Introduction: On May 5, Mr. Ibrahim gave a talk on Islam at Everett Community College (EvCC) in Seattle. Months prior, local Muslim groups tried to pressure the college to cancel the talk, right up to the day before the talk, when the notorious Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) launched an aggressive campaign, including writing an op-ed and issuing a press release demanding that EvCC cancel the talk. The college refused, and much media attention followed, including a featured story for MSNBC.
FP: Hello Raymond. Thanks for joining us today.
Ibrahim: Hello, Jamie; thanks for having me.
FP: A great victory for free speech. Thank you on behalf of us here at Frontpage.
Let’s start with how all of this began and why CAIR targeted you.
Ibrahim: Back in September 2010, EvCC invited me to come and speak on Islam sometime in early May 2011. It wasn’t long before I discovered that there were rumblings in Seattle, specifically by one Jaffar (“Jeff”) Siddiqui, who has a long history of trying to quash free speech on Islam. As early as January he began pressuring the college to cancel my talk including by writing a letter to its president; also in January, the director of CAIR’s Washington chapter, Arsalan Bukhari, asserted that “Inviting Raymond Ibrahim to give an alternative viewpoint on being Muslim is like inviting the KKK to speak about African American history.” Then, the day before my talk, this same Bukhari wrote an op-ed in Seattle’s Herald saying “by inviting a known conspiracy theorist with a history of making unfounded claims about Islam, the college is doing a disservice to the public and risks creating a hostile learning environment for its students” (see Robert Spencer’s dissection of Bukhari’s op-ed here). Also the day before my talk, CAIR’s main headquarters issued a particularly inciting and accusatory press release that culminated as follows:
By issuing Mr. Ibrahim an invitation, giving him an audience, and in any way providing him a platform, Everett Community College is complicit in inflaming a tinder box of hate and violence against Islam and Muslims, and is abusing its public trust as a federally funded educational institution. Therefore, we urge the College to cease its promotion of bigotry and hate speech by rescinding its invitation to Raymond Ibrahim to speak on campus.
To CAIR’s chagrin, the college refused to budge, pointing out that my appearance was “consistent with the belief that students be exposed to a variety of views.”
FP: Why do you think CAIR failed to stifle you, though it has succeeded in stifling others?
Ibrahim: For starters, CAIR’S most potent weapon—the eternal cry of “racism!”—fails with me: though born in the States, I am a native Arabic speaker of Egyptian origin who has lived, sometimes for extended periods of time, in Egypt, where I have family and friends. I also have credentials that far transcend CAIR’s caricatures of me as just another “Islamophic blogger.” Finally, I think that people are getting tired of Islamists always trying to kill freedom of speech—always crying wolf. For example, if you look at the nearly 3,000 comments on the MSNBC report on my talk, you’ll find that, as “leftist” as MSNBC is, at least half of its readers are against censoring free speech critical of Islam; in more centrist media, the numbers are overwhelmingly larger.
FP: How was the turnout, and did you get a sense as to how the audience received your message?
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