I was invited to see this Shikh Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi speak at a synagogue tonight. Here’s a bit from the description of the night:

Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi, of Rome, italy, is Moslem Co-Chairman of the Root & Branch Association’s Islam-Israel Fellowship, which encourages a positive Moslem attitude towards Jews and Israel based on a re-examination of the authentic teachings of Mohammed as revealed by the Koran and Hadith (Islamic oral tradition).

Abdul Hadi Palazzi challenges conventional views on peace, Oslo, Arafat, Islam, the Middle East and Arab-Israel conflict. According to Palazzi, Saudi Arabian Wahhabis and Arab dictators distort Islam and have perverted it into a religion of hatred.

That’s the description that convinced me to come see him speak. I hoped he would be an advocate of peace, and moderation in religion, like Charles Kimball who wrote When Religion Becomes Evil. I’m certainly not religious, but because religion shapes so much of our world, I take an interest in what those folks are up to. I wish they could just get along so we can all live in peace.

Anyway, he was quite agressive in his views. He totally denied the Palestians their right to a homeland, supported the building of the security wall that is causing so many problems in Israel, denies the importance of the International Court of Justice which is critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, supports the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, and applauds the U.S. for its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

His speech seemed to be built on fact. He talked about the original message of the Koran, which forbids killing except in self defense, by official state executioners and by soldiers in war, and how this is incompatible with suicide bombing and terrorists. He talked about how British foreign policy after WWI was responsible for cultivating the current crop of extremist dictatorships in the Middle East. All of this sounded pretty good, but when mixed with some of his more radical statements, it made objectivity and moderation rather hard to find.

By the end of it, only part of the crowd was clapping. There were a lot of Muslim guests there, and certainly none of them were clapping, or even smiling. I don’t blame them. I felt very uneasy myself. If guys like this are in charge of making decisions, there’s no way peace will come to the Middle East.

Even the rabbi who introduced Palazzi could tell there was tension, and he said, “The happiest thing about this evening is that Jews, Muslims and Christians gathered here together and listened to ideas that might be different from our their without fighting.” That statement got lots of applause. It was the only time I felt like clapping all night. A wise man indeed.

Anyway, as I left, I overheard a group of young Muslim students talking about the speech outside. They were complaining that they had been tricked into coming to see this guy speak by false advertising. They scoffed at his 10 second reference to the Koran. If this evening was meant to bring together Jews and Muslims, I think it might have gone completely the other way. 🙁