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Encounter with an Angry Muslim Academic By: Richard L. Rubenstein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, September 07, 2005

In the aftermath of the ritualistic near-decapitation of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam, as well as the death threats and frivolous “hate-crime” lawsuits directed against honest scholars writing about Islamic extremism, some Muslims and their western sympathizers appear determined to control, by fair means or foul, what is said and written about Islam in the West.

A first-hand example of this trend can be seen in the response to the keynote address I delivered on June 9, 2005 in Krakow, Poland at the Annual Meeting of the Public Administration Theory Network (PAT-Net), an international academic organization, in which I discussed the problems raised by the rapidly increasing number of Muslims in Europe. Some of the immigrants and their European-born descendants have made no secret of the fact that they regard their religion and culture as destined by divine ordinance to transform Europe into a Muslim-dominated imperial realm. Although many have chosen the path of integration, an unknown number have repeatedly stated that they seek to replace the western secular order with a new sacred, absolutist Islamic order.

This problem is aggravated by known demographic trends. According to the U.S. Department of State's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom 2003, more than 23 million Muslims reside in Europe, excluding Turkey. That is almost 5 percent of the population. With indigenous Europe’s declining birthrate and the increasing immigrant birthrate, many observers, including Princeton’s Bernard Lewis, anticipate a Muslim majority in Western Europe before the end of this century.

Such a monumental transformation required the active involvement of senior European officials as documented by Bat Ye’or, an internationally-recognized authority on Euro-Arab relations. She has shown that the Muslim immigration was the result of political decisions taken, more often than not, without public debate, by those same officials and their Arab counterparts in the aftermath of the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74.

The purpose of my paper was to analyze the consequences of these decisions not to offer a solution. Of the three respondents to my paper, two academics offered reasonable critiques in a civil manner.  The third respondent, Professor Mohamad Al-Khadry of West Virginia University, began by revealing that he had demanded that the program committee withdraw my invitation and apologize to the Muslim community because my speech was “bigoted, racist, hate speech.” He went on to portray me as a racist whose views resembled those of Nazi scholars dealing with Jews.


Disregarding official statistics, Al-Khadry claimed that Muslims constitute only 2% of Europe's population. He complained that I had used “the works of authors and sources who have often been accused of Islamophobia,” as if any apprehension concerning Islam was out of bounds.  He spoke contemptuously of Bernard Lewis and dismissed the views of Bassam Tibi of Germany’s Göttingen University and Mahmoud Ayoub of Temple University, both respected Muslim scholars, whom I cited on population issues.


His worst spleen was reserved for Bat Ye’or and MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute). He labeled Bat Ye’or a bigot, a racist, and an “Islamophobe” and attacked MEMRI as a “pro-Israel propagandist website.” Actually, MEMRI makes available in reliable text translation and subtitled streaming video what is really said and written in the mosques and media of the Middle East. MEMRI has often been attacked for its provenance but never successfully for the accuracy of its translations.


Al-Khadry concluded his rant by repeating his Nazi allegation and accusing me of using “made-up evidence” to create “a crisis of Muslim presence that could be dealt with in one of very limited ways, 1) Mass deportations, 2) Sterilization (for lack of Judeo-Christian purity, 3) Incarceration, 4) Mass Murder.”


Al-Khadry’s diatribe did not deserve the dignity of a denial. I simply told the group that if they found Al-Khadry credible, they should feel very comfortable about Europe’s future. I also suggested that they pay attention neither to me nor Al-Khadry but judge for themselves by reading Bat Ye’or and viewing MEMRI’s web site. For those interested in genuine “hate speech,” I recommended MEMRI’s translations and video presentations of the sermons of extremist Muslim preachers.


Al-Khadry’s label-and-libel technique worked. Many, perhaps most, Pat-Net members agreed with him. But later I was told that most Pat-Net professors lacked knowledge of religion and history, as professional training in the field tended to ignore these subjects. Unfortunately, absent such knowledge, academics are ill-equipped to evaluate the kind of unsupported defamations that are a major component in the propaganda weaponry of people like Al-Khadry. Subsequently, I also learned that only a few Pat-Net members had actually read my paper.


I was later informed that motions were introduced at the conference business meeting to repudiate my address as not representative of PAT-Net and to censure Professor Dan Balfour of Michigan’s Grand Valley State University who had originally proposed inviting me and continued to support me. One member characterized the meeting as “a public, metaphorical lynching” and “a stunning display of anti-intellectualism.” There was some unpleasant debate, but no action was taken. On July 10, three days after the London bombings, Balfour wrote to PAT-Net’s executive committee: “Do you still want to repudiate Rubenstein for daring to suggest that the Muslim population of Europe includes a dangerous and intolerant minority who see themselves as at war with Europe and America?”


To add to the damage, the essay was clearly marked “DRAFT NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION WITHOUT PERMISSION,” but somehow the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) was given a copy. On June 23, 2005, its legal counsel wrote to the president of Grand Valley State University, one of the conference’s sponsors, expressing “strong concern” about the address, essentially repeating Al-Khadry’s invective in abbreviated form. Nevertheless, I was not the letter’s real target; Balfour and his university were. Michigan has the highest concentration of Arab Americans of any U.S. state, an estimated 490,000. One might surmise that the letter’s real intent was to caution, if not warn, the university about what could and could not be said about Islam.


ADC falsely, and perhaps intentionally, alleged that I used the terms redundant and expendable “to describe the Muslim population across the world (emphasis added),” thereby implying that the address contained a rationale for global religio-ethnic cleansing! I did use these common sociological terms not nefariously but to describe the political and demographic consequences of the Muslim world’s population explosion since the nineteen-fifties, as well as to suggest why so many young Muslim males may be willing to give substance to Osama bin Ladin’s boast that religious Muslims “love death whereas cowardly westerners cling to life.”


By linguistic slight-of-hand, ADC further distorted my meaning by a simple change of tense. Mindful of the 732 C.E. Battle of Tours, the 1453 conquest of Constantinople, the 1571 Battle of Lepanto, and the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, I described Islam as having been “Christianity’s greatest adversary. In ADC’s letter that objective historical statement is changed to Islam is Christianity’s greatest adversary. ADC also complained that I “described in length ‘radical Islam’s current assault against the West.” It is hard to see how any fair-minded person could protest an objective description of radical Islam’s assault on the West, when Muslim extremists themselves proclaim it so openly.


ADC’s strangest charge was that I encourage Muslim “separation rather than integration.” In my career as a professor and an academic administrator, I have dealt with both Muslim students and faculty. My record is clearly one of encouraging integration. If ADC wants to complain about those opposed to integration, they have plenty of Muslim organizations far more deserving of its attention.


There were further PAT-Net entailments. On August 1, Assistant Professor Frank Scott, acting for the editors of PAT-Net’s quarterly journal, Administrative Theory and Praxis, sent an e-mail informing me that the editors planned to publish “a Forum discussion” on my Krakow address in the September 2005 edition without publishing my paper.  He asked for permission to e-mail the paper to those who requested it.  Of course, I refused. He then offered to make the paper available on PAT-NET’s web site but not in the journal. Once again, I refused.


Scott did not give up. On August 9, he sent me one last e-mail stating:


Because the collection of brief essays in the Forum will not be in the format of a scholarly debate, but rather of personal responses to what the participants found to be a largely irrelevant, offensive, and not properly authorized plenary presentation at our conference in Krakow, we find no basis for giving further voice to the ideas expressed in that presentation (emphasis added).


Scott’s statement is patently ridiculous. For “personal statements” to take the place of scholarly debate is an extraordinary admission by an editor of a supposedly scientific journal. Moreover, there was nothing unauthorized about the address. I submitted a written proposal almost a year before the conference. PAT-Net has no by-laws or guidelines for such matters and the invitation was extended by Balfour, PAT-Net’s site host. Had the address not been “properly authorized,” I would never have been on the program.


As noted above, there are Muslims who seek to control what is publicly written and said about Islam. At times, they are abetted by western sympathizers acting either out of ignorance or alienation from their own culture. In addition, many public officials and much of the press are more comfortable talking about the “war against terrorism” than radical Islam’s war against the West. There is risk in openly identifying, as I did, a religious war for what it is. There may be greater risk in failing to do so.

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Richard L. Rubenstein is President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Bridgeport. His latest book, La Perfidie de l’Histoire, was jointly published in Paris in March 2005 by Éditions Les Provinciales and Éditions du Cerf. It deals largely with the problems that have arisen as a result of the mass migration of Muslims into Europe.

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