There is arguably no greater threat to the safety and security of the American people than radical Islamic terrorism. On September 11, 2001, radical Islamic terrorists killed nearly 3000 Americans. Since the tragedy of that day, we have seen radical Islamic terrorist groups around the world, such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, perpetrate horrific acts of violence such as mass shootings, suicide bombings, beheadings, sexual violence, and a litany of other evils that shake the consciences of decent people everywhere.
In Europe, acts of terrorism have become nearly weekly occurrences. Just last week, a terrorist slaughtered eight innocents in a vehicular attack in New York City. Yet many politicians refuse to acknowledge the nature and magnitude of the global jihadist threat. Some have made highly questionable assertions, such as that the Islamic State is not Islamic, while others have blamed the United States and other Western countries for the violence our civilians have endured, citing economic and political grievances caused by European colonialism and American support for Israel.
Moreover, these ideas constitute the conventional wisdom on college campuses and form the perspective that Stanford students are constantly exposed to. Stanford students have not had heard their professors provide alternate causal explanations. They have never been made to consider the role that certain passages in Islamic texts play in providing the ideological underpinning and inspiration for radical Islamic terrorism. This perspective is routinely dismissed as Islamophobic and thus deemed illegitimate. We reject this characterization. How can a perspective be unworthy of at least due consideration, if it is a sentiment held by a majority of the American public? Moreover, why should we dismiss an opinion outright, if that opinion is held by many of the highest government officials making national security decisions on behalf of our country?
It is against this backdrop that the Stanford College Republicans have decided to invite Robert Spencer to campus. Mr. Spencer’s professional credentials are stellar. He has authored 16 books, including two New York Times best-sellers, and has led training seminars for the FBI, the US Army, and the Justice Department’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council. Mr. Spencer is the vice-president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and has been tracking radical Islamic terrorism on his website, Jihad Watch, since 2003.
Mr. Spencer’s central assertion is that jihadist groups are inspired to commit acts of violence against unbelievers by passages in the Quran and Hadiths that exhort believers to do so. Time and time again, Mr. Spencer has made his theological arguments thoughtfully, backing them up with plenty of evidence from Islamic texts, history, and the actions of modern-day radical Islamic terrorists.
We have invited Robert Spencer to campus to add a sorely needed perspective to an important conversation about international security. Moreover, our hope is, above all, to ignite a spirited discussion. Those who take issue with the views Mr. Spencer espouses should feel free to confront him pointedly, but respectfully. Our event has an hour of built-in time solely for Q & A. We anticipate that event attendees will use this time productively.
Lastly, we firmly reject any and all attempts to undermine this event. We reject all attempts to curtail freedom of speech on this campus, especially with respect to an issue as salient as international security. Furthermore, we will not let the fact that some students take exception to Mr. Spencer’s views stop us from providing an important educational experience to the Stanford community, while also starting an important discussion. Throughout the years, the Stanford College Republicans have witnessed a parade of campus events with speakers invited by other political student organizations, paid for with student funds. On more than one occasion, some of these speakers have made claims that many Stanford students find repugnant and offensive. Nevertheless, we have never once taken any action to disrupt these events. We expect fair and reciprocal treatment. We also expect that Stanford will live up to its reputation as an intellectually challenging institution open to a free exchange of ideas.