John Esposito and Me
by Daniel Pipes
On August 18, Georgetown University professor John Esposito spoke in Dallas for a Council on American-Islamic Relations fundraiser intending, as he put it, "to show solidarity not only with the Holy Land Fund [sic, Holy Land Foundation], but also with CAIR." The event at the Renaissance Dallas Hotel took place as the Holy Land Foundation trial was underway, day-by-day implicating CAIR ever more clearly with Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organization.
About a minute into his talk, out of the blue he predicts that his talk that evening will be "by tomorrow morning … on certainly Daniel Pipes' website if not a number of others." He then recounts giving a lecture at the University of Chicago, quoting himself addressing me then, "And I'm sure, Daniel, you've got people there who will be out there tomorrow." Indeed, he continues, "it was out on the web. I don't know if it was Pipes, but the next morning I googled my name and there it was, 'Esposito in Chicago'."
Comment: No, John, I don't stalk you. Yes, I did note your CAIR-sponsored talk at the University of Chicago, but I drew on public sources for that, as you can see by going to what I wrote. And in Dallas, the person who attended your talk had nothing to do with me or my organization. Still, I am glad to be on your mind when you address CAIR – given that you don't allow any protestors at your events, it's probably a good way for both you and it to recall just how fringe your views are.
Then, about a half hour into the talk, Esposito decries the Muslim tendency to complain about things among themselves, spinning wheels, and brings me in as a contrast both to them and to himself:
Comment: There's no compliment like a back-handed one, John, and I'll take this one. (September 10, 2007)
Feb. 15, 2008 update: Oh no! Seems that Esposito was scolded for praising me and has now taken the opposite tack. Imagine, a grown man, a university professor even, resorting to calling a colleague silly names in the course of a high-fallutin' campus speech about "Dying for God? Suicide Terrorism and Militant Islam." Well, as described by Cinnamon Stillwell in "Esposito at Stanford," that's what happened on February 7:
Daniel Pipes as "Darth Vader."
Daniel Pipes as "Darth Vader."
Comments: (1) What can I say, John? I try still to bask in the glow of August's compliment, even if it has been rudely interrupted by February's unpleasantness.
(2) Robert Spencer, understandably riled at not being called a "Darth Vader" by Esposito, posted an amusing picture of himself dressed up as Darth Vader, courtesy of one of his Islamist admirers. That got me thinking: If John Esposito thinks I am "Darth Vader," then he must be right – and I got myself suitably done up.
(3) This is by no means my cinematic debut: for prior feature film roles, see "Islamists Make Me a Movie Star."
(4) On a serious note, this little incident confirms yet again how Islamist apologists resort to name-calling when they cannot reply on the issues.
Feb. 28, 2008 update: A second report on the same talk, this by Jonathan Gelbart in the Stanford Review, "Muslim Student Group Launches "Jihad" of Mixed Messages." After telling how Khaled About El Fadl had attacked me "an unnecessarily large number of times throughout his talk," Gelbart tells about Esposito:
Comment: In California, I was "Darth Vader" and in Indiana I am one of the "legion of devils" Christ had cast out. Hmm. John's a deeply learned man who can bounce from pop culture to the central tenets of faith when attacking his opponents. The professor seems to be coming unhinged.
May 15, 2010 update: Esposito spoke today for another CAIR fundraiser, this time in New York City, and even contributed $5,000 of his hard-earned cash to the Islamists. Plus, as usual, he felt it necessary to drag me into his presentation, twice this time, in each case using me as a foil for his "humor."
The first time was in reference to Siraj Wahhaj, an imam in Brooklyn and an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing:
It hardly needs pointing out, I hope, that Esposito is being facetious: I am not spreading rumors about him taking over at Masjid Al-Taqwa.
The second mention concerns tensions in the American Muslim community between immigrants and converts:
Comment: I wonder, John, why you have this need to bring me gratuitously into your talks. Care to explain?
June 27, 2011 update: In an interview published in Sri Lanka, Esposito lists a number of analysts, including me, as "dangerous writers who like playing up the global Muslim 'threat'." Comment: And Esposito is a dangerous writer who likes playing down the global Islamist threat.
Jan. 13, 2012 update: From a blog, Lily's Room, by Ikuko Tsunashima-Miyake, reporting on a talk in Kyoto in an entry titled "Dr. J. Esposito and Dr. D. Pipes":
Comment: Funny, that's the same question I asked above, in the May 15, 2010 update.
Sep. 16, 2012 update: Esposito's obsession with me continues, as he brings me up today in an interview with Moinuddin Ahmed of the Turkish English-language newspaper Today's Zaman. To the question, "You have been accused of being an Islamic apologist. What is your answer to your critics?" Esposito carries on thus:
This whole thing did not sound right, so I wrote Esposito to inquire and he informed me that he had made the opposite point about me, that I do have the academic credentials, contrasting me with others in my camp. But he did not reply to my question whether he stood by the rest of the ugly statement attributed to him. He refused my request to correct the record with Today's Zaman on the grounds that he is too busy. Too busy to fix mistakes on the record, I asked? He did not reply.
Comments: (1) Busy-ness seems to be Esposito's way of avoiding responsibility and feeling self-important. Here is the verbatim text of his auto-reply e-mail to anyone who writes him:
Who writes such self-important prose?
(2) Esposito is quoted as saying "If I call them anti-Muslim, pro-Israel or Zionists, they become outraged. … They call me names because they are frustrated that I am not a Muslim, and many of them, if not all, happen to be Jewish." What in the world is he saying? That Esposito refuses to fix this passage compels one to conclude that he stands by this absurd and obnoxious statement.
(3) How helpful that Esposito himself notes, referring to what he has just said about Jews, "but if I say this, that would be seen as unprofessional and racist." True enough, what he said was indeed "unprofessional and racist." So, why did he say it? More importantly, will the roof cave in him for this behavior or will it fit snugly into the prevailing ethos on campus. Obviously, the latter.
Sep. 28, 2012 update: John Esposito tours the world, obsessed with me; see above for reports from Dallas, Palo Alto, Ft. Wayne, New York City, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Turkey. Now it's the turn of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo-based journalist Esad Hecimovic informs me: during the course of a lecture at the International University of Sarajevo (which was founded by "a group of businessmen from Turkey"), Esposito described me as his "main enemy."
Comment: Enemy? How typical of the illiberal left to use an aggressive term like this. Well, John, don't worry, you are not my enemy; I don't think that way. But, being an Islamist fellow-traveler does make you, along with your Nazi and Communist predecessors, an enemy of civilization.
Oct. 10, 2013 update: Interviewed by Amila Kahrović Posavljak in the Sarajevo-based publication BH Dani, Esposito says this about Stephen Schwartz and myself, as translated by the Center for Islamic Pluralism:
Liars are we? John, you are skirting libel here. But how about I refrain from a lawsuit and you provide me with a nice long list of my lies?
Oct. 17, 2013 update: John Esposito replied to the above challenge as follows, which he has authorized my posting publicly:
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