Cole stressed that his mostly youthful audience should question the reliability of people who claim to speak for the entire Muslim world, yet apparently expected the audience to suspend such skepticism when he proceeded to do just that. Cole suggested that the Muslim view of the U.S. and its struggle with terrorism was due to the fact that “the United States is a superpower and is always sticking its nose in other people’s business.” Yet this fails to explain why Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Israel, Thailand, and many other countries struggle with Islamic terrorism.
The most inconsistent portion of Cole’s lecture stemmed from his praise of Saudi Arabia and Algeria for combating Islamic extremists, while lambasting the United States’ efforts to do the same in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In this process, there were predictable jabs at public figures like Rudy Giuliani and Charles Krauthammer. Cole insinuated that Giuliani had no standing to use the term “Islamic fascists” because he was an Italian-American, a slander of an entire ethnic group by one claiming to defend Muslims against such low blows. Shortly thereafter Cole again substituted slipshod reasoning for cogent analysis by suggesting that Krauthammer probably doesn’t even know a Muslim and therefore is not credible on Middle East issues.
No Juan Cole lecture would be complete without his usual radical statements or subtle anti-Semitic jabs. Cole labeled unwise the turning of the Abu Ghraib detention facility into “the largest U.S. government factory of pornography” and would have his audience believe the incident occurred from executive fiat as opposed to the deplorable behavior of a few rogue soldiers. In an oddly disjointed moment, Cole argued the term “Islamofascist” was offensive to Muslims and that using phrases like “Islamic terrorism” was as inappropriate as including “Jewish gangster” activity in Las Vegas in Judaic studies. One wonders how the two are similar since Jewish criminals do not commit crimes in the name of Judaism, yet radical Islamic terrorists routinely murder and maim in the name of Islam.
When the lecture ended, there was a mad rush to exit the room. Only a handful of individuals remained for the question and answer period, suggesting that a significant number of students attended the event for extra credit or class requirements. The badly-attended Q&A period nonetheless produced a few stunning rejoinders from Cole, not the least of which was his supposition that Iranian despot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s penchant for radical statements is as insignificant as “birther” claims that President Obama was not born in Hawaii. Cole did not take the opportunity to mention his earlier protest that Ahmadinejad’s words were mistranslated regarding the infamous threat to “wipe Israel off the map,” and that the Iranian president “was not making a threat.”
Cole was elitist, detached, and unconvincing. His audience was young and polite, but hardly enthused. His claims reveal him to be precisely what he seeks to conceal—a man desperately seeking affirmation for his extreme views.
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