The conflict between the West and terrorist Islam is not about terrorism, land or economic grievances but about fundamental ideas -- and the West is losing.
So posits Melanie Phillips, a feisty British journalist, who backed up her thesis in an hour of rapid-fire arguments and examples at UCLA on Monday.
Phillips is the author of "Londonistan," a book that has triggered heated discussions in her native country by indicting the alleged blindness and fecklessness of British society in the face of an increasingly hostile Islam at home and abroad.
Under the banner of "multiculturalism," academe, the church and the media have transformed the meaning of the term from a decent respect for all cultures to the politically correct rule that the minority is always right and the majority always wrong, Phillips said.
In Britain, Europe and the United States, conventional thinking now has it that no religious or social demand by an aggrieved Muslim population can be refused because they are the victims of oppression.
"This is the dialogue of the demented," she declared.
While most Muslims are not terrorists or direct supporters of terrorism, even those mislabeled as "moderates" believe that the Jews dominate the West, that the West wants to destroy Islam, and therefore Jews, as "a metaphysical evil," are to blame for the Islamic world's problems, she said. The West, including Israel, has not recognized that Islam wants ultimately to establish a medieval caliphate, and is "ceding the battleground of ideas," Phillips warned. "We're on a cliff and going over the edge."
During an extended question-and-answer period, only one person, Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, suggested a more conciliatory approach toward Islam.
The rest of the audience of some 70 students and faculty seemed supportive of Phillips' arguments. There were no hostile questioners, as those who might have been were likely occupied with the simultaneous opening of Islamic Awareness Week on campus -- whose main lectures carried such titles as "Qur'an (Koran): The True Message of Jesus" and "Muhammad: The Inheritor of the Judeo-Christian Tradition."
Sponsoring Phillips' appearance were Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a national pro-Israel organization that has just formed a UCLA chapter, the UCLA Political Science department and the activist group StandWithUs.
Phillips also spoke in the evening at the Wilshire Theater, at a public event sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance and the Temple of the Air, part of her national tour with stops in New York, Detroit and Atlanta.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Islamists' Critic Comes to Pepperdine
Middle East expert Daniel Pipes, who is among most prominent scholars to have warned of the growing threat of radical Islam to the West before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a lightening rod for criticism among some Muslim groups, is spending the spring semester at Pepperdine University in Malibu as a visiting professor. Pipes, who received his doctorate from Harvard, is teaching a graduate seminar on Islam and politics.
The founder and director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank that publishes Middle East Quarterly, Pipes has won supporters for his warnings of possible dangers emanating from the Muslim world. Some Muslim groups have characterized him as intolerant.
"Over the years, Pipes has exhibited a troubling bigotry toward Muslims and Islam," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights group. "He perceives Islam, and not just extremism, as a threat."
Pipes said CAIR is a radical organization that "lies." He rejects the notion that he is anti-Islam.
Through his writings and speeches, Pipes has waged a multi-pronged campaign against "Islamists," whom he argues want to subvert democracy and impose Islamic law on their respective societies.
"My effort is to try and isolate them," Pipes said, "and convince politicians, the media, the academy and other institutions that this is an outlook that should be spurned, shunned."
-- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
Wiesenthal Center Adds Persian-Language Information
Following an Iranian government-sponsored conference late last year questioning the existence of the Holocaust, local Iranian Jewish activists have provided a Persian-language translation of 36 questions and answers regarding the Holocaust for the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Web site (www.wiesenthal.com/36questionsinfarsi). Iranian Jewish activist George Haroonian provided the translation, directed at Iranians surfing the site for facts about the Shoah.
"This is important because we not only need to counter the propaganda and lies being spread by the Iranian government about the Holocaust, the Jewish people and Israel, but we also need to present younger Iranians with the truth," Haroonian said, adding that he hopes the translations will encourage other Web sites to repost the information for those who do not understand English.
Haroonian's Council of Iranian Jews collaborated with the Wiesenthal Center last year by inviting Persian-language media outlets based in Los Angeles to visit the Museum of Tolerance to learn about the Holocaust.
In the last two years, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Nazi genocide and called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
-- Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
Web Archive Brings Voices of Past to Present
Want to listen in on conversations with the late Bella Abzug, George Burns and Abba Eban? Want to watch a video of the historic Freedom Sunday Rally for Soviet Jewry in 1987, when 250,000 Jews from around the country gathered in support of their Russian brethren? Want to listen to a broadcast of a Jewish religious service conducted by American GIs on liberated German soil?
Thanks to the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) new archival Web site (www.ajcarchives.org), you now can with only a few clicks of a computer mouse.
The AJC's site, launched as part of its centennial celebration in 2006, features more than 1 million documents and hundreds and movies and radio shows capturing the highlights of the past century of American Jewish life.
Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center Opens After Renovation
After three Los Angeles-based Iranian Jewish organizations merged in 2004 to form the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center in Tarzana, the organization began renovating and expanding what is now the largest Iranian Jewish center in the San Fernando Valley.
The organization officially completed its renovations last month and opened a 7,000-square-foot banquet hall complete with a dance floor, performance stage, high ceilings, custom-made lighting fixtures and kosher kitchen. Eretz-SIAMAK leaders said the organization has recently purchased adjacent properties and hopes to construct a youth center, Jewish day school, gymnasium and other facilities.
For more information, call (818) 342-9360 or visit www.eretzsiamak.org/