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Guest Contributor
Josh Baron - CalPatriot

Josh Baron is an opinion writer for Berkeley's conservative paper, CalPatriot.

Refusing to Pipe Down
At Berkeley controversial speaker exercises his right to free speech...

[Josh Baron] 4/21/04

Berkeley is known around the world for the quality of its academics, the beauty of its campus, and the frequency of its ultraliberal protests. But it might be time to add another line to the pamphlets for prospective students, or even to the motto itself: the University is no longer a place for free academic discourse.

Controversial or conservative speakers need not speak because dissenting students won’t listen, and they’ll further attempt to thwart others from taking advantage of educational opportunities here at Cal.

Take the case of internationally-renowned conservative, and indeed controversial, author, and professor Daniel Pipes. Speaking last month about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a packed house in Pimentel, Pipes had to talk over boos, hisses, and other disruptions now all too typical of the Berkeley Left. On his website, Pipes wrote that, “as I had expected, [speaking at Berkeley] was the most out-of-control talk of the roughly one thousand I have given.”

“I was sorry the evening took the tone it did. We all know Daniel Pipes has many critics. But once he was here, I would have hoped he would have been allowed to speak, to share his perspective,” said Adam Weisberg, executive director of Berkeley Hillel, one of the sponsors of the speech.

During his talk, Pipes explained that fundamentalist Islam as typified by Al Qaeda and the Taliban is separated only in time from the totalitarian traditions of Nazism and Communism; it is not a religion but an ideological excuse for control. He also claimed that fundamentalist Islam is inherently misogynist, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and harbors terrorist tendencies. Above shouts of “Jewish racist,” Daniel Pipes decried the abusive, incompetent, hateful, and anti-American nature of all too many Middle Eastern studies professors.

When hecklers from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) tried to stifle his right to free speech, Pipes would simply look up, and repeat exactly what he had just said more slowly and clearly than before. Devora Liss, co chair of the Israeli Action Council (IAC), one of the sponsors of the event, commented, “Perhaps if they hadn’t been booing and hissing they would have heard him clearly differentiate between mainstream Islam and militant Islam.”

Despite the shameful display on the part of SJP and MSA, Pipes conducted himself admirably for someone who had received numerous threats for coming to speak to Berkeley students. Over sixty people were escorted out by police, among them around fifty students who all stood up at the same time near the end of Pipes’ remarks to shout yet another round of “racist.” At the beginning of his talk, Pipes pointed out ironically that he only needed high security at universities, supposedly the bastions of free expression in the country. Ridiculously, over a dozen police officers were required inside the lecture hall to maintain that freedom.

Mr. Pipes also spoke about the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Arab conflict. Over boos, Pipes told the crowd that he had supported the war in Iraq; hearing their dissent, he looked up and added, “As any civilized person must have done.” About current issues in Israel, Pipes said that before any negotiations could be made, the Palestinians must accept the right of Israel to exist, again naturally met with widespread boos by SJP.

Many of those who listened respectfully to Mr. Pipes did not share his views. At an IAC discussion after the event, several people expressed concern with Pipes’ views on Middle Eastern Studies departments and academic free speech and his potential oversimplifications about the Muslim faith and MSA groups nationwide; at the same time several others expressed their agreement with Pipes and were glad that someone brought that message to Berkeley.

For those students who were willing to listen, Pipes gave Berkeley a calm and well thought out argument about the dangers of fundamentalist Islam, incompetent Middle East Studies departments, and the need for checking both of these phenomena. “I think that just as people disagree with anyone, it was a good reason to sit down and have thoughtful debate,” Liss remarked after the event. Unfortunately for those who wanted to listen, the Berkeley radical Left again made a mockery of the University’s academic mission. CRO

Copyright 2004 CalPatriot





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