On July 11, 2009, the San Diego Public Library hosted CAIR’s SD Director Edward Hopida’s presentation on Islam. During the presentation, Mr. Hopida took a moment to list a number of authors whose work he felt should be avoided because (according to him) they possessed “no expertise” on Islam and were published because they were exploiting 9-11. The list included Steven Emerson, Hirsi Ali, Noni Darwish, Brigitte Gabriel, Robert Spencer, and an array of other writers whose work is of a controversial nature within the Muslim community.
Whatever one’s opinion may be of these writers, we cannot ignore the grand irony of suggested book banning in a public library - an event that, at the end of the day, was sponsored by tax payers. Hopida’s actions also ignore the efforts dedicated to Islam pre 9-11.
His dismissal of Ali, Darwish, and Gabriel draws attention to a larger problem of the failure of such associations and ‘experts’ to value women as witnesses. Having attended Hopida’s presentation, San Diego ACT chapter leader Mike Hayutin took it upon himself to offer a counter argument.
He approached San Diego Public Library Director Deborah Barrow and requested the same time and sponsorship to speak of radical Islam. Unlike Hopida, Hayutin was not on a payroll and invested his own time and resources to exercise his belief in balanced representation.
The request was initially reluctantly received by Barrow, who had likely perceived CAIR as a civil rights group and was unaware of the controversy surrounding them. However, considerable community pressure, as well as a call from the mayor’s office, facilitated Hayutin’s request. Hayutin was finally granted his opportunity to present a two hour presentation on radical elements in Islam.
His appearance however was not appreciated by CAIR, which filed a complaint letter and submitted a one-sided press release on their disapproval of Mr. Hayutin’s presentation, as well as his association with ACT, which Hopida cited as peddling stereotypes by labeling Islam as incompatible with the West. Somehow he seemed to forgotten CAIR’s own dodgy associations.
Hopida also contacted the library and insisted they put a “Muslim expert” on the podium with Hayutin, rather than Hayutin hosting the event on independently (as Hopida did). The alternate seminar, accurately entitled “Caliphate or Republic”, took place August 15th from 2-4 pm at the San Diego Public Library.
The auditorium was packed and a healthy debate ensued, mixed with both hard core conservatives and local Muslims attempting to make the case for Islam. For the most part the Muslim representation was quite positive, and I had the opportunity to speak with a few of them post event.
However, my advice to them is two-fold: 1) Don’t ambush the speaker; it makes you look desperate, and 2) if you get the chance to speak, present a solid counter argument rather than promoting your Muslim bake sale or food drive; no one is going to come to your bake sale if they still think you’re a terrorist.
All in all the event went smoothly, brought together a diverse mix that still at the end of the day agreed to disagree on most issues. A standing room only crowd also indicates an audience the library may have been overlooking. The presentation and the subsequent talks that carried on well past the event, reflected the delicate system of equality in America where both sides have a right to the soap box, to assemble freely and have their case be heard – to have a tolerant ear even if not a sympathetic one.
However, in light of the struggle for local resident Mike Hayutin to secure the podium, and in light of Reuters picking up CAIR’s press release and passing it as ‘legitimate’ news (with no attempt to contact the other party), the clear issue is the increasing fragility of our right to free speech and the increasing subjectivity of news agencies.
The business of subjective information from authority sources doesn’t just rest with the media. When asked why Mr. Hayutin took an interest in radical Islam, he noted attending a local university panel on yet another chapter on the entanglement between Palestine and Israel. The panel, hosted by three well-respected professors and attended by hordes of students, was (according to Hayutin) completely bias in nature and presented the case in a most politically appeasing pro-Palestine way with absolutely no counter argument.
Appalled and concerned for the lack of balanced information, Hayutin took it upon himself to be a source of alternate information. Meanwhile, Hopida’s attempts to regulate free speech at a public forum is another demonstration of Muslim interest groups attempting to regulate what can and cannot constitute as valuable discussion. In short, anything that is subjectively offensive is considered insensitive and racist.
As the track record shows, particularly among such Islamists, if it doesn’t favor a marginal Muslim agenda and if it in fact challenges Islamism in any context, it cannot be extended any measure of freedom. As we have seen time and time again, through protests, petitions and outright violence, if an act is critical of any element in Islam, it is not tolerated. In San Diego, via hundreds of angry So Cal residents and at the behest of the mayor, free speech prevailed…today.
However, one must stop and consider the environment we would be in were this a caliphate in which no alternate view was tolerated. This is not such a far fetch considering the contortionist movements by law makers (both in the states and in Europe) to extend discriminatory version of ‘equality’ to Muslims – acts that immediately segregate communities and outrightly discriminate against non-Muslims. Lawmakers insist on cultural and religious sensitivity, but since when did anything get achieved through sensitivity and mass mollycoddling?
So what is one to do when faced with a very real wolf but with no one hearing your cries? You start with those who are willing to listen. Start with think-tanks who don’t believe news should be fictional story telling, with well-networked lobbies, and the few remaining academics that are not easily swayed by university politics.
Connect with a political party that appreciates the issue and doesn’t grey-wash threats as paranoia of hazy near-forgotten days of 9/11 – a recent past that somehow has been shuffled so far back in history that it’s cataloged with myths of minotaurs, mermaids and other fantastical creatures; a reality that has been been butchered by perception into a non-reality.
However, if as a society we continue to stomp and stampede, with banners of equality rattling in air, we ensure the inevitable forfeit of freedoms that are the touchstone of not just Republican or the Democratic ideals, but are the sacrament of what it means to be American.
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Category: SAN DIEGO COUNTY