On Monday, April 16, Stanford University hosted a nearly full house of 500 people who heard three former terrorists now turned peace activists give presentations over why, as former Muslims, they left Jihad and rejected their backgrounds and terrorist training to embrace America, Israel and the West. Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist who has already built a name for himself at college campuses and other venues, was joined by speakers, Zack Anani and Kamal Saleem.
Professor Russell Berman of the Hoover Institute at Stanford was faculty host. Berman is not your typical college professor, as evidenced by his outspoken criticism of terrorism and terrorists. He introduced the headlined speakers by promising an evening that would be both “somber and controversial,” first calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the shootings at Virgina Tech. “You may disagree or agree with what is presented here tonight, “ he began, but stressed that the evening would be one based on courtesy and thoughtfulness. “This is Stanford, it’s not Columbia,” Berman intoned, and the audience broke up into laughter at his reference to Columbia University’s barring attendees to a similar event presented there last year that Columbia’s administrators purposely prevented access to under threats from radicals on campus.
Professor Russell Berman of Stanford
Columbia University refused to allow 125 supporters with advance reservations inside to attend a speech by Walid Shoebat making many seats go empty when a full house was anticipated.
“9/11 casts along shadow,” Berman continued, “We as a society don’t always have the strength and courage” to deny what he called “the imperialism of guilt” that always blames America first when terrorism occurs. He likewise referred to writings by authors like Dinesh De Souza who he said blame terrorism on our foreign policy and perpetuate an American attitude of always “blaming things on ourselves.” He pointed out that terrorism occurs all over the world and not just the Middle East, mentioning attacks in London, Buenos Aries and Istanbul, in Africa, all over the world, as well as in Egypt and Jordan and he criticized those he referred to as “the crowd of emulators comfortable enough to explain these events by rationalizing violence that is in fact just evil,” but are in fact actions that surpass ideological boundaries.
“How do you engage the difference between Columbine and 9/11?” he asked rhetorically, positing if it was really just political ideology or the distinct sadism of a Mohammed Atta that led to 9/11 and made it no different from the Columbine massacre. “The 20th Century politicized violence through several movements such as Nazism and Communism,” Berman continued, pointing out how “core groups” had come about that were acclimated to violence as an accepted method of political change. Such groups produced certain individuals as renegades who abandoned their party line to cast light of the inadequacies of the movements they embraced in the first place after becoming disillusioned by violence without reason. He referred to supporters of the Soviet Union who defected during the Cold War only to come back and speak against communism as an example, to educate people in the West. Using this analogy, he introduced the three terrorists who had also grown disillusioned with the violence of jihad.
Kamal Saleem was recruited to PLO at age 7
The first to speak was Kamal Saleem. A tall, handsome man in a Brooks Brothers suit and tie, and impressive speaker, he looked more like a banker than a terrorist. He began by saying, “I want to show you America on 9/11,” as he went downstage and laid down on the plank floor, suit and all, and pretended to be sleeping. He then sat up and said, “I want to show you America today after 9/11,” at which point he pretended to hit the snooze button, then went back to sleep.
Having made his point visually, Saleem told his audience he was from a family that had 14 imams, one of whom was considered a Holy of Holies. Born a Sunni Moslem in Lebanon, and not a Palestinian Arab, he discussed his recruitment into the Muslim Brotherhood at age six, soon joining the PLO after being regaled constantly at home by his father who cited the Koran: “What you do in life should never be small. God will weigh you when you die and you’ll go to hell or heaven,” his father impressed on him.
Saleem continued, “I learned to do what was right. I also learned from his reciting the Koran that the Day of Judgment won’t come until the Moslems fight the Jews and Christians.” His duty was to fight for Allah until the Muslims took over the world.
He told how as a boy he envisioned himself as an Islamic White Knight upon a white horse leading his Islamic army to kill the infidels and he asked the audience “What do your children do at six-years-old?” By age seven he was training in weaponry, including explosives and anti-personnel mines, combat and even how to slit the throats of Jews. He explained how he went on his first mission for the PLO when only seven, smuggling 50 kilo packs of explosives and ammunition in the Golan Heights to shepherds who were working with the terrorists who were as committed as he was to attacking the Jews. “I was hailed a liberator!” he bellowed to the audience. He discussed how one day in a PLO training camp, Yasser Arafat had actually praised him and kissed him on the forehead. “I didn’t bathe for two weeks. You can imagine how badly I smelled after training all day,” he said, drawing laughs from the audience. Arafat told him how Jerusalem was to be their target. “The cleansing of the Jewish blood from Jerusalem, not a state, was our goal. I hated Jews. But I loved Allah,” he practically yelled, then continued, “We learned that jihad was our path and what we desired as the highest goal was to be a martyr.” And as a child, he recruited other children like himself, including a neighbor next door. His parents expressed pride in their noble son.
Saleem lost his best friend, Mohammed, on a similar mission for the PLO. Mohammed was only six and wounded by Israeli forces that intercepted their mission and group. Saleem told us how back then, even at 7 years-old, he had put his wounded friend on his back to evacuate him, only to learn Mohammed had been shot several more times, serving as a human shield responsible for Saleem’s escaping with his own life. Mohammed died that day.
Saleem later came to the US to recruit, train and teach others on college campuses how to be as hostile as he was. Reciting sections of the Koran he used to recruit, he warned against taking Jews and Christians as allies and how he considered himself not a terrorist, but “a liberator of the truth,” whose goal was deception, to engage in taquiyya. Saleem asked, “Why is it all those who call themselves Liberal Progressives in America say they are for freedom of religion, but they don’t ask why can’t Jews and Christians live in Saudi Arabia?” He also bemoaned the treatment of his sisters and women in general where he came from as making them subject to abuse and nothing more than baby factories to make more fighters like he was as a child.
“America is not just asleep,” he warned, “America is ignorant about the Truth. Why do we allow Israel to be condemned for human rights violations by the worst violators of human rights? Why do we see American flags burned by Muslims in Washington D.C.?” He asked why so-called moderate Muslims in America do not praise America and bemoaned how only 50 people showed up at a rally of moderate Muslims to support America out of an estimated 8 million Muslims in this country. He warned against a mentality of jihad that is sweeping the Muslim world. “The UK, France, Germany, indeed, most of Europe now finds itself under a major threat from militant Islam,” he said and asked, “How long before the same thing happens to the US?” Citing President Kennedy’s exhortation to ask not what one’s country can do for you, but what you can do to help your country, Saleem contrasted it for the crowd with an old Muslim saying, “First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people…” and urged the crowd to take pride in America.
Next up was Zacharia Anani, a former Lebanese terrorist who also recounted that his family contained many Islamic religious leaders. He explained how since the age of three he was indoctrinated into what he called “the evil of the others”—to hate non-Muslims. Like Saleem, he too spent his earliest years dreaming of being a warrior knight “Carrying the skulls of the enemy.” By age 15, Anani became a “fighting machine,” a specialist at killing with daggers, and when he left Islam at age 17 after hearing a Christian missionary speak on the street one day, he already had over 200 kills in his record. He explained how being a warrior for Islam also assures ascendancy to heaven for a terrorist’s entire family even if their knowledge of the faith is not good, leading to respect in the community. At age 17, Anani decided between Christianity and Islam, choosing the former, after he decided that “Islam’s doctrine is death.”
Zachariah Anani killed over 200 people fighting in Lebanon by the time he was 17 and decided to quit jihad.
After enduring Muslim persecution as a Christian in Lebanon, Anani made his way to Canada only to find the persecution continued. His car and house were burned, and his daughter attacked. Referring to militant Islam, he warned the audience “We need to teach new generations to avoid this path.” Time after time, as some students tried to challenge the historical or societal record of Islam during the presentation, or even accused the speakers of lying, Anani expertly cited specific sections of the Koran to show they were wrong. One student had heckled another speaker by denying that Shiite and Sunni Muslims kill each other. Anani cited historical battles in the Koran during the schism over the Caliphate that left tens of thousands of Muslims from both sects dead. Given the current civil war in Iraq between Shiites and Sunnis and the ignorant response from such a student at a major university, one can appreciate the educational value of seminars like this one on a campus like Stanford. Nevertheless, several students during the question-and-answer period kept trying to deny that religious persecution takes place.
One described the genocide in Darfur as only “tribal,” yet could not deny Muslims were murdering non-Muslims in Sudan and making them slaves when confronted with the facts by the speakers.
Last to speak was Walid Shoebat. Shoebat made clear to the audience the current conflict in the Middle East, particularly regarding Israel, is not about land, or occupation, or poverty, but about faith and that militant Islam is unwilling to accept the faiths of others. A Christian convert, Shoebat explained how he had been accused of “of going from one extremist position to another” since his conversion from Islam and accused of “preaching hate.” However, he deflected that by saying, “In America you can criticize religion. Criticizing a religion is not hate, it is freedom of speech.” Christians and Jews also get criticism from him, he explained, and that is what makes America such a great country.
He explained the real causes of terrorism and events such as 9/11 had to do with goals of Islamic hegemony. “Christians proselytize too much,” he said, “But while a Christian fundamentalist will only give you a headache, a Muslim fundamentalist will chop the whole head off.” The PLO has Christian Arab wings he explained, yet there are no Christian Palestinian suicide bombers, an illustration of the difference between the faiths (in fact, there has been only one Christian Arab suicide bomber to date) and how even while Shoebat himself was a member of the PLO, the Christian faction of the terrorist group would only recruit Muslims to do suicide bombings for them rather than send a Christian to do so.
Walid Shoebat quit the PLO and today speaks out against Jihad.
“Fundamentalist Islam existed long before Israel,” he told the audience. 1.2 million Arabs live inside Israel with no problem, yet the Islamic world screams it wants Jews removed from Palestine.” Accused of speaking out for money, he explained, “I hate this job. I have to conceal my identity and where I live and worry for the safety of my family to get the truth out to the world.” He said he made more money in his software business without the death threats and risks involved and went on to explain how the defeat of Russia in Afghanistan (with US help) and the recent Hezbollah war with Israel had emboldened the militant Islamic world to take on America, current peace initiatives being merely temporary ceasefires (hudnas in Arabic) to regroup and attack the West again when Islam is stronger. He said he feared the damage done by college professors who teach in American universities praise for militant Islamic movements all out of proportion to the reality of what those movements want to achieve and represent, and described the pro-Palestinian movement on our campuses and worldwide today as “a psychosis, not a state.” He warned that America is ignoring history and facing its own threat of occupation, one of its children’s minds by a movement that seeks to destroy those who do not agree with it.
The evening concluded with a standing ovation by the crowd.