Dr. John's Lewis' lecture last night at George Mason
University on Islamic totalitarianism was one of the most surreal public
experiences I have witnessed in all my years as an activist and advocate. It
evidenced in no uncertain terms that rationality and common decency are under
assault at even our most distinguished forums. Academic freedom means tolerating
opposing views and countering them with reason and facts in an atmosphere of
respect and civility. It is not an orgy of rude and abusive mindlessness—a
description that defined the conduct of many in the audience that evening.
The philosophic theme of Lewis' talk was that individual
freedom is a value and that the free have the right to protect themselves from
the initiation of physical force. Lewis defended religious freedom on explicit
grounds, including the freedom of those in attendance who stood up, turned their
backs to him and attempted to shout him down to peacefully practice their
respective creeds without fear of threats or physical coercion. Lewis contrasted
the exercise of freedom in America with life in the totalitarian Islamic
regimes, where there is no distinction between the power of the state and the
practice of religion.
Quoting various Islamic theocrats in power today, Lewis
showed how these theocrats define themselves as advocates for the initiation of
force, including one chilling quote from the leader of the Indonesian Islamic
fascists that called for Islamic control of the government and the ruthless
imposition of Islamic law upon non-believers. Drawing upon the same right of
self-defense that allows a woman to defend herself from her would-be rapist,
Lewis argued that a free America has an unassailable right to defend itself by
destroying the connection between Islam and the state. Lewis pointed to the
example of post WWII Japan to show how fighting for such an enemy's willful
surrender led to an era of peace, happiness and freedom, for both us, and the
peaceful people who had previously suffered under totalitarianism's boot. War
may be hell, but a quick and decisive war is far, far better than living in a
state of permanent terror.
For this, Lewis was decried as a racial bigot and
murderer, and was taunted with endless interruption, bile and obscenities. That
Lewis was even able to keep his focus and not throw his hands up in despair was
testament to his moral courage and his unwillingness to concede the floor to any
The lowest point of the evening came during the Q&A, when
a GMU campus administrator took the podium in an effort to settle the audience
down. He chose his words poorly though, for he ultimately thanked the audience
for their behavior, which was little more than failing to engage in an all-out
riot. It is one thing to be thankful that there was no riot; it is another thing
altogether to thank people for obeying the law and for (barely) respecting the
rights of others in attendance. Furthermore, by thanking rude and abusive
students for their thuggish behavior, this administrator all but guaranteed that
the next controversial speaker will face a similar rude treatment from those who
may happen to disagree with him.
The questions asked during the Q&A could hardly be
described as that; rather then even attempt to challenge Lewis by a thoughtful
or revealing question, many "questioners" simply grandstanded and repeated
non-sequiturs that reflected their own refusal to consider any aspect of his
thesis. And in a disgusting and contemptible display of arrogance and hypocrisy,
an attorney from the Council on American-Islamic Relations frothed to Lewis that
he was "too angry" and needed to "lighten up" a bit; it was this same gentlemen
who had worked to press the university into denying Lewis a venue when his talk
was originally scheduled for February.
Yet the most telling event of the evening was when Lewis,
after being pummeled with interruptions and derogatory remarks implying that he
was a lackey for the political status quo, simply noted that he did not support
the current political administration in Washington on the grounds laid out in
his speech. He was not without interruption long enough to be able to fully
explain why he disagreed with Washington's current war fighting-strategy, but
knowing Dr. Lewis, his position can be distilled as follows: the President's
religious sympathies have blinded him to fully realizing the pernicious threat
caused by the union of religion and state, thereby weakening his resolve to
defeat the cornerstone of religious intolerance today, which is the Islamic
Republic of Iran. Rather than propel him to lead America to victory against
religious tyranny, Lewis argues that the President's philosophy undercuts his
very ability to identify the enemy and fight him accordingly.
Such a statement criticizing the President's philosophy
and policies may have challenged the ideas and comfort zone of many of the
College Republicans in attendance, yet these College Republicans neither
screamed nor howled, nor did they interrupt Dr. Lewis and yell that he didn't
understand the President and his creed like others in the audience had done.
Instead, the College Republicans were nothing but polite, respectful and
thoughtful, even as their own thinking was being challenged by their guest and
under less than ideal circumstances.
The politeness and thoughtfulness of the GMU College
Republicans evidenced the key difference between the civilized and the savage in
attendance that night. The civilized can tolerate differences of opinion and
they seek to understand why these differences exist in the first place. In
contrast, savages are simply unable to tolerate any thinking other than their
own emotion-laden opinions. If the police had not been there to preserve order
with their overwhelming presence, I am convinced that Dr. Lewis would have
easily been strung up from the nearest tree. That from students at my alma
It was not lost upon me, the event's organizers, or Dr.
Lewis himself that our men and women on the battlefield have it far, far worse
than anything we may have experienced last night. Our defiance and refusal to
yield to any form of intimidation or heckler's veto is an act of solidarity with
these men and women; it is our determined effort to say that we will fight for
them just as they fight with courage for us.
And bravo to Dr. Lewis and the GMU College Republicans for
standing fast in the face of intolerance. More than anyone last night, they
earned the title of GMU Patriot.