There is an event that students may be interested in on campus Tuesday.
'Ex-terrorists' turned peace activists to speak at Western Michigan University
KALAMAZOO -- Two self-described ex-terrorists whose appearances have been met with controversy on campuses around the country are set to speak Tuesday at Western Michigan University.
Author and speaker Walid Shoebat said he was a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and committed acts of terror, such as planting a bomb on a bank in Israel, in the name of Islam.
But since his conversion to Christianity 16 years ago, Shoebat said his call is now to wake up Americans to the threat of fundamentalist Islamic views.
"What I'm trying to reach are the people who are in the middle who don't know the danger, who don't understand how the radical mindset functions," Shoebat said Thursday in a phone interview with the Kalamazoo Gazette.
He's appeared on CNN, Fox News and numerous other media outlets.
Shoebat and the other speaker, Kamal Saleem, say they are now peace activists, but critics have accused them of inciting hatred against Islam.
To that, Shoebat said: "If you can't deal with the message you just destroy the messenger."
Some students complain
Controversy has brewed a bit at WMU, too, as some students complained to the administration about posters promoting that appearance by Shoebat and Saleem at Miller Auditorium.
Promotional fliers on campus are emblazoned with the words "Why We Want to Kill You" and depicts two people, heads shrouding except for their eyes.
"We have had several complaints from students who are offended by the language on the poster, who see that as inappropriate language on a campus," said Cheryl Roland, university spokeswoman.
"We have people, not just students, but faculty and staff members as well who question the wisdom of using language like, "Why we want to kill you?" Roland said.
Halim Naeem, a WMU graduate student, said he was taken aback by the poster. "I think it's very offensive," he said.
Researching Shoebat online, Naeem said he feels Shoebat's message is to "equate Islam and hatred of America and terrorism. It's pretty troubling."
New group is sponsor
Their appearance is being sponsored by International Conservatives, a new WMU student group not tied to any umbrella organization that formed to bring Shoebat to campus and "promote conservative ideals," said Chris McCann, the group's president.
A senior who wants one day to teach history, McCann said he learned of Shoebat from a friend at another university, did some research on him and thought his message was one the WMU community should hear.
"I have always been strongly pro-Israel," McCann said.
"(Shoebat is) offering a message from a perspective that has not been heard from by most people. He understands the terrorist mindset because he was once a terrorist."
McCann said posters promoting the appearance at Miller have been torn down repeatedly since his four-member group began displaying them.
"I don't think there is anything that should be considered offensive about the posters. It is two former terrorists, so there is nothing misleading about it because it is the garb the men actually used to wear, and it's condemning terrorism," McCann said.
Shoebat said he was born in Bethlehem to a Muslim father and an American mother, was raised to hate Israel and terrorize Jewish people, and once was jailed in Jerusalem for inciting violence against the nation.
He later began to question his religious upbringing and beliefs, began to read the Bible and educate himself about Christianity and was ultimately converted, he said.
Today, Shoebat is an American citizen and has lived in the United States for about 30 years. To protect his family against backlash, he lives under an assumed name with his wife and children.