Three Arabs told an audience at the Air Force Academy on Wednesday they left a life of terrorism and sectarian hatred after converting to Christianity.
The speakers - Walid Shoebat, Zak Anani and Kamal Saleem - spoke as part of a three-day conference on terrorism hosted by cadets in concert with New York’s Columbia University.
They described bloody pasts as members of terrorist groups in the Middle East and upbringings in which they were radicalized and taught to kill in the name of Allah.
Critics familiar with the men’s presentations in other cities accuse the speakers of relying on distortion and fear-mongering in their depictions of Muslim beliefs, but the men offered few apologies.
Shoebat — defiant during a question-and-answer session — urged his audience to resist “political correctness” and not to fear being labeled a “xenophobe, Islamophobe (or) American bigot.”
“The problem with Islam is if you speak out against Islam, you are a racist,” Shoebat told a group of about 250 cadets and students at Fairchild Hall.
Anani called it a mistake to limit discussion about terrorism to “radical Islam.”
“There is no radical Islam; there is Islam itself,” he said in an interview.
Saleem, who praised moderate Muslims and directed his comments at religious extremists, said Americans should welcome Muslims — while keeping an eye on those who seek to insinuate themselves here, then take over.
“If America is taken down and Sharia laws take over, there is no hope,” he said during a spirited talk, in which he shouted and stomped in driving home his points.
Ernest Jedrzejewski, a law student at Columbia University, said the fiery rhetoric Wednesday was a “mirror image” of the talks given by radical imams in areas where anti-Americanism is rampant.
“What we just saw was a brainwashing session, not a brainstorming session,” he said. (MORE)