AT labeled "ultra-right wing" by prof.

Editor's Note: American Thinker was slurred by a professor at Kenyon College, in an opinion piece in the student newspaper, The Collegian, and we use this space to respond.

editor and publisher Thomas Lifson, chief political correspondent Richard Baehr, and contributor Henry Wickham, Jr. are all Kenyon graduates. Baehr has served on the Kenyon board of trustees.

The context of Schubel's mention of us was an op-ed attack on the College's decision to rent a meeting facility to an evangelical group headed by Franklin Graham. Graham has made comments critical of Islam.  American Thinker has never published any material concerning this issue at Kenyon, and has no position on it. But we have published about Professor Schubel.

Professor Schubel wrote:

"There are people like him [Graham] who are spreading fear of Muslims, a virulent disease some have called ‘Islamophobia' and whose closest analogue is anti-Semitism. It is a disease that has spread into the centers of power and policy-making, as is evidenced by the enthusiastic applause recently received by Bernard Lewis at the American Enterprise Institute as he was receiving their Irving Kristol Award when he defended the Crusades as a "late, limited, and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad." There are numerous organizations and think tanks who are promoting fear of Islam and Muslims for their own political ends.  Franklin Graham is at the center of that discourse...

"Renting out our facilities to a politically powerful ministry whose leadership is openly hostile to Islam (as well as gays and lesbians) was, to my mind, an ill-considered and short-sighted decision.... [....]

" a time when we are struggling to become a more diverse campus. There are many Muslim immigrant families that have been extremely successful in this country. The Muslim community deeply values education. Their kids go to some of the best colleges and universities in America. Far too few choose to come here, despite our excellent programs. In my opinion, we don't try hard enough to attract them. For example, the proposed Islamic Civilization and Cultures concentration proposal-which would send a message that this is a place that takes Islam seriously-has for bureaucratic reasons still not cleared CPC ( see story, page 1). I am still hopeful it will clear the committee in time for students to graduate with it this year. If you Google "Kenyon College" and "Muslim" you pull up articles from the ultra-right wing American Thinker published by an alumnus of this institution that attacks Islam and the way that it is taught on our campus and the controversial visit by Irshad Manji.  There is clear and unfortunate evidence that Muslim students think twice about applying here. The presence of Franklin Graham's ministry on our campus will only affirm the false impression that Kenyon is a campus which emphasizes the study of neo-conservatism, but not the civilization of Islam and sends the inaccurate message that this is a place Muslims would not be comfortable."

American Thinker is proud of its coverage of Islam and its role in the contemporary world. We have presented a variety of viewpoints, including a lengthy dialogue with a Saudi religious leader. But we have been unsparing in our attention to what Islamic scripture says, what the history of jihad consists of, and other subjects deemed sensitive by someone or other. We even thought it was okay for newspapers to publish cartoons of the Prophet. We emphatically reject all notions of imposing taboos in the name of battling irrational prejudice ("Islamaphobia").

Thomas Lifson, editor

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Henry P. Wickham, Jr., author of our earlier pieces about Schubel, sent a response to the editors of The Collegian.  The editors made conflicting demands for revisions, and then wound up not publishing it.  With the hope of introducing a much needed dissenting viewpoint to the Kenyon campus, we publish a version of Mr. Wickham's article that is substantially similar to what the editors in their wisdom refused to publish.

In the course of Vernon Schubel's attacking a recent proposal to rent College facilities to a group of Knox County religious leaders for an evangelistic celebration, he has also attacked the American Thinker, a publication to which I contribute, and, indirectly, positions that I have taken against him.

I do not know of Franklin Graham or his positions or statements on Islam.  I take no position on whether the College should have extended this invitation to his organization.   

But Professor Schubel speaks disparagingly of those "who are spreading fear of Muslims."  He calls this a "virulent disease" that is called "Islamophobia," and then he compares this "disease" to anti-Semitism.

At the risk of being labeled a carrier of this "disease," consider four unpleasant realities: (1) The potential destructive power of chemical, biological, and nuclear weaponry; (2) The significant number of Muslims (al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezb'allah, to name a few of their organizations) who see nothing wrong with killing non-Muslims; (3) The very open desire for certain Muslim regimes (e.g. Saudi Arabia and Iran) to have these weapons, and Iran's very clearly expressed and forthright intention to use them;  and (4) When compared to the reaction of Muslims to the Mohammed cartoons, the virtual silence of moderate Muslims in the face of all this hatred and violence.

I must insist that "fear" is a rational response to these unpleasant realities for both non-Muslims and decent Muslims alike.  One does not have to assert that hatred and violence are "normative Muslim behavior," nor does one have to argue that "Islam is inherently violent or wicked" to be reasonably fearful of what extremist Muslims have shown themselves capable. This fear is not something that is by definition what the Professor calls "Islamophobia" with its implied bigotry.

Professor Schubel's analogy of "Islamophobia" to anti-Semitism is a creative sleight-of-hand.  As I am sure Professor Schubel knows, the worst of the world's anti-Semitism, not seen since the days of the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s, is regularly preached in mosques throughout the Middle East. But he acknowledges no problem here. What bad happens to Jews usually happens to non-Jews before long, so is there anything wrong with this fear of what Muslims are fomenting?  For Professor Schubel, anti-Semitism serves as a means to illustrate his views of Islamophobia, but is little more.

Professor Schubel takes a gratuitous shot at the renowned scholar, Bernard Lewis.  Readers might want to compare the scholarship of Professor Lewis with that of Professor Schubel. Only one of them is regarded as a giant in the field. 

There are cynical elements to the Professor's argument as well. He condemns this supposedly "politically powerful ministry" that he says is openly hostile to Islam. He tacks on the reference to "gays and lesbians" as subjects of this hostility.  This reference slickly shifts attention from a serious problem to a pseudo-problem. Professor Schubel must know how gays and lesbians are targeted in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, where the life expectancy of a known homosexual is not long. Evangelicals who can be critical, or Islamists who can be murderous; of whom should gays and lesbians be more fearful?

Professor Schubel is very concerned that the presence of Mr. Graham's organization on campus might cause the public to get the idea that Kenyon "emphasizes the study of neo-conservatism."  This charge is risible. Anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of the prevailing orthodoxies on virtually any campus knows full well that neither Kenyon nor any other liberal arts college "emphasizes the study of neo-conservatism." Find one degree program in neo-conservatism, or name one "center for the study of neo-conservatism." They don't exist, in part because nobody can quite say what neo-conservatism is, beyond a label that many on the left regard as obviously bad.

Having spent most of his life on campus, Professor Schubel certainly knows this.  I suspect that the name-calling has far more to do with rallying the faculty and administration for his demand for a new "concentration" in Islamic Studies. How better to keep those scary, "diseased" neocons at bay?

Then there is Professor Schubel's characterization of American Thinker as "ultra-right wing," which says more of the Professor than of the American Thinker.  Such a phrase may evoke images of jackboots and death squads in fevered leftist minds, but it is not very useful as a characterization of this widely-read and respected mainstream website, consisting of opinion, analysis, and commentary. American Thinker has been quoted by the Telegraph of the UK and Le Monde in Paris, not to mention a raft of major American newspapers. A new college textbook is reproducing a three part series American Thinker published on the war on terror.

By all means, readers of the Collegian should check out American Thinker. I specifically suggest my July 2, 2006 analysis of Professor Schubel's embarrassing whitewash of Islam that graced the summer 2006 Kenyon Alumni Bulletin.  On August 5, 2006, American Thinker published Professor Schubel's even more embarrassing response to an alumnus, and then my response to him.  Readers can decide the merits.

There are those who espouse a contemporary Islam that has a serious problem with violence and hatred for those whom Islamists call infidels. To deny this is to actively avert one's eyes from the obvious. This does not mean that one must hate Muslims. Far from it.

I suspect that no one except decent Muslims can reform Islam and tame its worst elements.  Perhaps when enough decent Muslims recognize this sad fact and decide to purge Islam of its worst elements, prospects will improve for all civilized people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. 

Professor Schubel, with his name-calling, his whining, his denials, and his silence in the face of Islam-inspired terror, is just another obstacle to the prospect for this necessary reform.   

Henry P. Wickham, Jr.  
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