February 5th, 2008 09:10 EST
Air Force Academy Speaker Once Claimed 'Islam is the Devil'
A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on the United States Air Force Academy to offer a balancing perspective at an event this week featuring speakers who have a long history of anti-Muslim rhetoric and whose claims of being "reformed terrorists" have been challenged by experts.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the academy invited Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani to address the 50th annual United States Air Force Academy Assembly in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Controversial "terrorism expert" Steven Emerson is also invited to speak at the event.)
SEE: United States Air Force Academy Assembly
SEE ALSO: Three Former Terrorists Invited By US Air Force Academy
CAIR has offered to help academy officials find representatives of the Colorado Muslim community who can offer a balancing perspective to what the Washington-based group calls the "hate-filled rhetoric" of the invited speakers.
(Assembly organizers have not yet responded to that offer or to the information provided about the Islamophobic views of the speakers.)
In past events, the three self-styled "ex-terrorists" made bigoted and inaccurate statements about Islam and Muslims. They told one California university audience that Americans need to "wake up to the dangerous realities of the Islamic faith."
SEE: 3 Men Decry Islam and Blame it for Radicalism
Shoebat told a Missouri newspaper that he sees "many parallels between the Antichrist and Islam" and "Islam is not the religion of God -- Islam is the devil." (Springfield News-Leader, 9/24/07)
He has stated publicly that he bombed an Israeli bank and participated in other acts of violence in the Middle East, yet he has not been charged with any crime.
Panelist Zachariah Anani says he is an advocate against what he calls "the violent doctrines of Islam." (Michigan Daily, 1/30/07)
Terrorism experts recently cast doubt on the Anani's claims.
"Mr. Anani's not an individual who rates the slightest degree of credibility, based on the stories that he has told," said Tom Quiggin, Canada's only court-qualified expert on global terror and a former RCMP intelligence and national security expert.
SEE: Doubt Cast On Anani's Terrorist Claims (Windsor Star)
"Without a balancing perspective, the hate-filled rhetoric of these individuals will poison the minds of those who may serve our nation in Muslim-majority areas of the world," said CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor. "The First Amendment protects even bigoted speech, but those who value mutual understanding should have an equal right to speak out and be heard."
Saylor added that the academy's invitation to three such anti-Muslim speakers could be viewed by many as a tacit endorsement of their views.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.