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June 13, 2019
Notes from the Pentagon

War College cancels speaker on Islam
A Muslim activist group has pressured the U.S. Army War College into postponing a speech by Ray Ibrahim, an expert on the historical roots of Islamic terrorism, after the group falsely labeled him as a racist and “Islamophobe,” he said.

The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group critics say is linked to the Islamist international group Muslim Brotherhood, protested the speech in a letter to the college superintendent, Army Maj. Gen. John S. Kem, and provost James G. Breckenridge. Purporting to represent the “Muslim community” in Pennsylvania, CAIR stated that it opposed Mr. Ibrahim’s planned June 19 speech on “Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War Between Islam and the West,” which is also the title of his latest book.

The group asserted that Mr. Ibrahim’s publicly stated view — that Muslim hostility for and terrorization of the West is not an aberration but a continuation of Islamic history — has the potential to instigate hatred against Muslims.

“We also do not believe that there is any benefit to the U.S. in promulgating the inaccurate thesis that Islam is our enemy, as this stereotype only alienates millions of Muslim-Americans,” the May 28 letter states.

Mr. Ibrahim, in an interview, denied the CAIR allegations and said the group set up straw man arguments against him in a smear campaign that involved taking his statements out of context.

The War College initially informed Mr. Ibrahim that the lecture could proceed despite the opposition. But after CAIR organized a publicity campaign alleging Mr. Ibrahim was a white nationalist, the college buckled to the group’s pressure.

Mr. Ibrahim, an Egyptian by ethnicity, vehemently denied he is a racist. “They are playing the race card,” he said.

After the Army announced it was postponing the speech, Jacob Bender, CAIR-Philadelphia executive director, issued a statement urging full cancellation. “A postponement is not enough — the college should reject hate,” he said.

Robert Martin, a spokesman for the Army War College, said Mr. Ibrahim’s speech was postponed so the Army education unit can “pair Mr. Ibrahim’s military history insights in close proximity with another historical perspective, at a time when [the Army War College] curriculum has addressed historical analysis of influences on conflict.” He did not respond when asked about the pressure from CAIR.

Mr. Ibrahim said the speech was canceled and the college’s claim of a postponement is not correct.

His 352-page book covers nearly 14 centuries in great detail, and CAIR provided no documentation for any research shortcomings in its campaign against him. “The history I present in ‘Sword and Scimitar’ is ironclad, verifiable and beyond well documented, with about a thousand endnotes, it is heavily based on primary sources, many of which are Muslim, and from eyewitnesses,” Mr. Ibrahim said.

CAIR and its affiliates have been known to engage in similar coercive campaigns against people and organizations it views as anti-Islamic.

The group forced NPR to fire commentator Juan Williams over comments he made about Muslims. Nike, also under pressure from CAIR, was forced to destroy 38,000 basketball shoes after the group claimed Muslims were offended by the word “Air” in stylized letters on the sneakers that appeared similar to the Arabic word for Allah.

CAIR was first identified as a member of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee and an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008 federal terrorism funding case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in Texas. Five former leaders of the Muslim charity were found guilty of funneling more than $12 million to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

Former Pentagon official Peter Leitner said CAIR is a Muslim Brotherhood front masquerading as a civil rights organization.

“Based on its actions, one of CAIR’s many objectives is to shut down any individual or company that has a negative view of Islam, speaks out against Islamic terrorism or reveals the truth about CAIR,” Mr. Leitner said in a video produced by the Florida-based group Citizens for National Security. “In reality, CAIR is an integral part of the jihadist movement.”

The video quoted CAIR co-founder Nihad Awad as describing the Islamic concept of jihad, or holy war, as “a legitimate concept, which is self-defense.”

“CAIR is a purveyor of disinformation and name-calling,” Mr. Leitner said, “using the contrived label of ‘Islamophobe’ on individuals and organizations in repeated attempts to either silence critics of its subversive agenda or to extort money from corporations.”

Mr. Bender, the CAIR director in Philadelphia, did not respond to emails asking about the video’s assertions.

The Senate version of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill contains language seeking modifications in the Pentagon’s annual report on the Chinese military to include the military dimensions of China’s Belt and Road global development initiative.

Specifically, the bill calls for Pentagon analysts to report on the link between the Belt and Road Initiative, a $4 trillion to $8 trillion development program stretching over the next two decades, and Beijing’s security and strategy objectives.

Under the Senate version, the report would study Chinese investments or projects that have a significant potential to be converted into military assets. Also, the report would be required to focus on Chinese investments that pose significant threats to U.S. national security interests.

Other areas include Chinese investments that are linked to foreign military cooperation, such as satellite navigation facilities or arms production.

The report also would require identification of Chinese initiatives abroad that pose significant financial risks to developing countries and that could undermine the sovereignty of those countries.

The language reflects the bipartisan concerns in Congress that Beijing is using its economic power to expand the communist system in the developing world through infrastructure projects that are covers for military expansion and imposing control over foreign states.

Randall G. Schriver, assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said in an interview last year that the Chinese military is a key player in the Belt and Road initiative. “The military is supportive of a comprehensive strategy and in many ways the leading edge is predatory economics,” Mr. Schriver said, noting that military and commercial expansion by China are “supportive and complementary.”

“Where China is using economic tools, they’re often doing so in order to create access and potential bases,” he said.

China has one military base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa and is building others in Pakistan and the Persian Gulf.

Leading Democratic presidential contender Joseph R. Biden has changed his tune on the threat posed by China.

On May 1, the former vice president ridiculed the notion that China poses an economic or security threat. “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. They can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the west,” he said. “They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. They’re not bad folks, folks. They’re not competition for us.”

But he flip-flopped on the issue Tuesday during remarks in Iowa.

“We are in a competition with China. We need to get tough with China,” Mr. Biden said. “They are a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat.”

The changed rhetoric reflects the growing bipartisan consensus in Washington that China has become the most serious national security challenge for the United States. Mr. Biden’s reversal is likely the result of political advisers who were quick to note that being soft on China likely could limit his ability to get votes.

President Trump’s tough posture toward Beijing represents a major shift in U.S. policy that for more than 30 years was based on the now discredited idea that simply trading with Beijing would result in a more benign and less communistic China.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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