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Enabling Jihad at Stanford, Georgetown, and Beyond

It’s harder to get into Stanford than any other American university (5 percent of applicants are admitted). Yet Stanford recently saw fit to admit someone who used his precious essay space – in response to the question: “What matters to you, and why?” – by repeating “#BlackLivesMatter” 100 times. Imagine the chagrin of the many other worthy applicants who didn’t make the cut.

Turns out he was an intern for Hillary (of course); he also happens to be Muslim, but media accounts invariably offered no word about how he might reconcile his ostentatious profession of concern with the fact that black lives are still enslaved in parts of Africa by Muslims [1] – nowhere else and by no one else. Not a pretty picture [2].

So is this “celebrated” Stanford student repudiating the example of Mohammed, who personally owned slaves, and sanctioned slave raiding? Well, is he? We might just say this is all pretty “rich” and leave it at that. But more needs to be said about the fact that it is harder to broach uncomfortable facts about Islam at Stanford than it is to be admitted. Robert Spencer could tell you all about it.

A group of students invited him to come talk about his meticulous elucidation of the Islamic sources that justify and even mandate jihad. This sparked a flurry of indignation, including calls for the event to be canceled and boycotted. Though he is more knowledgeable than most imams, agitated students dismissed him as “not intelligible,” “not scholarly,” – in a word – “trash.” Administrators libelously bemoaned his supposed history of stirring up hatred.

Is standing against hideous things – jihad murder, slavery, the manifold indignities Sharia visits upon women, etc. – suddenly discouraged at Stanford when they happen to be embedded into the fiber of a religion deemed so worthy of uncritical adulation that they must be willfully overlooked?

Stanford did not mimic Berkeley by canceling the event or resorting to thuggery to prevent a curiously unwelcome voice from being heard. They just hatched a subtler plan – weeks in advance – to achieve the same end.

Shortly after his talk began, an Islamic chant was let loose for a tense moment – apparently on someone’s phone. A lot of people sure were looking at their phones, which was odd given that the room was so packed that many were denied entry. A few minutes later, the majority walked out in choreographed unison – with the aggressive, supremacist undertone of Islamic chant blaring from devices: Allahu Akbar without the violence. Those who had originally been barred due to lack of capacity were then denied the opportunity to occupy the vacated space.

Free speech, Stanford style

Spencer had just finished relaying an objective fact that belongs at any institution of higher learning: a key feature of jihad, according to the highest Sunni authority of jurisprudence (Al-Azhar University in Cairo) is that one’s blood and one’s possessions are only safe if one succumbs to the rule of Islam; nobody outside it merits protection. Substantively, this could qualify as an ingrained, religiously sanctioned form of “hate speech,” which the students imagined they were virtuously heading outside to condemn. 

Spencer maintains that administrators abetted the disruption and that, in any case, it amounted to a quintessential display of fascism; that may seem a loaded term, but by first mounting a defamation campaign against him and then forcibly preventing others from being exposed to his ideas, Stanford earned the characterization. 

His mere presence was alleged to make Muslims feel unsafe – and yet only Spencer needed a sizeable security detail. His contention all along has been that detractors resort to smear tactics because they cannot engage on the level of facts and ideas. Stanford’s walkout proved his point in spades, just as surely as those who committed violence in response to Pope Benedict critically remarking at Regensburg upon the violent tendencies associated with Islam proved him right.

By not allowing the examination of jihad on its own terms Stanford chose to enable it. Apparently, Islamic figures, approvingly repeating binding Islamic texts that, say, urge the wiping out of Jews must go unremarked. Only calling this out is problematic – the secular sin of “Islamophobia” (a Saudi-manufactured term).

Corporations also nurture this climate of conformity. Just down the road from Stanford, the boors at PayPal blocked Spencer’s web site from using their services, thereby depriving him of a source of financial support. Exactly what the Southern Poverty Law Center, specialists in declaring organizations it doesn’t like as “hate groups,” wanted. They merely declare Spencer’s outfit a “hate group” and the media dutifully echo it despite SPLC’s obvious bias.

Stanford, however, is far from being alone. Catholic Georgetown University hosts Saudi-funded initiatives designed to propagate the best spin on Islam. Threatening aspects are, it seems, of marginal concern. But what some people consider minor can be very consequential; New York, London, Paris, Brussels, Nice, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, even Scandinavia now can testify to that.

The stakes are similarly high when some allege that Spencer’s “marginal” stance does not align with the overall conciliatory thrust of the modern Church vis-à-vis Islam:

I disagree with Pope Francis’ claim that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence,” as any sane and informed person, Catholic or non-Catholic, should. If that is indeed “Church teaching,” then the Catholic Church has a massive problem: it is presenting outright falsehood as “Church teaching,” and cannot be trusted by Catholics or anyone else.

Several years ago, a man in the admissions office at Stanford left his post to become a priest. I cannot say if the inanities of university officialdom played any role. Yet I wonder: if the kind of naïve falsity that seems to prevail everywhere else also prevails within the ecclesiastic circles he now travels in, where would he go then?

Matthew Hanley’s new book, Determining Death by Neurological Criteria: Current Practice and Ethics, is a joint publication of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and Catholic University of America Press.