Flanked by two police officers, Daniel Pipes entered the lecture auditorium in the Whitten Learning Center at the University of Miami to find his audience sitting quietly. In contrast to his past speaking experiences at universities, there were no angry protesters or passionate students demonstrating outside the door.
A political commentator on the Middle East and Islam, Daniel Pipes has made it his mission to express his views. He heads both the Middle East Forum, a conservative think-tank, and Campus Watch, a website that critiques how North American universities educate students about the Middle East.
Pipes visited campus on April 30 as part of Dr. Richard Weisskoss’ International Studies class project to speak to students university-wide about the role radical Islam plays in the U.S. “war on terror.”
“Radical Islam, or Islamism, is Islam that is very severe, or very oriented towards applying Islamic law in its entirety,” Pipes said. “It’s not terrorism, it’s not Islam, but it’s a terroristic version of Islam.”
“I see radical Islam similar, in ambition and methods, to Fascism and Communism, our enemies in World War II and the Cold War,” he said. “I see this as the new enemy to our way of life… it is a battle of ideas. There are substantial numbers of people that would like to change the way we live and replace the constitution with the Quran. I don’t want that, and I am doing my small part to oppose that.”
Pipes holds a conservative, Republican view. With a quiet, patient voice, he often makes statements which are met with protests from university students
“I’ve spoken to [about] 200 universities,” said Pipes. “It was quiet for many years, and then starting in May 2002, there was opposition. At the University of Washington, for the first time there was an organized opposition to my speech. And that remained the case for about five years… I never quite knew what I was walking into.”
Since then student protests began occurring in increasing numbers and grew in intensity.
“In Canada I spoke and it was national news, not because of the contents of my talk, but because the faculty, students and others, were protesting my coming to campus,” Pipes stated. “The police were out, dozens of them. A whole part of the campus was locked down.”
According to Pipes, the demonstrations ended suddenly in late 2007. He now feels his speaking engagements are much more civilized.
A number of steps were taken to ensure Pipes’ visit to the University of Miami was a nonviolent occasion, including the acquisition of two police officers for added security.
Sophomore Jennifer Safstrom was one of the leaders in the quest to bring Daniel Pipes to campus. She also took precautions during the event, by having students write their questions on index cards and screening them, before passing them along to Pipes.
“I was very happy that the questions that were asked, although they were screened, were very academically inclined,” Safstrom said. “They really showed a desire to understand what his perspective was and where he was coming from, which showed an intellectual curiosity by the students… I think that the event went incredibly well.”