I give some history about the ties between a neo-Nazi named William W. Baker and a variety of Islamist institutions at "Canadian Islamists Host a Neo-Nazi." (And for a weblog entry devoted to the CAIR-Baker connection, see "CAIR Promotes and Hosts William W. Baker, Neo-Nazi.") The story did not end in January 2004, when that was written, but continues to evolve, so I will provide occasional updates, as needed, here.
To begin with, as part of part of a series of events planned by the Muslim Student Association of Western Michigan University ("which we hope will help build bridges between the many religions of the world"), William W. Baker will be speaking on "Islam and Christianity: Coalition or Collision?" on March 11 on the campus. (March 9, 2004)
March 20, 2004 update: The Kalamazoo Gazette reports today that William W. Baker spoke to an audience of 400 at Western Michigan University's Muslim Students Association on March 11. The news item contains two points of interest: (1) Outside the venue, "a small group of students protested Baker's appearance, citing that he is associated with neo-Nazi and anti-Israeli groups. They objected that their tuition is helping to fund student organizations that sponsor such speakers." (2) Baker "began his 33-year career as a peacemaker after he was taken hostage by 11 men of the Hezbollah who blindfolded him and aimed their AK-47s at him. For three days, he and his captors talked about justice, oppression, innocence and guilt. He also pointed out to them that terrorism is not sanctioned by Quran or Islam." All very interesting, but Hezbollah did not exist in 1971, nor for more than another decade. So either Baker is engaging in some Walter Mitty-like fantasies or the unnamed journalist at the Kalamazoo Gazette got it wrong. Either explanation is cause for concern but I suspect the former explanation is the right one.
April 2, 2004 update: Florida Atlantic University, an institution that has shown a past weakness when dealing with radical Islam, as I have documented here and here, almost hosted William W. Baker tomorrow. Baker and members of his "Christians and Muslims for Peace" were invited to speak at FAU by the university's Muslim Student Organization, reports the Boca Raton News; unbelievably, Baker was billed by FAU's Student Government Association as a "Noble Peace Prize Nominee." But the event will not take place due to protests by local Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee. As Bill Gralnick of the AJC put it: "This is a guy who is making a living being the white spokesperson for Muslim extremists. He gets to say what he wants and the Muslims get to have a non-Muslim say what they want." Once again, FAU is falling down in its responsibilities. Aileen Izquierdo, FAU's director of communications, portrays the non-event on April 3 as a postponement, not a cancellation ("The students hosting this event did not have enough time to fully organize the event properly"), and insists that Baker may yet speak at the university.
April 9, 2005 update: News from Boca Raton, courtesy of MilitantIslamMonitor.org: "Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation Invites All Muslim Community to Celebrate the Birthday of the Last Messenger of God" at the Boca Raton Marriott on April 30, free admission for all. The top of the program is guest speaker "Dr." William Baker. The program states that "From Grand crystal cathedral in Los Angeles - California. Dr. Baker is one of the most outstanding figures in the Christian world. Set back relax and enjoy his understanding of Islam." The guests of honor will include the mayors of Boca Raton and Coral Springs, as well as the "educative chairman of CAIR," whoever that is. It is old hat for Islamists to sponsor Baker; but it would be scandalous for the mayors to endorse Baker's presence. To protest their doing so, contact either or both mayors.
April 11, 2005 update: I posted the contact information for both mayors at the end of the above entry, but took these down that after being forwarded the following e-mails, first from Boca Raton:
Subject: RE: Participation in Muslim Event With William Baker
From: "Abrams, Steven L."
To: "Mark Roth"
Sent: Monday, April 11, 2005 7:02 PM
Thank you for your email regarding the Assadiq Islamic Education Foundation event to be held in Boca Raton on April 30, 2005. I am outraged that my name has been associated with this event. I have not received any request to attend or be "honored" at the event and would certainly not accept any such invitation. It is particularly upsetting because one of the advertised speakers is William W. Baker. Several of my family members perished in the Holocaust, and any suggestion challenging the historical record of the Holocaust is repugnant to me.
I am, of course, seeking to contact this organization to express my extreme displeasure and demand that my name be removed from any advertising for this event.
Mayor Steven L. Abrams
City of Boca Raton
April 12, 2005 update: And then from Coral Springs:
Subject: Participation in Muslim Event With William Baker
From: Rhon Ernest -Jones
To: Mark Roth
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 5:28 PM
Let me first say that, until I spoke recently to Mr. Art Teitelbaum of the ADL, I had no idea who William Baker is or what viewpoint he represents. Now I know, but since I have not seen any of the publicity for the upcoming event, I am at a disadvantage. The very notion that I am "sharing the spotlight with Baker" is offensive to me.
Having said that, I will recount a simple flow of events which has led to this misunderstanding and unintended consequence. In February of this year, the City of Coral Springs hosted a celebration of Eid. As you may know, Coral Springs is a front-runner with regard to building multi-cultural relations and to the fostering of communication and goodwill between people of different races, colors and creeds. At the Eid event I met a young cleric named Imam Mohammad Jawad Al-Qazwini, who communicated well and seemed to my wife and me to be the kind of leader who would seek out the paths to peace and understanding. About one month ago I received a message from him, inviting me to attend a dinner of his educational foundation. No mention was made as to who the speakers would be. I replied that I could not stay for the whole evening and could not be a guest of honor, but that my wife and I would be happy to drop by for half an hour to pay respects. I do not know if you are familiar with the life of a Mayor, but I can assure you that brief appearances at events is an almost daily occurance, and often several in one day. The idea being to spread goodwill and information, and to build relations. The next thing I heard was your message, which quite surprised and shocked me. I am still making enquiries as to how the Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation felt at liberty to use my name to promote the event, and because they did so without my permission I will not be attending the event. I will be contacting them directly to stop their use of my name.
I am sending this message in response to yours and also with the hope that you will pass it on to those who have an interest in this matter.
City of Coral Springs
Comment: This story has a happy ending; it also reveals how the Islamists work. Now, the next step is for activists to get the Marriott hotel to cancel out the event at which Baker is scheduled to appear.
April 16, 2005 update: The Boca Raton News provides additional information on the mayors fiasco. Turns out that Steven Abrams of Boca Raton called the Assadiq Islamic Education Foundation on April 14 to protest. In response, reporter Sean Salai writes, "he received a telephone message in broken English claiming that none of the event's 2,000 printed invitations included his name when they were mailed out." Abrams then added, colorfully, about William Baker, the event's featured speaker:
He's certainly entitled to his views, but I don't want anything to do with him. Not knowing all of Baker's views, I would still venture to say that I don't agree with any of them. Even if he said I was a good mayor, I would still disagree.
May 1, 2005 update: The April 30 event celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed did take place, including William W. Baker but minus the mayors. When asked why he did not cancel the meeting, Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation's head, Sayed Mohammad Jawad Al-Qazwini, said (in a paraphrase provided by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel) that "he did not know about Baker's controversial past when he invited Baker. He considered canceling but decided against it with the understanding that Baker speak only about religion."
To which, Art Teitelbaum, southern area director of the Anti-Defamation League, replied, "This Assadiq organization is a case study of those who choose not to see. Shame on them for providing a platform for a peddler of anti-Semitism. A skunk who doesn't stink on a given day is still a skunk." And Bill Gralnick, southeast regional director of the American Jewish Committee, added that the Assadiq Foundation's leaders "seem to think they've solved the problem if he doesn't talk about Israeli-Palestinian relations, but they haven't. It's like inviting Hitler to talk about architecture during the Holocaust." Outside the hotel, a group carried signs reading, "Hate is Hate. Nazi or Muslim."
We were not supposed to know what happened there, what with both the public and the press being excluded, but thanks to a report at MilitantIslamMonitor.org, we in fact do. Written by Emily Emerson, "Controversial Bill Baker Tells Boca Crowd 9-11 Hijackers Weren't Muslims" vividly recounts Baker's talk.
Baker repeated the earlier Muslim guest speakers who emphatically stated that the men who destroyed the World Trade Center on 9-11 were not Muslims. Yet, in a sarcastic tone he condemned Christianity for the Crusades. Declaring a religious dissociation of people from their self-proclaimed religious affiliation is apparently only available to Muslims when they don't live up to their own moral standards. Baker missed the opportunity to argue that the Crusaders weren't really true Christians. Instead, he apologized to the audience on behalf of all Christians for the Crusades.
The whole talk was laced with this imbalanced approach – comparing actual Christian behavior to Islamic ideals.
Other highlights included Baker's praise for Muammar al-Qadhafi and high praise for the late grand mufti of Syria. He claims to have debated Samuel Huntington in Greece, traveled illegally to Kashmir, and freely practiced Christianity in Saudi Arabia.
Contrary to Al-Qazwini's assertion, then, Baker clearly did more than "speak only about religion."
May 10, 2005 update: In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Mohammad Jawad Al-Qazwini is unrepentant about his invitation to Baker.
Al-Qazwini makes no apologies for his refusal to bow to community outrage and yank the welcome mat from under Baker. Nor does he think Baker's appearance is at odds with his goal of knocking down misconceptions about the Muslim faith by reaching out to people of all faiths. "I definitely think they overreacted," he said of the uproar in the Jewish community. "I definitely did not know about Mr. Baker's background and him not being welcome in the Jewish community. I strictly invited him to bring the Muslim and Christian community together. If there's a Mr. Baker out there who can bring the Jewish and Muslim communities together, I would invite him." …
In fact, he attributed some of the venom directed at Baker as cultural rather than religious. "I'd like someone to show me one quote from him where he was disrespectful of the Jewish faith," Al-Qazwini said. He was unimpressed when told that in a 1983 speech, Baker said he hated visiting New York City because it is filled with "pushy, belligerent American Jews."
"That's not about the Jewish faith," Al-Qazwini said. He said he wouldn't be offended if someone branded him a "towel head" because he wears a turban. "I would take that as a humorous remark," he said. "But if you say my prophet Mohammed is a liar or a terrorist, that is offensive."