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Terrorism: then and now

John Loftus is the president of the Florida Holocaust Museum, as well as a respected lawyer and author. His career has included a stint in the army and a position in the justice department that gave him top secret clearance.

But now, Loftus is known to many simply as the St. Petersburg man who sued controversial professor Sami Al-Arian to make a statement against terrorism.

Loftus will visit USF today as part of the Hillel Foundation’s weeklong remembrance of the Holocaust. He said he will talk to students about links between Islam and Judaism.

“I’m going to be talking about how the prophet Mohammed had very close relationships with the Jews. I’ll be talking about how we had dark ages, and the Muslims had a golden age of science,” Loftus said. “The next step will be, I’ll be talking about how the decline of education in the Arabic Muslim states gave rise to heretical extremists, even terrorists whose actions are contrary to Muslim law.”

Loftus, who is regarded as an expert on the Holocaust, said he has spent his life trying to help curb racist thought. As the first Irish Catholic president of the Florida Holocaust Museum, he has made it his goal to “end racism in our children’s lifetime.”

Loftus said it’s important to remember that terrorists make up a small part of the population, and that a race should not be judged harshly because of its extremists.

“Such extremists are a tiny aspect of the Muslim world and we need to have respect for each other,” he said. “(Extremists) fundamentally betrayed Islam and betrayed the Palestinian people.”

Danielle Higginbotham, a member of the Hillel Foundation, said she is aware of the current controversy surrounding Loftus. She said she invited him to campus before he took legal action.

“Actually, before the whole issue with him suing Professor Al-Arian, I had him coming to speak,” Higginbotham said. “It has absolutely nothing to do with the Sami Al-Arian incident at all.”

Higginbotham said she sought Loftus to speak because he is an authority on the Holocaust. She said she was surprised to hear of his legal actions.

“I was like, ‘Oh great this is going to be craziness,'” she said. “Now I’ve gotten myself in the middle of something.”

Higginbotham said Loftus will speak on the secret war against the Jews, which is the subject of his book and an upcoming Showtime television series based on his life. She said it is his expertise on this subject that is her focus.

“Right now the issue at hand is the Holocaust (remembrance) this week,” she said. “His issues with Sami Al-Arian are his issues.”

Higginbotham said the Al-Arian issue will probably come up during the lecture but that she would like to avoid it if possible and stay focused on Holocaust awareness.

“I’m sure there is going to be people there that are going to be asking him about the issue. But the focus is Holocaust remembrance,” she said. “I’d like to avoid the issue personally. (But) I’m sure it’ll come up, and I’m sure there’ll be people there protesting.”

Loftus said his focus will be racism and terrorism, as well as the Holocaust. He said, though, he may discuss aspects of the Al-Arian case. He said his lawsuit against Al-Arian is just one of many actions he has taken in his quest to end racism.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Loftus said. “I’ve been fighting racism whether it be Nazis, Christian or Islamic.”

Loftus said he puts Al-Arian into the category of terrorists, and that is why he sought legal action.

“He’s about as extreme as you can get,” Loftus said. “The man solicits money for the murder of the Jews and Palestinians who work for peace.”

Loftus will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the Marshall Center Ballroom.

Contact Rob Brannonat