Culture

Free Speech Overcomes Islamic Censorship at U.S. Army War College

(Image credit: U.S. Army War College)

On February 26, 2020, I spoke at the U.S. Army War College’s Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The title (and topic) of my talk was lifted from my last book: Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.

Since then, I have received a number of questions concerning this hitherto “controversial” event—how it was, how I was, if there were any disruptions, if the talk even took place at all—which I hereby try to answer in this article.

First, as many know, the terrorist-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) tried again—through press releases, petitions, and direct complaints to the Army War College—to get my talk canceled. This time they failed.

Secondly, everything went smoothly and properly. The Army Heritage and Education staff were professional and courteous. The same two main heads of the Army War College that people—both those who protested letting me speak (CAIR, etc.) and those who supported free speech (ten congressmen, the National Association of Scholars, etc.)—directed their appeals to were also present: Major General John S. Kem, the commandant of the U.S. Army War College, and its provost, Dr. James G. Breckenridge, both greeted and briefly spoke with me, and sat in the front and center row for the duration of my talk (an hour, followed by Q&A). Geoffrey Mangelsdorf, director of the Army Heritage and Education Center, which hosted the event, was also present and agreeable.

I heard various numbers from staff concerning how many people attended—as many as “nearly 300.” The large room certainly seemed packed.

I saw no protests or disruptions of any sort, including during the Q&A (probably because this was at a secure military facility).

No media or reporters were admitted.

Right after the event, a colleague emailed me asking how I did. By the time I saw it, one of the people copied on the email, who I subsequently learned attended the event, had given a comprehensive response. I liked it very much—not least due to its enthusiastic and “live” feel, having been written soon after the event, which I myself didn’t really know how to gauge (was focused on my presentation, and then quickly ushered out of the building and flew out first thing in the morning). As such, I thought it would be nice to share her account, for the benefit of all those many people who had a stake in seeing this talk—that is, in seeing free speech about Islam—go through. She graciously agreed. What follows are the exact words of Stacey Swain, a retired Navy lieutenant commander, as they appeared in an email responding to someone else asking me how I did:

Mr. Ibrahim was MASTERFUL. The room was packed, and people were riveted. Frankly, I can’t say enough. I learned so much last night – to include some of the quotes Mr. Ibrahim mentioned that fascinated me – and that I probably should have heard before. I must say I felt like a bit of a clod that I didn’t know some of this information already. The questions after the presentation were interesting – though some made me want to tear my hair out for the way they clearly were trying to manipulate this presentation and subject matter; others really reinforced my faith that people may finally be “getting it.” For a few of the questions that obviously had motives behind them, Raymond was unshakable, professional, direct and steadfast in his answers; so much so that I quietly laughed at one of them, turned to the friend next to me and mouthed the word, “BOOM” (mic drop) after he gave his answer. I was the guest of a friend – a retired Army LTC and Congressional chief of staff – who I thanked no less than 10 times for inviting me to this presentation, and who laughed as I was actively searching for Raymond’s Facebook page, and then ordered his book while I was sitting and listening. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but he was THAT good. Mr. Ibrahim doesn’t opine, interpret, judge and accuse; he delivers his message through what was clearly painstaking research and historical fact – period. The presentation was magnificent. I can’t say enough.

Finally, I was informed that the lecture was videotaped and would be made available online. I’ll share it here as soon as it becomes available.