Friday, April 27, 2007
Lee Kaplan: Courage at Stanford
Professor Russell Berman
April 27, 2007
On Monday, April 16, Stanford University played host to three former terrorists turned peace activists. Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist who has built a name for himself on college campuses and other venues, was joined by speakers Zack Anani and Kamal Saleem. Together they explained why, as former Muslims, they left the cause of jihad and rejected their backgrounds and terrorist training to embrace America, Israel and the West.
Hosting the event was Professor Russell Berman of the Hoover Institute at Stanford. Berman is not your typical college professor, as evidenced by his outspoken criticism of terrorism. He introduced the headlined speakers by promising an evening that would be both “somber and controversial,” first calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech. "You may disagree or agree with what is presented here tonight," he said, but stressed that courtesy and thoughtfulness should prevail. “This is Stanford, it’s not Columbia,” Berman pointed out -- a reference to the now-infamous radical protestors at the latter school -- drawing laughter from the audience of nearly 500 people.
“9/11 casts along shadow,” Berman continued. “We as a society don’t always have the strength and courage” to deny what he called “the imperialism of guilt” that always blames America first when terrorism occurs. He likewise referred to writings by authors like Dinesh D'Souza who, he said, blame terrorism on our foreign policy and perpetuate an American attitude of always “blaming things on ourselves.” He pointed out that terrorism occurs all over the world and not just the Middle East, mentioning attacks in London, Buenos Aries and Istanbul, in Africa, as well as in Egypt and Jordan, and he criticized those he referred to as “the crowd of emulators comfortable enough to explain these events by rationalizing violence that is in fact just evil.”
“The 20th Century politicized violence through several movements such as Nazism and Communism,” Berman continued, pointing out how “core groups” used violence as an accepted method of political change. However, Berman noted that such groups also produced dissidents who abandoned their party line to cast light on the failures of the movements they once embraced. As an example, Berman referred to supporters of the Soviet Union who defected during the Cold War only to come back and speak against communism in order to educate people in the West. Using this analogy, he introduced the three terrorists who had also grown disillusioned with the violence of jihad.
The first to speak was Kamal Saleem. A tall, handsome man in a Brooks Brothers suit and tie and an impressive speaker, Saleem looked more like a banker than a terrorist. Central to his presentation was his view that the United States remains insufficiently attentive to the threat of Islamic terrorism. To demonstrate, he began by saying, “I want to show you America on 9/11.” He then went downstage and laid down on the plank floor, suit and all, and pretended to be sleeping. Sitting up, he said, "I want to show you America today after 9/11," at which point he pretended to hit the snooze button, then went back to sleep. His message was clear: America had yet to awaken to the danger of Islamic terror.
Saleem then recounted his own story. Born a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon, he came from a family that had 14 imams. At the age of six, he was recruited into the Muslim Brotherhood, soon joining the PLO after being inspired by the words of his father, who cited the Koran: “What you do in life should never be small. God will weigh you when you die and you’ll go to hell or heaven,” his father impressed on him.
“I learned to do what was right. I also learned from his reciting the Koran that the Day of Judgment won’t come until the Moslems fight the Jews and Christians,” Saleem said. Saleem recalled how, as a boy, he envisioned himself as an Islamic white knight astride a white horse, leading his Islamic army to kill the infidels. He asked the audience: “What do your children do at six-years-old?”
By age seven, he was training in weaponry, including explosives and anti-personnel mines, and combat. How to slit the throats of Jews was one lesson. Also at seven, he went on his first mission for the PLO, smuggling 100-pound packs of explosives and ammunition into the Golan Heights to shepherds who were working with the terrorists and who were as committed as he to attacking the Jews. “I was hailed a liberator!” he bellowed to the audience.
One day in a PLO training camp, Yasser Arafat had actually praised him and kissed him on the forehead. “I didn’t bathe for two weeks. You can imagine how badly I smelled after training all day,” he said. Arafat told him how Jerusalem was to be their target. “The cleansing of the Jewish blood from Jerusalem, not a state, was our goal. I hated Jews. But I loved Allah. We learned that jihad was our path and what we desired as the highest goal was to be a martyr.” The young Saleem also recruited other children like himself, including a neighbor next door. His parents expressed pride in their noble son.
Saleem lost his best friend, Mohammed, on a mission for the PLO. Mohammed was only six and wounded by Israeli forces that intercepted their mission and group. Saleem recalled how, at 7 years-old, he had put his wounded friend on his back to evacuate him, only to learn Mohammed had been shot several more times, serving as a human shield as Saleem escaped with his life. Mohammed died that day.
Saleem later came to the United States to recruit, train and teach others on college campuses to embrace his cause. Reciting sections of the Koran, he warned against taking Jews and Christians as allies. He presented himself not as a terrorist, but as "a liberator of the truth." Yet his goal was to engage in taquiyya (deception).
Although Saleem has since repudiated his terrorist past, he stated his view that Americans remained deceived about the true menace of Islamic terror. “America is not just asleep. America is ignorant about the truth,” he warned. “The UK, France, Germany, indeed, most of Europe now finds itself under a major threat from militant Islam,” he said and asked, “How long before the same thing happens to the US?”
In this connection, Saleem questioned whether so-called moderate Muslims in America have rallied to their country’s defense. Out of an estimated 8 million Muslims in this country, why did only 50 people show up at a rally of moderate Muslims to support America? he wondered.
Following Saleem was Zachariah Anani. A former Lebanese terrorist, he recounted that, like Saleem’s, his family had included many Islamic religious leaders. Since the age of three, he explained, he was indoctrinated into what he called “the evil of the others” -- that is, a deep hatred for non-Muslims. Also like Saleem, he spent his earliest years dreaming of being a warrior knight “carrying the skulls of the enemy.” By age 15, Anani became a “fighting machine,” a specialist at killing with daggers. When he left Islam at age 17, after hearing a Christian missionary speak, he already had over 200 kills in his record. It was then that he decided that “Islam’s doctrine is death.” Saleem left Islam for Christianity. Referring to militant Islam, he warned the audience: “We need to teach new generations to avoid this path.”
Anani's remarks prompted opposition from some in the audience. For instance, some students tried to challenge the historical record of Islam during his presentation; others even accused the speakers of lying. Unfazed, Anani expertly cited specific sections of the Koran to prove students wrong. When one student had heckled another speaker by denying that Shiite and Sunni Muslims kill each other, Anani cited historical battles in the Koran during the schism over the Caliphate, which left tens of thousands of Muslims from both sects dead. Given the current civil war in Iraq between Shiites and Sunnis, the ignorant claims of a student at a major university only underscored the educational value of seminars about radical Islam.
Last to speak was Walid Shoebat. Taking on a prominent shibboleth, Shoebat made clear to the audience that the Israeli-Palestinian is not about land, occupation, or poverty. Rather, it is about the adherents of militant Islam being unwilling to accept the faiths of others. “Fundamentalist Islam existed long before Israel,” he told the audience. 1.2 million Arabs live inside Israel with no problem, yet the Islamic world screams it wants Jews removed from Palestine.”
A Christian convert, Shoebat explained how he had been accused of “going from one extremist position to another” since his conversion from Islam and even accused of “preaching hate.” Shoebat countered: “In America you can criticize religion. Criticizing a religion is not hate, it is freedom of speech.” According to Shoebat, the real cause of terrorism and events such as 9/11 was the Islamic quest for hegemony. “Christians proselytize too much,” he said, “But while a Christian fundamentalist will only give you a headache, a Muslim fundamentalist will chop the whole head off.” The PLO has Christian Arab wings, he explained, yet there are no Christian Palestinian suicide bombers, an illustration of the difference between the faiths (in fact, there has been only one Christian Arab suicide bomber to date). Recalling his time as a member of the PLO, Shoebat said that the terrorist group would recruit only Muslims for suicide bombings. Christians were not sent.
Shoebat said that many were not receptive to his message. Some had even charged that he was speaking out against radical Islam for financial gain. Addressing these critics, Shoebat said: “I hate this job. I have to conceal my identity and where I live and worry for the safety of my family to get the truth out to the world.” He pointed out that he has made more money in his software business -- and that didn’t require him to endure death threats. Nonetheless, he believed that the risks were worth taking in order to warn the West about the danger of militant Islam. Judging by the standing ovation that concluded the evening, the audience agreed.
Lee Kaplan is an undercover investigative journalist and a contributor to Front Page Magazine. He is also a regular columnist for the Israel National News and Canada Free Press and a senior intelligence analyst and communications director for the Northeast Intelligence Network. He heads the organizations Defending America for Knowledge and Action (DAFKA) and Stop the ISM. He has been interviewed on over one hundred nationally and internationally syndicated radio shows and been a guest on Fox Cable TV’s Dayside with Linda Vester and Bill O’Reilly’s The Factor. He is a guest every Tuesday and Thursday on the Jim Kirkwood Show on Utah's K-Talk Radio 630am. He is currently working on a book about America's colleges in the War on Terror.