CAIR pressures college to cancel course taught by ‘hate group’ leader – instructor counters his First Amendment rights are being challenged
Updated: Dec. 4 7:30 a.m. New York time: College cancels Sommer’s course
By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Barry Sommer has been studying radical Islam since the 1985 attack on the Archille Lauro cruise ship - in which Palestinian terrorists killed a wheelchair bound Jewish man, Leon Klinghoffer and then tossed him overboard.
An author and former radio DJ and talk show host with a commanding voice that matches his previous profession, Sommer has long wanted to teach Islam – both from a theological and from a contemporary viewpoint. He wanted to give students the opportunity to decide for themselves what Islam stands for – and whether the way some Muslim leaders are teaching it, and how some of their followers are practicing it, jibes.
He finally got his chance, when Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon agreed to let him teach a course called “What is Islam?” But now, his dream has been dashed due to a campaign launched by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR doesn’t want Sommer to teach the course because, in the organization’s words, he is a member of an anti-Muslim hate group.
Sommer is Oregon chapter leader of ACT! for America, an international organization headed by Brigitte Gabriel – a leader in a fight against radical Islam.
“If you know the history of Brigitte and where she came from you’ll know why she created ACT! for America,” Sommer says.
Gabriel was born in Lebanon. Sommer says she escaped after, “Hezbollah purged the country killed her friends, her family.”
Sommer says Gabriel is not anti-Islam. Neither, he insists, is he.
“I have nothing against Muslims, nothing at all,” he says, adding that his course will investigate, “how Islam is defined by its leaders and how its practiced by some Islams. The curriculum I’m teaching is an overall scholarly historical review of what Islam is.” Ultimately, he says, it’ll be up to the students to reach their own conclusions.
But that’s not how CAIR sees it.
Sommer, CAIR argues, has a history of making false and misleading statements about Islam.
In a statement, CAIR says that in the preface to his online book, From the Mouths of Our Enemies, Sommer writes: “Our enemies want us destroyed not because of our riches, or our liberties, although they say that is so. No, they want us gone because Allah told them so. Foundational Islam demands that ALL citizens of planet earth convert to Islam, pay a tax (jizya) or die. It is now demanded of us that we make a stand, draw the line and decide who wins this clash once and for all. If it means war, so be it.”
That was enough for CAIR to write to Lane Community College President Mary Spilde demanding his removal.
“Unless the goal of this course is to promote anti-Muslim bigotry, Lane Community College should replace Mr. Sommer with someone who will offer students a balanced and objective analysis of the subject matter,” the letter demands.
Sommer says that since the publicity over the objections to his teaching the class he has received death threats. He says he has now been notified by the college that the course has been canceled.
“They (LCC) caved to CAIR,” Sommer says in an email, the same manner in which, he says, the college delivered the news, without explanation.
ACT! For America’s headquarters, ” is working on a national response and have asked me if I am willing to be the eye of the storm. I agreed, I want this fight.”
Sommer said prior to the notification that if the class were to be canceled it would be a free speech issue and that he would go to the ACLU for support.
Gary Baumgarten is news and programming director at the Paltalk News Network. Barry Sommer will be his guest at 5 PM New York time Monday on News Talk Online.