Darrow Miller and Friends

Safe Spaces: Converting Students to Jihadis on University Campuses

Unlikely as it may seem, a jihadi doctrine is growing among non-Muslims in the Western world. The growth of this doctrine is leading to the demise of the West.

Western universities used to be “liberal” places (as in “liberal arts”), centers of critical thinking, free speech, freedom of conscience. People of different views could gather on a level playing field, ask questions, state opinions (even “offensive” opinions) and dialogue in pursuit of truth.

Today, instead of classical liberal education most US and Western universities are “illiberal” institutions; they are interested more in ideology than truth, more interested in student’s feelings than in critical thinking.

In 1974 Yale College issued the famous Woodward report, affirming its commitment to the pursuit of truth and the need for the free exchange of ideas in that pursuit. In part the report said:

yale (1)The primary function of a university is to discover and disseminate knowledge by means of research and teaching. To fulfill this function a free interchange of ideas is necessary not only within its walls but with the world beyond as well. It follows that the university must do everything possible to ensure within it the fullest degree of intellectual freedom. The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable. To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views necessarily also deprives others of the right to listen to those views. . . . [emphasis added]

The Woodward report affirmed the Bill of Rights, including the first right codifying freedom of conscience, religion, speech, press, and assembly:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Today US colleges and universities are abandoning the first amendment. Students are more concerned about their feelings than the pursuit of truth, they want “safe spaces” and “healing circles,” zones free from criticism or ideas that could make them “feel bad.”

Today’s students prefer their own illusions to objective truth. Critics are describing these collegians as “fragile flowers,” “delicate snowflakes.” They want safe spaces where they can be protected from harmful ideas rather than “hot houses” where ideas can be exchanged and learning can flourish.

I was a university student in the 60s, a time of free speech, free sex, and free drugs. Universities were seed beds of student unrest, challenging “old ideas” and classical education. Nothing was sacred. No question was off limits.

Some of those students who led the free speech movement and ushered in the era of moral and cultural relativism are now administrators and tenured professors. They are the designers and promoters of political correctness.

Political correctness is the environment that has grown the fragile flowers that now demand the safe space, free from offense.

Students want protection from hearing ideas they deem offensive. They want a space where they are free to feel and experience, but not to think critically. They want a space void of objective truth and reason, a space where they can “feel good” and not be offended. They want gender and racial diversity, but not diversity of thinking.

Brenda Smith-Lezama, vice president of the University of Missouri Students Association, captured this sentiment:

Brenda Smith-LezamaI personally am tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment for myself and for other students here. I think that it’s important for us to create that distinction and create a space where we can all learn from one another and start to create a place of healing rather than a place where we are experiencing a lot of hate like we have in the past.

In other words, Ms Smith-Lezama and the students she represents see an environment of free thinking and free speech as unsafe. People may say something offensive. Our feelings of well-being are more important than the pursuit of truth! Critical thinking and free speech must be stopped. This movement at the University of Missouri brought about the resignation of MU president Tim Wolfe and Chancellor Bowen Toftin.

At Yale University, long the bastion of free speech, rational thinking and the pursuit of truth, Associate Master Erika Christakis and her husband Master Nicholas Christakis of Sillman College are under fire for standing up for free speech when students protested politically incorrect Halloween costumes. (See a video of a student confronting Master Nicholas Christakis.)

In response to this episode one Yale student said, “I have friends who are not going to class, who are not doing their homework, who are losing sleep, who are skipping meals, and who are having breakdowns.” She went on to say: “I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.” The students of Yale are seeking the dismissal of the Christakis for their putting critical thinking and free speech over the feelings of students.

Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities recently decided to have a yearly memorial service to honor those lost in the 9/11 terrorist attack. The resolution was rejected by the Minnesota Student Association because such a memorial would violate the “safe space” of Muslim students on campus.

On a related issue, witness the Million Student March “demanding free college tuition, the zeroing out of student debt, and a $15 minimum wage hike for campus employees.” On Nov 12th thousands of students at 110 universities and colleges marched to protest the reality that students and their families should have to pay for their college education.

Alan Dershowitz, a retired Harvard University Law Professor and champion of free speech, describes what is happening on university campuses as “the fog of fascism … descending quickly over many American universities.”

And here’s the true irony: the nation which was built on the notions of the pursuit of truth and the free expression of ideas—freedom of speech, religion, conscience, press, assembly—is undermining its own existence by the adaption of a jihadi doctrine!

Tawfik HamidDr. Tawfik Hamid is Senior Fellow and Chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Hamid is a Sufi Muslim, and for three years was a member of an Egyptian Sunni terrorist movement, Gamaat Islamiya, al Jamaat al Islamiya. He was an associate of Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri (current leader of Al-Qaeda).

In his book, Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Jihad, Hamid introduces the concept of “Al-fikr kufr.”

Dr. Hamid’s father was a secularist scientist who taught him to reason and think for himself. Later, as a medical student, Hamid was a free-thinker. But then he was “deconstructed” into a radical jihadi by the Gamaat Islamiya movement. The concept of Al-fikr kufr was key to the process. To become a jihadist you must “leave your brain at the door.”

Al-fikr kufr is Arabic shorthand for “one becomes an infidel (kufr) by thinking critically (fikr).” In other words, an infidel (kufr) is one who thinks critically (fikr). A jihadi does not think critically, but blindly follows the pack.

Hamid explains: “Ultimately, however, one cannot become a jihadist if reason and objectivity aren’t thoroughly crushed. … The suppression of my critical thinking was the most important factor that trapped me in the path of Jihadism. All other techniques of indoctrination are dependent upon it.” [emphasis added]

Why do jihadis hate the West? Because we are the land of the free thinkers, the land of the infidels.

What is happening on American and European university and college campuses? Hot houses, where ideas are freely exchanged in pursuit of truth, are giving way to “safe spaces.” Feelings are replacing critical thinking. The free thinkers–infidels–are disappearing. Al-fikr kufr, a jihadi virtue, is growing on American university campuses.

Perhaps Alan Dershowitz’s observation is correct: “The fog of fascism is descending quickly over many American universities.”

How important is truth to you? Are you a free thinker? Or do you long for a safe space? Are you an infidel or are you becoming brainwashed?

  • Darrow Miller

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).


  1. Valerie

    November 19, 2015 - 8:20 pm

    Great article, Darrow. It saddens me to see the deterioration of objective thinking on the U.S. university campuses.

    • admin

      November 20, 2015 - 5:07 am

      Thanks Valerie. It is certainly sad. No! More, it is tragic.

      It was the message of Genesis 1 and John 8:31-32 that propelled mankind and the church to pursue truth. We have lost the universities because few in the church understand the significance of Genesis 1 and John 8:31-32 for all of life.

      Thanks again for reading.


  2. Jon

    November 20, 2015 - 2:17 am