it did. The article from The Front Page [Magazine] concludes with the observation: "The audience gave Pipes a standing ovation with loud cheers at the conclusion of his speech."
Uncivil behavior, lamentable as it is, is not a crime, nor is it a violation of the Code of Student Conduct. No matter how ugly and hurtful may be the comments of those who dissent from the opinions of the speaker, those comments are also protected by the First Amendment, and they are punishable only when those who make them refuse to leave when asked to do so by the police.
I do wish to take exception to Mr. Pipes' comments about the Muslim Student Association at Berkeley and our Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He implied that funding for these organizations can be linked to terrorist groups and that funding originating in Saudi Arabia for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies somehow corrupts the research conducted there. Such allegations are inaccurate, without foundation, insulting, and intentionally provocative.
I hope you can appreciate how difficult these situations can be, how important it is for us to respect both the rights of speakers and the rights of dissenters. We are not perfect, but I submit that, on the whole, we handle it reasonably well.
Robert M. Berdahl
In reply to the chancellor's taking exception to my comments:
- About the Muslim Student Association: He should be aware that the Senate is looking into its connection terrorism, as I have already noted on this weblog;
- About the UC-Berkeley Center for Middle Eastern Studies: I advise him to read Martin Kramer's analysis of the corrupting effects of Saudi money.
Before labeling my words "inaccurate, without foundation, insulting, and intentionally provocative," Mr. Berdahl would do well to do just a smidgen of research.
Feb. 29, 2004 update: Jeanie Kennedy has posted an interesting account at http://www.settingtheworldtorights.com/node.php?id=293.