Everett college officials decline to cancel talk by writer Raymond Ibrahim
Everett Community College officials say they're not planning to make any changes to a program featuring Raymond Ibrahim, associate director of the Middle East Forum and contributing writer of a blog called "Jihad Watch."
Seattle Times higher education reporter
Details on Raymond Ibrahim's talk
Raymond Ibrahim, associate director of the Middle East Forum think tank, will speak from 12:20 to 2:20 p.m. May 5 at Everett Community College's Baker Hall, Room 120. The panel is free and open to the public.
A Muslim civil-rights organization, along with religious leaders from a dozen area places of worship, has asked Everett Community College to cancel Thursday afternoon's talk by a writer they portray as holding racist views.
Everett officials say they're not planning to make any changes to the program, which features Raymond Ibrahim, associate director of the Middle East Forum and contributing writer of a blog called "Jihad Watch."
Ibrahim's appearance is "consistent with the belief that students be exposed to a variety of views," said John Olson, Everett vice president for college advancement.
But the Washington chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and several local religious leaders said they fear Ibrahim's views could incite violence against Muslims.
"Everything Mr. Ibrahim has done in his career seems to have the single-minded focus of portraying Islam and Muslims as evil, deceitful, conspiring to take over the world, and ... feeding the perpetual questioning and mistrust of their presence in the West," reads the letter by Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the Washington chapter of CAIR. The letter is signed by Bukhari and 58 others.
Ibrahim, who was traveling Tuesday, could not be reached for an interview, but responded by email: "Always be leery of those who fear and would stifle free speech — who would stifle the open exchange of knowledge — such as that unindicted co-conspirator, CAIR."
Several religious leaders said they were concerned about the timing of Ibrahim's talk, "when you have people celebrating the killing of [Osama] bin Laden," said the Rev. Alice Woldt, executive director of the Washington Association of Churches, who signed the letter. "Killing someone is not something the faith community celebrates," she said.
"I am all for free speech, and I absolutely believe more speech is the cure to bad speech," said Rabbi Daniel Weiner, of the Temple De Hirsch Sinai. But Weiner said he objects to Ibrahim's appearance at a community college because "the real denigration of a people, in what is already a sensitive and volatile climate, is problematic."
Ibrahim's talk is part of a program organized by the college's Humanities Center, which has focused this year on Islam in America. His talk was paid for by the Student Activities Office Programs Board, and he is being paid $1,500, which includes travel expenses.
Ibrahim has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN, Reuters, Al Jazeera, NPR, CBN, PBS and various radio talk shows, according to the college. He has testified before Congress and is the author of "The Al Qaeda Reader," a collection of the key texts of the al-Qaida movement.
Woldt said that because the school had invited Ibrahim to come, students will "assume [he] knows what [he's] talking about, and telling the truth."
On a website where Ibrahim's writings are posted, "right up front it talks about Islam being a violent religion," Woldt said. "To target another religion as something evil is not in keeping with any religion."
Bukhari said his group supports freedom of speech, but Ibrahim's appearance is a case of "privileged speech" because he was invited by the school, promoted as an expert and is being given a platform to speak.
It's not the first time the college's series on Islam has provoked a reaction. In January, the college received a flurry of emails and Facebook posts from people who objected to CAIR's involvement in organizing a panel of five Muslim-Americans to talk about their faith.
CAIR has faced accusations over the years that some of its leaders have old connections to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, or the Muslim Brotherhood. Bukhari said the accusations are false.
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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