“We expect a protest during the event,” one UCLA official told a security officer before a panel discussion on “Totalitarian Islam’s Threat to the West,” which was held on April 12 at the Westwood campus. Indeed, Muslim students followed the example of the radical Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine by staging a walk-out soon after Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes began speaking. But it was an unplanned reaction by some of the protestors in attendance that made the biggest-and most disturbing-statement of the night.
That came after Dr. Wafa Sultan, a secular Syrian-American writer, misspoke while referring to the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by using Pipes’ name instead. Laughing at such a mistake is understandable, but there were some people who clapped enthusiastically at what they undoubtedly viewed as a legitimate punishment for Mr. Pipes. His crime? Warning others of the threat posed by Islamic totalitarianism.
Pipes was actually the most restrained voice on the panel. While Pipes did claim that radical Muslim students at colleges like UCLA were as big a threat to the West as Islamic terrorists (a view supported by the applause for his imagined beheading), Sultan and the final panelist, Dr. Yaron Brook, made far more forceful remarks.
Brook, the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, opened up the discussion by pointing out that totalitarian Islam is not only dedicated to enslaving Muslims but to spreading such subjugation across the entire world. Although radical Islamists have proven their expansionary goals time and again, the West has been too cowardly to confront the threat. As a result, our enemies have the notion that they can be successful. Brook believes that where there is a will there is a way: Only by crushing the Islamists with overwhelming military force will they lose all hope for victory. Real war-not building sewers in Iraq-is what Brook believes will result in an unconditional surrender resembling the defeat of Germany and Japan in World War II.
Sultan followed up Brook’s remarks by telling the audience that there is no such thing as totalitarian Islam. Islam is Islam-and that’s the problem. Sultan claimed that since Islam is not only a religion but a political ideology, it is impossible to be a true Muslim and an American patriot at the same time. According to Sultan, who witnessed the machine-gun assassination of her professor at the University of Aleppo, the life of Mohammed is used to justify heinous crimes. Here she brought up the story of her 10-year-old niece who was forced to marry a 45-year-old man, and compared it to Mohammad’s marriage to a six-year-old girl named Aisha.
For Sultan, the fact that only a small number of Muslims commit terrorist acts does not mean that there are a lot of moderate Muslims. Only a tiny number of Muslims have taken the three essential steps that would classify them as moderate in Sultan’s mind: refuse to become involved in terrorism, denounce terrorism, and try to reform Islam.
Pipes immediately took issue with Sultan’s view of Islam. He explained that totalitarian Islam is only one form of Islam, albeit a very powerful one. To prove that it is just an Islamic trend, Pipes said that in 1977 no one would have shown up to hear a discussion on radical Islam because such things as the Iranian revolution and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo√∞an’s desire to make Turkey an Islamic state were unthinkable. Pipes’ optimism about the great possibility for Islam is evident in his mantra “Defeat radical Islam, strengthen moderate Islam.”
This doesn’t mean Pipes thinks the West can’t lose the current war: “If we don’t win, they will,” he made clear. He thinks the battle of the Op-Eds is more important than the battle of bullets. Put another way, the battlefield of ideas is where hearts and minds are won.
Brook also spoke about the importance of exposing the nature of the enemy, while stressing the importance of being proud of Western traditions and values. Unfortunately, the American history taught in colleges today is generally confined to the genocide of the Indians, slavery and the internment of the Japanese in World War II. If countries like Israel and America only believe in their own original sin, they will never muster the resolve to defend themselves. Brook predicts that a strong military campaign (especially against the terror masters in Tehran) coupled with cultural pride will convince many Muslims who are currently sitting on the fence to renounce violence. Weakness, on the other hand, will just encourage them to fight against the West.
Sultan thinks that Saudi Arabia needs to be confronted before victory can even be discussed. She pointed out that that country’s flag contains the words “There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is His Prophet” above the image of a sword. Clearly, Saudi Arabia wants to impose Islam by force. The conventional wisdom is that Islam has been hijacked by radical Islamists. But Sultan believes that Muslims (especially women) are the hostages of Islam. She believes that the Islamic world needs to be exposed to the outside world and predicts that two generations will be needed to bring about the necessary changes in the Muslim mentality.
When asked about radical Islamists on campus, Pipes brought up the broader issue of the love affair between the far left and radical Islam. The alliance works because the two groups share the same enemy: George W. Bush. The far left has been waiting for decades for the “revolution,” and with totalitarian Islam it has finally arrived. Islamists, meanwhile, take advantage of the fact that the left is established in many national institutions. Brook then reminded the audience that the French left loved the Islamic revolution because they viewed it as a snub to capitalism.
The most chilling warning of the night came when Sultan said that the Council on Islamic-American Relations wants to replace the United State Constitution with Sharia law. A member of CAIR once told her that she is “crossing the red line.” Translation: Very soon you will be beheaded.
Not all the messages Sultan receives however are negative. She talked of many Arabs who support her work behind the scenes and look to the United States for help in guaranteeing their human rights. Since Muslims in the West don’t live under the same oppression, they can’t understand such desperation.
UCLA’s Muslim students might have come closer to gaining this knowledge if they hadn’t stormed out of the event in protest.
Aaron Hanscom is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.