Hate-Lecture in Bellingham, Washington
by Jeff Siddiqui
A few weeks ago, I received a notice that there was going to be a lecture in Bellingham by a Professor Zylstra at Whatcom College. The bio went on to relate Professor Zylstra’s WWII experiences in his native Holland, he came to Bellingham and has been teaching at Whatcom College for the past thirty years (currently teaching Political Science and History). What caught my attention was that he was to give a lecture “Understanding Radical Islam”; “The beginnings of Islam, its historical radicalization” and how Islam’s doctrine on death and the after-life (Eschatology) is the (sic) “driving force behind the Islamo-fascism mounting a threat to the West today”.
At first I hesitated; Bellingham is about 80 miles (130 Km) from where I live, a long way to drive just to get bashed, but then I thought, if I don’t go and nobody else does either, this professor will go unchallenged and his word will become the gospel for his audience…on the other hand, it is quite likely that his audience will be pre-selected because of the subject and because it is him, so he will be preaching to the choir anyway. The lecture was scheduled for Monday the 27th of October, 2008 at 7:00 p.m., having nothing else on my books and wanting to oppose bigotry, I decided to go along with Arsalan Bokhari, the Seattle head of CAIR. En route, we picked up a student from Lynnwood and since my daughter Heather is a student at Western University and also wanted to attend, we picked her up as well; we arrived at the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham early enough that seats were available.
The program was being offered by a company called Logos, a Bible software company that was presenting a lecture series of which “Understanding Radical Islam” was a part.
Professor Zystra arrived and was warmly greeted by friends present. He walked around talking to people and showing them a piece of paper that apparently had been left at his door; I am guessing it was some sort of protest regarding the title of his lecture.
He began with the well-known and de rigueur disclaimer that “not all Muslims are violent, in fact some of his best friends have been Muslim” (....okay, okay, your duty has been served, let’s get started, I thought)...and begin he did with a few slides in the background!
Astonishingly, he began his eighty-minute lecture by saying “Nothing here is my opinion…”. At first I wondered why say anything if your own opinion is not involved, but then I thought he might be trying to say that whatever he is saying can be “verified”.
“We are not talking about Islam”, he said, “but about RADICAL Islam which is a dangerous thing”.
He talked about “Jihad” and after accurately explaining what Jihad meant, he decided to focus on the war aspect of Jihad (self, the environment and defensive, not pre-emptive, war), which is not only the least important of the three Jihad forms, but also the most difficult to employ according to Islamic law. His slide in the background said that Muslims are encouraged to give their lives for Islam and those who die are promised 72 virgins in Heaven for the “martyr”. My daughter growled as she poked my ribs to point this out to me.
He skimmed over conquests by Muslims in Europe and told us how Charles Martel stopped the advancement of Muslim armies at the Battle of Poitiers in France, “If Charles Martel had not stopped Islam, all of Europe would be Muslim today”.
Very nice, the good professor obviously forgot a few details. Muslims did not invade Spain until the Jewish princes IN Spain begged the Muslims to bring their armies and help the Jewish princedoms fight the oppression of the Catholic Kingdoms in Spain.
Muslims ruled Spain for 400 years during which period, Christians and Jews thrived alongside Muslims and all maintained their princedoms. In fact, it was Queen Isabella who gave the Jews and Muslims of Spain, the final ultimatum of leaving Spain, converting to Christianity or death. Ultimately, even those Jews and Muslims who did convert to Catholicism, were killed by royal order, because they were not viewed as trustworthy by the Spanish rulers.
His next “point” was: “Radical Islam’s followers, seclude themselves and seek to convert”.
This hardly classifies as a “dangerous” or “threatening” activity; I am personally aware of Christian Missionaries in Pakistan who keep to themselves and come out to interact with the locals only to attempt their conversion to Christianity.
Prof. Zylstra: “Radical Islam’s followers wish to spread the Caliphate across the world. Mosques are frequently used to hide terrorists”.
Based on the fact that violence has been perpetrated by all sorts of people, including Muslim sects that wish to exterminate each other, it is baffling to consider that all these individuals, groups and sects seek to unify under one rule under any circumstances, let alone, conquer the world and THEN unite under one rule.
Which Mosques would be the ones that “frequently” or even rarely, hide terrorists? I have prayed at dozens of different Mosques, many in the Puget Sound Area and never once have I ever heard or suspected that unsavory characters were using the Mosque, let alone “terrorists”.
Prof. Zylstra: “Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation to compel people and governments to change their ways”.
At last we agree!! But could it be that Professor Zylstra was not thinking of the ramifications when he made this statement? While this definition of “terrorism” is one of the best, the professor was obviously not considering the million Iraqis we strangled to death with our sanctions of 1991-2003 in pursuit of our goal that is - if we “strangle the people” (the US Administration’s words), they will rise up and overthrow their rulers (Saddam & Co.) This is also our stated policy for the “sanctions” against the people of Gaza after they voted for Hamas, denying even medical supplies to get to Gaza. The resulting sickness and deaths there remain largely unreported. This is also our stated policy as we impose tighter and tighter sanctions against Iran.
He then wandered into how Muslims repress and kill, “Female independence is non-existent, large financial incentives are provided to families of suicide-bombers”.
We agree that female independence is largely missing among lots of societies in Muslim countries, but this is a reflection of their low literacy rates and poverty; such repression of women can be found just as easily among non-Muslim societies in Asia and Africa as well, from India to South Africa. On the other hand, it would do well to note that Muslim women have been heads of state and held senior positions in those same countries that are accused of repressing women; a strange and conflicting fact that has nothing to do with religion.
Many Arab countries do try and provide for the families of suicide bombers AS WELL AS all other Arabs killed in Israel. The amount is usually about $10,000 which is a pittance when compared to the devastation that befalls the families of suicide bombers. Israel destroys the homes of the bombers, even if the home belongs to the parents or other relatives, as a continuation of Israeli policy of collective punishment. These homes are worth a lot more than the $10,000 paid to the families, often representing the family’s entire life-savings. Israel also does not permit the reconstruction of the home. It is a twist of logic to imagine that the $10,000 provided to the family of a dead Palestinian can be an incentive to kill Israelis. Would it make sense anywhere to say that the extended families of an individual criminal were all to be denied any social welfare benefits?
Professor Zylstra’s presentation seemed unable to distinguish between Islam and politics, it appeared that as long as the perpetrator can be linked in any fashion to Islam, he would turn it into an opportunity to indict Islam and Muslims under the fig leaf of the “Radical” prefix.
In seeking to outline “the threat to the US from ‘Radical Islam”, he first placed Hizballah and Hamas into the arena of “terrorists” and then he accused them of seeking to legitimize themselves by inserting themselves into the political arena. Not satisfied with this, he went on to assert that Hamas has cells within the U.S. and uses U.S. charitable organizations as fronts to raise money. Perhaps sensing himself to be on a roll, he went even further, saying that the people of Hamas helped the Nazis devise their death camps.
“Terrorists have already inserted themselves in Europe”, he said. “They are established in Kosovo and Bosnia, there have been over 1000 attacks by “Islamists” in Europe after 9-11, Europe will change to Islam by the end of the century at this rate…there are 57 Islamic states against the Judeo-Christian Civilization.”
I could see how people, who have little or no knowledge of Islam or current affairs, would be gasping for air by now. I could not miss the subtle shift from “Radical” Islam to the straight-forward “Islam”; nor could I miss the reference to a threat that Europe will be overrun by Islam and the picture of all Muslim-majority countries arrayed against the “Judeo-Christian Civilization”.
The gloves were now off.
Many people would love to weld the title “terrorist” to Hizballah and Hamas and indeed, they are on the current U.S. State Department’s list of “terrorist” organizations. Sadly, the State Department applies it label generously against organizations that are out of favor in the U.S. or, out of favor with our favorite countries (Israel being at the top of the list of favorites), so much so, that its listing has lost credibility among many nations across the world.
Hizballah and Hamas are resistance organizations against the invasions and occupations by Israel. Their social welfare work for the betterment of their people (Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories and Lebanese people) cannot be questioned by anyone. The two organizations have proven themselves virtually incorruptible (as opposed to Fatah) and every time the declared truce, whether unilaterally or bi-laterally with Israel, they kept it until Israel egregiously broke it. (Like the IRA in Ireland, they have both military and social welfare wings).
Hizballah was formed after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, in order to get the Israelis out of Lebanon and to get rid of their proxies, the South Lebanese Army (SLA) who together, were responsible for major massacres and tortures of the Lebanese people. When Hizballah succeeded, it became a political party and was immensely popular. They have not agreed to give up their war preparation until Israel is out of every bit of Lebanese territory.
It is baffling to even the most fertile imaginations; how anyone from Hamas could help the Nazis devise their death camps. Hamas was formed in the 1980s WITH the support of Israel who thought Hamas would be a great wedge between Palestinians and Fatah. Israel was right, but they had no idea how powerful and popular Hamas would become…and how fast. Hamas has been consistent in their offers for peace with Israel but Israel has rejected the same because of the many preconditions Israel wishes to attach to any discussions with Hamas (Hamas rejects talks with preconditions).
Hamas is on the state Department’s list of terrorist organizations, The Professor did not explain how he or his sources, could know of “Hamas Cells in the United States”, but the FBI does not. He also did not explain how “Hamas uses charitable organizations” in the US, to infiltrate the U.S. and to raise funds, yet there has not been a single such convictiction — to be sure, the FBI has shut down many Muslim charities, but they have done so in an extra-judicial manner and in the opinion of many, have unconstitutionally exploited the current hysteria against Muslims, to persecute Muslim organizations. To date, not a single conviction has resulted from all the sham trials that US Attorney’s have taken Muslim organizations through.
Overseas, professor Zylstra presented the specter of Muslims gone amok by telling us that “Blackhawk helicopters were shot down in Somalia and Iran is a powder keg, they await (Judgment Day and) the final Messiah”.
Our foray into Somalia and our fighting with the different factions there was politically based, not religious. In turn, the Somalis did not attack U.S. and U.N. forces (which included Muslims) on religious grounds but because different factions did not like the way the U.S. was working with their opposition and opposing them.
The Iranians may await the Messiah, but that is much less of a threat than the many Christian Churches (Baptist, Evangelical etc.,) who are anxious for Judgment Day to come, and acting as much as possible to bring about conditions that may hasten that day.
Now that the “Radical” prefix was out of the way and the path to the savaging of Islam and Muslims was finally cleared, professor Zystra harkened back to the days of his youth in the Netherlands under Nazi occupation and seamlessly shifted over to Muslims. Towards the end, his pronouncements against Islam and Muslims flew too fast to catch them all in my long-hand notes, but some of them are below:
“Muslim converts would formerly have been Marxists, Nazis, drug addicts and criminals”. Some of the converts I know are highly respectable educators, lawyers and scientists, one I know was a highly influential advisor to the Nixon Administration and for that matter Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) hardly qualifies to be on the professor’s list of bad guys (my convert friends would be insulted and hurt to learn what Prof Zylstra thought of them).
“Jihad is in every country in the world”. A broad-brush condemnation that leaves all evil innuendoes open for exploitation against Muslims because the implied connotation is not for helping to improve self and the environment, but to fight some irrational “War!” against non-Muslims.
“25 Dutch Mosques have terrorist connections”. Really? Would the professor care to share with us (or with the Dutch Government) which Mosques they are and why they are still being allowed to operate?
He then gave a list of things Muslims “refuse to do” (seemingly making said Muslims suspect) that included:
“Muslims refuse to eat school foods because they are not Sharia prepped”. If this is an indicator of evil intentions, then how will we treat Jewish children who may only eat kosher food? Actually, there are numerous religious groups in the U.S. who have specific dietary restrictions.
“Piggy banks and pig-related items are banned in England”. This claim rocked me. Having lived in Britain for three years, I could not imagine Pig-featuring items being banned there. When I questioned this statement, one of the organizers challenged me to prove that sale of pig-related goods was NOT banned in England and agreed to “discredit” the professor’s statement on his website. I was able to find one British store selling piggy banks as soon as I got home and sent it to Mr. Heiser but never heard back from him.
“They also do honor-killings, why don’t we see Christian and Jewish families doing these things?” News stories of Honor-murders (they are NOT “killings”) by Sikhs and Hindus abound, there are also stories of such murders in Southern Europe. (See also: ... , and  ,  a few articles about Islam and “honor” murders.)
At the end of the lecture, my daughter Heather, stood up and asked professor Zylstra to define a “Radical Muslim”.
“They are people who define themselves as Radical Muslims!” said the professor and Mr. Heiser almost simultaneously.
How erudite. I have never come across anyone who claimed to be a “Radical” Muslim, nor have I ever heard of such a self-applied label.
My daughter then asked, “Where in the Quran, are there any references to good or martyred Muslim men going to Heaven and getting 72 virgins and what happens to good Muslim women who die?”
“I never said that, I would never make such a claim” said prof Zylstra.
She then pointed out to him that his slides did make such a statement, clearly and explicitly. Other members of the audience concurred and Zylstra looked confused until Heiser stood up and said, “It’s in the Hadith!” and Zylstra quickly agreed.
Actually, the subject of “virgins in Paradise” has many differing connotations, ranging from the base sex-objects that most non-Muslim critics of Islam offer, to “virgin-chaste” transcendental beings who are there to serve as companions to the spirits of humans and Jinns (both male and female) alike and these heavenly companions are for all of those who make it to heaven. Regardless of the way this may get construed, the idea that Muslims would wish to kill themselves and lots of innocents as well, in order to get to Heaven for sex can only be the product of an imagination that is irrationally hostile to Islam and Muslims. (See also: , , , and 
As we were about to leave, I was approached by a wonderful young lady who told me she felt sick during the presentation because of the hate Zylstra was spreading, she was very sorry about it. She was also joined by a few others who also said similar things to me. It was most uplifting to meet even just a few people who supported truth and harmony instead of hate. Then a man approached me and introduced himself as Bob Pritchett, President and CEO of Logos Bible Software Company.
He told me he regretted the presentation which was prepared and organized while he was out of town and he had no idea it would be like this. He told me Logos was in the business of selling Bible software and not in the business of creating hate among groups and he apologized for the show.
I accepted his apology and we agreed to meet over a cup of coffee sometime later when I visited Bellingham next. I plan to do so.
In closing, while this presentation was terrible, it is typical of the many harangues against Islam and Muslims with just about as many if not more, libelous claims against Islam and Muslims, not just “radical” Muslims.
This is not the real tragedy; the real tragedy is that hardly anyone stands up to speak out against this demonizing of Islam and Muslims.
Prof Zylstra related his experiences with the Nazis, but he seems to have completely forgotten that the rise of Nazism was accompanied by an equal and vicious rise of hate propaganda against Jews and other non-Aryan people — which resulted in the deaths in camps like Auschwitz and Dachau, of millions of innocent people.
Amazingly and tragically, few people seem to recognize a similar rise in hate and bigotry against Arabs, Muslims and Islam in America today.