The cultural winds, they are blowing fiercely. In recent times, we have grown increasingly accustomed to the phenomenon—notably in academic circles—of speakers being disinvited. The pattern has become as predictable as it is problematic. An invited speaker whose views are “controversial” is disinvited shortly before his or her scheduled address after a group or groups of individuals who oppose those views register protest to the institution’s administration (typically at a college or university). The pattern is especially predictable in that the speaker is always a social-cultural-political conservative or someone remotely sympathetic to Judeo-Christian values. Disinvitations never go out to political leftists, so-called “progressives,” closet Marxists, or Islamists. At bottom, it is not the outrageous or the perverted that is prevented from public expression; it is truth spoken in the public sphere that is feared the most.

When this occurs in the context of the US military’s training institutions, however, it is exceptionally alarming and hence worthy of genuine and widespread protest by citizens. As I write, I am doubly pained, having had the honor three times in the last decade of being invited to Fort Leavenworth, KS, and the US Army’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC) to speak to mid-level officers on the moral substructure of the just war tradition. And as I write, I am unaware of any parallel to the recent decision by the US Army War College (USAWC) to disinvite Raymond Ibrahim, who was scheduled to lecture on June 19 at the War College’s Carlisle, PA, barracks as part of its 2019 Perspectives in Military History Lecture Series. Ibrahim, an expert in armed conflict between Islamic and Western cultures, had been invited five months previously to lecture on his 2018 book Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of Warfare between Islam and the West. A week before the scheduled lecture, the USAWC decided to “postpone” the event following receipt of a letter of protest from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR, it needs emphasizing, has been identified by the US Department of Justice as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the largest terrorist funding case in American history; it is a designated “terrorist organization” for nations such as the United Arab Emirates.[1]

The May 28, 2019, CAIR letter of protest was sent to USAWC Commandant Gen. John Kem and Provost Dr. James Breckinridge, urging them to cancel the lecture. Ibrahim, it was alleged by CAIR, was “inaccurate,” “biased,” “anti-Muslim,” “inflammatory,” “racist,” and a “white nationalist.” As it happens, Ibrahim is an ethnic Egyptian and a native Arabic speaker. In January 2019, Ibrahim received an invitation, on behalf of the director and staff of the US Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) “to speak about your new book, ‘Sword and Scimitar.’ The Perspectives series attracts a wide audience including the US Army War College students, faculty, and staff, ROTC cadets, soldiers from regional bases, university students and faculty, and the general public.”

“On a personal note,” the invitation continued, “your new book, and a lecture based on it, will resonate very well with the primary audience of our lecture programs—the students and faculty of the US Army War College.”

Following CAIR’s letter of protest and media outlets’ initial reporting of the protest, Ibrahim notes that the War College called and emailed to assure him that the lecture was still on—this as late as June 5. On the following day, June 6, CAIR released a press release and public statements condemning the War College’s decision, along with a petition addressed to the War College, denouncing Ibrahim’s “Islamophobic rhetoric” that would further induce “violence against Muslims.” Ibrahim, it is worth noting, traces his roots to Egyptian Copts, who have endured nearly fourteen centuries of Islamic rule, Islamic discrimination, and Islamic persecution. To be sure, these are a people familiar with violence, but always on the receiving end.

And indeed it has been the lot of the Copts to lead lives that, in many respects, are synonymous with persecution. It surely needs asking, What of the native Christian inhabitants of Egypt—descendants of the pharaohs—who converted to Christianity centuries before Islam existed? I refer to the Copts. The oldest and perhaps most significant chronicle of Coptic persecution dates from about AD 650. It is written by the bishop of the Nile Delta, John of Nikiû, an eye-witness of Muslim invasions who reports slaughter without mercy, even of women, children, and the elderly. In rather remarkable terms, it records the “impossibility” of describing the horrors that were committed against the Copts by Muslims. A similar testimony, written soon after Muhammed’s death and recorded in the Doctrina Iacobi nuper baptizati, indicates that Muslims attempted, on threat of death, to force conversions of Christians to Islam.

Egypt, of course, had been home to the earliest Christian fathers who were theological giants of the faith—among them, Clement of Alexandria (b. 150), Origen, (b. 184), Anthony the Great (b. 250), and Athanasius (b. 297), the chief architect of the Nicene Creed. And according to both Muslim and Coptic historians, Arab invaders burned the Great Library of Alexandria. The story of Egypt after the pharaohs is truly remarkable: it is a tale of a profoundly Christian land which became Islamic through conquest, and tragically so. And it is a tale that continues to the present day, even when both Muslims and those in the West are reticent to acknowledge it.

But there it is again: Islamophobic, that watchword that strikes fear in the heart of the West. Alas, on June 10, the USAWC capitulated to the demands and hysteria of CAIR and canceled the event. Being informed of the decision, Ibrahim suggested that the War College turn the lecture into a debate, pitting Ibrahim against anyone of CAIR’s choosing. This remarkable offer, however, was not enough to prevent the War College from capitulating.[2]

Perhaps the most dishonorable—and dishonest—element in the entire episode is the War College’s attempt to save face, pretending that it was not capitulating to a group considered to be an abettor to Islamic terrorism. The War College’s official line is that Ibrahim’s lecture has been “postponed.” Ah yes, the old postponement tactic. But the reality of the War College’s capitulation is too obvious: a “postponing” of an event a mere nine days before it is scheduled is in fact no postponement at all; it is spineless surrender to a smear campaign by Islamists who will lie, deceive, and deny the truth.

In recent communication following the USAWC debacle, Ibrahim makes a somewhat startling—but entirely logical—point. Islamists such as CAIR, with the fear-mongering and bullying that have become their modus operandi, will by no means stop with mere demands for “postponement.” They will demand more (outright permanent cancellation), and more (punishment of any and all who would dare criticize Islam), and more (with veiled and not-so-veiled threats of violence). In truth, there will be no end to their demands.

Because Islamists have only triumph and submission of non-Muslims—i.e., the dar al-harb (the “house of war”)—in view, any suggestion that they can embrace a principled pluralism is pure fantasy.[3] The Muslim world, smarting from the 400–500 years of European history in which it was forced to recede from the world stage, senses that the West is weak. Islamists intuit—correctly, I fear—that the West lacks the moral backbone to assert itself.

And, in many ways, they are correct. European nations and North America presently have no “first principles” (other than “tolerance” of the intolerable), believe nothing, and in fact are committed to persecuting those in society who do. Not only are European nations in competition to see who can eradicate any memory of their Christian past the fastest, Canada and the US are doing their best to catch up to Europe. Which is why divine judgment, inter alia in the form of violent Islamic intrusion into the West, is proceeding at an unprecedented rate. Let us be clear: the issue is not the presence of Muslims in Western culture. Christian faith has always embraced a robust, principled social-cultural pluralism; we have called this sort of arrangement “civil society.” The problem, rather, is one that Ibrahim has identified, and for which he was disinvited by the USAWC: namely, few in the West have the moral and religious backbone to identify Islam’s violent tendency throughout much of its history. Free speech deemed offensive to the Muslim world simply will not be tolerated.

And when a prestigious military institution in the US—an institution commissioned to protect, facilitate security, and teach the moral principles that underpin the just war tradition—capitulates to ideological Islam—a version of Islam that has been linked to terrorism—then it is truly time to pray, for the hour is late.[4]

Yes, pray to the Lord of heaven and earth, the Ruler of the nations, Lord Sabaoth, who is the Divine Warrior. Yes, pray for mercy, for forgiveness, and for the courage to act, regardless of the lateness of the hour.

After all, only the truth will prevail.

J. Daryl Charles (PhD), a contributing editor to Providence, serves as the Acton Institute Affiliated Scholar in Theology & Ethics. He is author, co-author, or co-editor, most recently, of The Protestant Reformers on War, Peace, and Justice (Wipf & Stock, forthcoming), America and the Just War Tradition: A History of US Conflicts (University of Notre Dame Press, 2019), Wisdom’s Work: Essays in Ethics, Vocation, and Culture (Acton Institute Press, 2019), and Natural Law and Religion Freedom (Routledge, 2018).

[1] Hereon see, for example, here, here, and here.

[2] Ibrahim’s recounting of the USAWC fiasco can be found at two websites, here and here.

[3] Contrary to popular perception, so-called “Islamic terrorism” is not a new phenomenon, nor is it an aberration; it has existed for the better part of 14 centuries. The historical record shows that most of what today is considered the “Muslim world” was taken through violent conquest. In our day, Muslim advocacy groups such as CAIR are hard at work to whitewash and re-write that historical record, with the USAWC fiasco serving as a strategic and tragic reminder of the cultural war that currently is being waged.

[4] To its great credit, the National Association of Scholars has not only reported the fiasco, but also circulated a petition which is being sent to the office of the President of the United States. The petition, signed by a host of academics and public intellectuals, explains the events leading up to the USAWC’s rescinding of the invitation to Ibrahim, condemns the War College’s decision to capitulate to CAIR, and calls on the President to use his office as Commander-in-Chief to restore the Ibrahim lecture. See the petition here.