Curious to hear what an “expert in Middle Eastern affairs” might be able to relate to me, I attended Dr. Daniel Pipes’ lecture at 8 on Tuesday night. Though I expected the usual rhetoric about increasing understanding and allowing the native people to sort out their differences for themselves, I gratefully received a refreshingly bold presentation of ideas. Dr. Pipes’ discussion was well researched and its goal clearly made. In an exceptionally short time and in face of the most heinous scene of rudeness I can imagine displayed at an institution of learning, he delivered a powerful and poignantly relevant message.
In effect, he clarified the fact that the War on Terror should be broken down under more narrowed titles because as he explained, the Iraq War maintains a separate goal though equally imperative to our nation’s safety than that which is a direct defense against those behind the destruction and mass murder of Sept. 11. He also described the specific and relatively small subset of the Islamic faith, as those extremists who resort to violence as a means to spread totalitarian dominion of their beliefs across the globe and to whom Americans should most consider a threat to our peace and security.
Despite Pipes’ forthright and honest speech, which time and again separated dangerous extremists from the hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims we know and respect. He was made the subject of a grievous protest. While I and my fellow open minded students were made to fear the familiar and usually comforting surroundings of our own campus.
During the first part of Pipes’ speech about 30 people from the full room of about 150 people tied black gags about their mouths, stood up and turned to face the rest of the attentive audience. Meanwhile, the six security guards at the crowded event stood respectfully to the side, in no way interfering. The protesters however did not acknowledge the respect they were being shown and in several instances ignored polite requests of audience members to move aside so they could continue to pay attention to the speaker valiantly continuing with his academic lecture. Finally, the protesters walked out waving signs and attempting to distract from the speech.
Though genuinely frightened by the display which warranted security guards, I will recall most strongly the anger this night made me feel, as I jumped up to claim a seat nearer the speaker in an attempt to prove not all students at AU are beneath standards of decent civility. Unfortunately, the rest of the lecture was difficult to absorb as the indignation I was made to feel in the face of my fellow students’ actions to strip me of my freedom to feel safe and secure on my own campus begins to eat at my pride in the University I chose to attend.
Though visibly uncomfortable, Pipes continued determinedly to much applause of encouragement from the newly filled audience. Stating much as did our president declared after Sept. 11 that he would not be frightened or “let them fluster me.” When the room was settled once more he and the speech came to conclusion. Then, Pipes accepted questions from the audience including those offered earlier from members of the disturbing group who had mostly departed. Answering directly each and every query he made the point that the current state of Muslim Affairs Studies in America is overwhelmingly controlled by “apologetics” that would damn their own nation in a dogged and increasingly deranged attempt to ignore a clear and present danger and allow the destruction of American ideals.
I see now that there are more fronts in the War on Terrorism to be fought than we knew. This war has come home, and not just in the events of Sept. 11, but in the misuse and degregation of the most sacred institutions of our nation. I can not say if demonstrations such as this are the result of ignorance or some forgivable perversion of teachings, but I can say that a love of country and respect for our precious nation must be fought for now and on all fronts. Essentially, there is no freedom without respect, responsibility and the absence of fearful tension in the public environment.