The Air Force Academy was criticized by Muslim and religious freedom organizations for playing host on Wednesday to three speakers who critics say are evangelical Christians falsely claiming to be former Muslim terrorists.
The three men were invited as part of a weeklong conference on terrorism organized by cadets at the academy’s Colorado Springs campus under the auspices of the political science department. . .
The three men were invited to talk about being recruited and trained as terrorists, not religion, although one of them, Zak Anani, did tell students that converting to Christianity from Islam saved his life, said John Van Winkle, another spokesman for the academy.
Muslim organizations objected to the fact that no other perspective about Islam was offered, saying that the three speakers — Mr. Anani, Kamal Saleem and Walid Shoebat — habitually paint Muslims as inherently violent. All were born in the Middle East but Mr. Saleem and Mr. Shoebat are now American citizens, while Mr. Anani has Canadian citizenship.
“Their entire world view is based on the idea that Islam is evil,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on Islamic American Relations. “We want to provide a balancing perspective to their hate speech.”
Academic professors and others who have heard the three men speak in the United States and Canada said some of their stories border on the fantastic, like Mr. Saleem’s account of how, as a child, he infiltrated Israel to plant bombs via a network of tunnels underneath the Golan Heights. No such incidents have been reported, the academic experts said. They also question how three middle-aged men who claim they were recruited as teenagers or younger could have been steeped in the violent religious ideology that only became prevalent in the late 1980s. (MORE)