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.
Georgetown University professor John Esposito.
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:
I mean, you know, what does Daniel Pipes do? He gets people to fund him. And he's all over the country. He's on every screen. He'll take the time. And a lot of times it's a pain in the neck. I don't do some of the media now, simply because you know, you've got travel, 45 minutes to get to a station to be on for 5 minutes.
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:
Esposito displayed contempt for anyone calling for the theological and cultural reform of Islam. He described Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes and Princeton professor Bernard Lewis as "among the Darth Vaders of the world," and Pipes and Islam scholar Robert Spencer as "Islamophobes." Others on the receiving end of Esposito's vitriol included Martin Kramer, Fouad Ajami, V.S. Naipaul, Max Boot, and Steven Emerson. Esposito has a penchant for laying into his opponents, but this juvenile behavior fails to answer the substance of his detractors' points.
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:
Esposito also could not resist joining in on the Daniel Pipes-bashing. He went so far as to call him one of "the Darth Vaders of the world" and an "Islamophobe" who makes it difficult for people to know what to think about Islam. This last complaint is no surprise since Pipes's arguments indeed make it more difficult for people to blindly accept the rosy version of Islam which Esposito chooses to promote. As was the case with el-Fadl, the Pipes obsession only served to substantiate his influence and raise questions about why exactly MSAN's speakers are so afraid of him. If they truly had nothing to hide, they would welcome the constructive criticism which Pipes provides.
You have myself and others who think roughly in the same school of thought. And you have a second school of thought represented by people like Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, Martin Kramer, and legion. But of course we know that Christ cast out the legion of devils, but I won't go that way.
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.
John Esposito, frightened by the legion of devils - Emerson, Lewis, Kramer, and Pipes.
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:
What I would like to do, and it's too bad that my old friend Siraj is not here, because … my whole purpose was to reassure him tonight that the rumors that I was coming here to move him out of his mosque so I could move in to take it over were not true [audience laughter], no matter what Daniel Pipes says, it's not true.
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:
The reality today, though, that I see in the community is how do you retain that kind of diversity, the diversity that on the one hand one is struggling to be "a Muslim American," but also for many of us, it's so weird [? unclear word] in here, Pipes would have a field day [audience laughter], as would the rumor mill in the Muslim world.
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":
On 20 December 2011, I went to listen to Prof. Dr. John L. Esposito's two lectures (altogether for three hours) under the titles 'The Role and Future of Religion in Global Politics' and 'The Role of Religion in American Politics' held at a private university in Kyoto, Japan.
Before and after that event, I have been all the time speculating about why I felt something significant seemed lacking in his talks and what went wrong in these discussions of Muslim-Christian relations reflecting on my past teaching and research experiences in Malaysia and at the university concerned.
Writings by Dr. Daniel Pipes offered me indirectly very insightful cues to ponder this issue through his official website. Actually, Dr. Pipes was critically mentioned by Prof. Esposito in his talk of the second session in Kyoto, but I thought that Prof. Esposito had failed to explain more in detail to us why he verbally attacked Dr. Pipes everywhere.
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:
Well, I think it is indicative of the politicization of even academia in our world. I started off when nobody was interested in Islam and I did not have much of a reputation. I was the kind of scholar who is either ignored of disagreed with. In the last 15 years or so, we developed name-calling and categorizing. The irony here is that people like Daniel Pipes, who actually [make this accusation], do not have academic credentials. If I call them anti-Muslim, pro-Israel or Zionists, they become outraged. They do the same thing with the term Islamist; I say that Islamists can be mainstream or violent. They say that primarily they are violent and the mainstream ones are wolves in sheep's clothing. It's about the use of terminology, and it reflects a radicalized view. 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, but if I say this, that would be seen as unprofessional and racist but it shows how politicized we have become.
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:
This is an automatic reply. If you received this message be assured that I have received your email. While I check my email regularly, due to my schedule and the high volume of messages I receive, I am not always able to respond to all of them. If you are contacting me regarding an urgent matter, you may contact my Executive Assistant, [etc., etc.]
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:
Schwartz is an interesting character, because he is a convert to Islam and is recognized for his work in Bosnia. But he is one of those who are liars, with men like Daniel Pipes and others who are the fathers of what we call the appearance of diverse anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim attitudes after September 11.
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:
Daniel, I NEVER used the word "liar". Did many interviews. Reporter may have chosen to translate or report using word "liar", but I did not use the word. I may have many criticisms of some of your positions, as you do of mine. I state them, and will often say they are incorrect, but do not simply dismiss you as a "liar."