As Kamal Saleem, a former member of the Palestinian Liberation Operation, took the stage, he demonstrated where he thought America was by pretending to hit the snooze button on an alarm clock.
‘When 9/11 happened, America woke up only to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep all over again while our enemies are working among us,’ Saleem said.
Saleem was one of three former terrorists who spoke at the Bren Events Center on Wednesday, May 30, recalling their disturbing childhoods, conversions to Christianity and perspectives on Islam in relation to the rest of the world today.
The event was hosted by UC Irvine’s College Republicans and the Walid Shoebat Foundation. Earlier in the day, Zachariah Annani and Walid Shoebat gave their speeches, Shoebat and a UCI student were guests on Neil Cavuto’s program on Fox News, with Shoebat proclaiming that the ‘Muslim Student Association gives funds for terrorism, openly invites Neo-Nazis to speak, openly calls for the toppling of the United States of America and openly supports Hamas [and] Al -Qaeda.’
‘This is not a group that calls for dialogue,’ said Shoebat. ‘It has spread its tentacles over 150 universities in America.’
Saleem and Annani echoed similar sentiments denouncing Islamic fundamentalism.
Saleem was one of fifteen children in a Sunni Muslim family. He was recruited at the age of seven to scour the tunnels under Israel to fight against the ‘infidels.’
‘This is my childhood,’ Saleem said. ‘We learned from young age to hate Americans and Jews, America and Israel.’
At such a tender age, Saleem recruited his childhood friend, Mohammed, to go on a mission through these tunnels. They were ambushed and Saleem returned home, alone.
It wasn’t until 1985 that he met a group of Christian men who aided him and showed him ‘what hope was for the first time.’ Like Annani, Shoebat Saleem was well-versed in the Quran, reciting passages from the Islamic holy book over four times. Eventually, Saleem converted to Christianity and moved out of the Middle East.
Annani spoke of his time in a Lebanese terrorist group of which he had been a part since the age of 13. Annani claimed that he had accrued 223 ‘points,’ or confirmed kills, to his roster while with the group.
Annani recalled how being a terrorist had desensitized him, even to his friends. When his Muslim neighbor knocked on his door at 3 a.m. to wake him up for prayer, Annani told him that he did not want to be woken up. Unfortunately, the man knocked on his door at 3 a.m., and Annani simply shot him and went back to bed.
When Annani was introduced to Christianity, he moved to a Christian quarter in Lebanon to avoid harassment from Muslims. However, since Annani was a descendant of an Imam, a prestigious figure in Islam, his conversion to Christianity was not taken lightly by his family and his father hired assassins to kill him.
Annani left Lebanon and began giving talks about his past as a terrorist. Yet even outside of the Middle East, Annani was not safe, as he claimed to have been attacked a number of times in Canada, as well.
Shoebat not only spoke about his former experiences as a terrorist, but also shed light on the oppression that his American mother endured while living in the Middle East for 35 years because she was a woman. The most vocal against fundamentalism in his speech and during the Q-and-A, Shoebat said that he does ‘hate terrorism’ and would do his best to combat it for his entire life.