[DEBATE] : Controversial writer Hitchens talks terror
leehall at sprynet.com
Fri May 12 06:07:02 BST 2006
STANFORD DAILY - May 10, 2006
RADICAL ISLAM CRITICIZED
Controversial writer Hitchens talks terror
By James Hohmann
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
The West needs to take the threat of fundamentalist, militant Islam more
seriously, controversial British commentator Christopher Hitchens told a
predominately older audience at the Geology Corner auditorium last night. In
an hour-and-a-half program, the liberal-socialist contrarian with a wry
British wit and a sharp English tongue offered up barbs against Osama bin
Laden, Muslims, liberals and Jacques Chirac. In an at-times rambling,
back-and-forth exchange with audience members, Hitchens also denounced
"You don't have to be paranoid, racist or a bigot to take alarm," he said.
"There is a civil war within Islam. We are not in a war on terror. We cannot
be at war with an expression."
Hitchens, an editor for Vanity Fair, described himself as an atheist and
issued a sharp rebuke of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
"Of course, he's not a prophet," he said. "He's an epileptic plagiarist."
He said the Quran - Islam's holiest book - was full of "evil fairly tales"
that were "unimaginably recycled."
"It's a boring plagiarism of the worst parts of Christianity and Judaism,"
Hitchens said he has personally expressed concern to British Prime Minister
Tony Blair about Europe's accommodation of radical Islam. He said that some
Muslim leaders have said their growing population means they will eventually
take control of Europe.
He said that the continent was more cognizant of the threat posed by
fundamentalism in the past. But since the 1960s, he said, the United States
has become the more mindful of the two.
"It was more widely, institutionally believed in Europe first that an
accommodation with Islam was desirable because it forms a contiguous social
and political block within Europe," Hitchens said. "It's now the Europeans
who want to forget the long struggle against Islam, and the United States is
Hitchens criticized leftists who claim that the Bush administration is
beholden to Middle Eastern oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia. He said
that Bush went against the wishes of the Saudi royal family with the
invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq.
"If you can just pronounce the words blood and oil, people will applaud," he
Hitchens, who was and remains an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq,
defended the Bush administration's decision, adding that Saddam Hussein had
been making the country less secular and reaching out to religious
extremists. He said the criticisms of the "riff-raff calling itself the
anti-war movement" are misplaced and reiterated that the American homeland
remains at grave risk to terrorists.
Hitchens told the audience about recent meetings with European scholars
concerned about the increasing pervasiveness of Islam on the continent. He
said he has met with the editors of the Dutch newspapers who decided to
print cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. In the Islamic faith,
visually depicting the prophet is considered blasphemy. Some who subscribe
to Sharia - Islamic law - believe it should be punished by death.
After the Dutch government declined to crack down on the freedom of the
press, radical Muslim clerics sent their followers rioting in several Middle
Eastern countries and through Europe. The conflagration event sent some
shockwaves through the United States. Hitchens said that news editors were
intimidated by threats from Muslims, even though they said they were not.
The speaker tried to assuage fears of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. While
in no way apologetic for the regime, he noted that the Iranian president has
no power compared to the religious theocratic leadership.
"The situation has been let to rot until there are almost no good choices,"
he said. "They have no interest in using their weapons for a preemptive
strike because it would literally be the last thing they did."
Through most of his speech, the zaftig Hitchens gripped onto his sports coat
as a child would a blanket. He gulped down two full bottles of water. At the
beginning of the event, he warned that it could not go too late because he
did not want to miss cocktail hour. As he became restless toward the end of
a long question-and-answer session, he pulled out and began chomping on a
He invited the audience to join him at the corner of the Quad for a smoke.
More than a dozen people followed him outside and spent more than 15 minutes
criticizing, verbally prodding and questioning him.
"I can simmer down and have a smoke outside," he told the audience before
exiting. "And anyone can say what they'd like."
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