Thursday, March 20, 2008

John Lewis on his recent talk at Georgia Tech

Historian John Lewis chronicles his experiences with questioners at a recent lecture he gave at Georgia Tech at Principles in Practice:

On March 13, I gave my talk "'No Substitute for Victory': The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism" to an audience of about forty at Georgia State Technical University . . . The onslaught began with the first "question," actually a monologue that lasted nearly fifteen minutes. The monologist claimed that: (1) there is a long history of separation of church and state in Islam; (2) Islamic law is good; (3) whenever imposed, Islamic law has brought peace; (4) jihad is a "wonderful idea" and does not mean war; (5) Islamic Totalitarianism poses no threat, since 500 million Muslims reject terrorism; (6) the tax leveled against subjugated peoples is just, because they are protected by Muslims in return; (7) I am "ignorant of history" if I do not acknowledge the "truth" of these claims.

I listened to him without interrupting-and even asked a legitimately annoyed member of the audience to allow him to finish-so that he could fully reveal himself. In answer, I re-read a series of quotes in which Islamic leaders-as well as a young girl on Lebanese television-call for jihad, war, and death; and I pointed out to the monologist that he must be quite angry at these Muslims for their incorrect view of jihad. But instead of being angry at those who give his presumably peaceful religion a bad name, he condemned me for reading their quotes. This is evasion par excellence-to condemn those who raise Islam's violent past and present rather than have to face the fact that the vision of idyllic peace that one associates with one's religion has no basis in reality.
Lewis goes on to report more of the same with other questioners with a notable exception:

[A man who described himself as a thirty-year emigré from Turkey] noted with pride that his homeland had a thoroughly secular government and he praised Kemal Ataturk for bringing Turkey into the modern age, for instance, by banning the headscarf. But today Turkey's secular government is being undercut-by Americans who describe its government as "moderate Islamic" and thereby blur the line between theocracy and secularism. This opens the door to the establishment of Islamic law. The man's message was this: There can be no compromise between theocracy and secular government; it is either-or. To accept "moderate Islam" into government is, in principle, to establish theocracy. I wonder if he realized that, by the standards of the brownshirt in my audience, he was a criminal for holding such a view.
Or worse, that an American president would dare to call the ideology that seeks to enslave Turkey and the rest of the world "a religion of peace."

Dr. Lewis definitely enters the lion's den when he gives his lectures in defense of secularism in government and victory in war; almost every itineration of his talk exposes him to savage hostility unprecedented (and unacceptable) in American education. As I observed last year, had there not been an overwhelming police presence at George Mason University when he presented his lecture before that audience, I believe that there would have been nothing to prevent the mob from assaulting him physically. It takes moral courage to face down such an adversary, and I certainly salute Dr. Lewis for his.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Georgia State Technical University? Do you mean the Georgia Institute of Technology?