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The Campus Jihad: A Change of Tactics? By: Robert Spencer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 24, 2008

Last week I spoke at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and since then I have spoken at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Scranton, and it appears from what happened at all three places that the campus Left and its jihadist allies have shifted their tactics.

The security arrangements that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee had in place for my talk were extensive. I had a meeting before my talk with the very courteous, knowledgeable and efficient security chief for the university, who explained to me the measures they had in place, including placing a large number of security personnel at various points all over the hall, and having everyone who entered the venue pass through a metal detector. Everyone who entered also had to have a ticket. On one side the ticket said, “Robert Spencer Lecture, October 16, 2008, 7:30PM. Tickets do not guarantee entry. All patrons must pass thru security screening for entry.” On the other side were printed “Audience Behavior Guidelines.” These included: “Audience Members Must Remain Seated...No Sticks or Standards...Noise levels that impede the program’s progress or the audience’s ability to hear shall not be permitted....Objects may not be thrown: The throwing of any objects will not be tolerated” and “Force or Violence Notification: Behavior that infringes on the safety of others or endangers university property shall not be permitted.

The Rushdiean security precautions and these warnings were all necessary because of the fascist tactics of trying to intimidate and shout down opponents that students and others at UWM have employed in the past against speakers such as David Horowitz and Walid Shoebat. It also became necessary after the MSA published a highly defamatory advertisement about me in the student paper the week before I went to the campus -- apparently free of charge (our ad was headed “Paid Advertisement,” while the MSA’s hit piece, which was the same size as our ad, is headed “Advertisement.”) It is also noteworthy that the paper required evidence for the truth of every assertion we made in our ad, or they would not print it -- we happily complied, but clearly the MSA was not asked for any evidence for their wild assertions, or their ad never would have appeared.

University officials appeared determined not to witness a reprise of the fascist thuggery that the Left and the apologists for Islamic terror employed before, and I commend them for that. The student group was also well organized and determined in the face of enormous opposition, and I am in awe of these students who live day in and day out in these hostile environments and maintain their hope and determination to fight for what is right.

And ultimately the clear signs that fascist intimidation was not going to succeed this time paid off: the crowd stayed quiet all through my talk, I didn’t even see any protest signs, and even the question period was generally a fruitful discussion rather than a series of hostile and arrogant counter-lectures (although there were a few attempts at those). This was rather surprising given the fact that some MSA members had told students who organized the event that they were planning to disrupt it. In North Carolina Monday evening, there were no hostile students at the lecture at all, or if there were, they said nothing the entire night; in Scranton on Tuesday, while several students rolled their eyes and smiled mockingly at many points during my talk, none of them ventured even to ask me a question.

All this does not, however, turn out to result from a newfound respect for freedom of speech and civil discourse. Rather, it is just a change of tactics, akin to the shift represented by the movement from the riots over the cartoons of Muhammad to the UN anti-free speech initiatives after the film Fitna. It appears to be a decision to pursue the stealth jihad rather than open confrontation. In this case, you can call it the YouTube Effect. The jihadists, their allies, and their dupes have realized how bad they look when they try to intimidate and shout down anti-jihadists. Evidence comes from an email circulated this week by the Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of California at Berkeley:

Dear SJP members,

In the next few weeks, other campus organizations will be sponsoring vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian speakers, including Daniel Pipes and Walid Shoebat.

While we are deeply offended by the racist logic and arguments that these speakers present, we would like to emphasize that disruptions are not a productive use of time. If you feel pressed to attend one of these events, please do so, but do so in a manner that is respectful of student organizers who have spent their time putting these events together, and also other audience members who do want to hear the speakers.

If the fact that these people are so blatant with their racism makes you angry, then you have every right to feel that way, but consider writing an op-ed, Facebook note, blog post, starting a Facebook group, or coming to the next SJP meeting instead, as a constructive alternative. The time to make opposing arguments is during question and answer sessions, and by setting up alternative events or passing out flyers-- not by creating loud disruptions or preventing the speakers from talking.

Thanks to those who attended our successful event tonight with Professors Norman Finkelstein and John Dugard. During the event, members of another student organization loudly and rudely disrupted the speakers and began to yell obscenities at them. You can see the video here.

The video speaks for itself, but let it also serve as a reminder to all of us in our activism: before you do anything, imagine what it might feel like to see yourself doing it on YouTube first. If it still seems like a good idea, go for it. But if you’re going to look like a moron, try not to.

They may also have figured out that when they act like fascist thugs, their behavior becomes national news -- David Horowitz was on FoxNews last year talking about the treatment he received at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee -- but when they behave in a reasonably civilized manner, the anti-jihad message doesn’t get on Fox or anywhere else beyond the people who were in the hall.

Nevertheless, this strategy has a downside: the people who are present can see for themselves that their slander and propaganda is...slander and propaganda. Witness these comments by one student who attended my talk in Madison and sharply disagrees with me:

I went with a feeling of apprehension and expectations of a repetition of last year’s charade during David Horowitz’s lecture. And I have to admit I was wrong. Spencer was very respectful in his speech, he laid out his case without attacking anyone, and he even thanked the audience for not interrupting his speech. I personally had a brief exchange with him during the Q-and-A session which was very calm and respectful. And for that, I thank him.

And here is another from a student in Milwaukee:

[...] I would like to tell you that just as our university did not live up to the rumors you had heard, you did not live up to your reputation of being a crazy, muslim-hater. I was very nervous to hear you speak, and was afraid that I would be hearing more of the same hate. All of your points were well-spoken, well-researched, and quite frankly I do not see the controversy of it. [...] I think that what you are doing is very great, you are drawing attention to a problem in the face of opposition and I hope to do the same with my life. I would like to say that yesterday before the lecture I expected you to be more of the same, but I have to say that you are the closest thing I’ve found to someone I can call a role-model. Thank you for influencing me, you will be someone that I will look up to for a long time to come.

That’s the beauty of free speech. When these talks are not disrupted, people of good will inevitably will see the truth -- which is just what the jihadists and their allies do not want.

Thus as long as we can protect the freedom of speech, the jihadists and Islamic supremacists will lose. They are in a lose-lose situation: if they shout me down, they’re exposed as the fascists they are. But if they let me speak, people will begin to see through them. The truth will come out either way.

Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.

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