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Howler of the Month (archive)

Sherene Seikaly

"This group [ISIS] does not emerge out of a sudden Islamic tendency for beheading. . . . Some of this intense fetish for violence is coming from the leaks of torture that are coming out of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Some of it is coming out of Hollywood, particularly the images of violence against Iraqi bodies [American Sniper]."

Sherene Seikaly, an assistant professor in modern Middle East history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, at a UCSB talk titled, "ISIS: A Historical Perspective"; The Bottom Line, May 27, 2015. (link to source)

We Couldn't Have Said it Better (archive)

Bernard Haykel

"[I]n the Western social sciences, there's a holy trinity that tries to explain all social phenomena through the lens of one of three analytical categories: race, class, and gender. . . . And I often see many colleagues who want to push very hard against the idea that ISIS is a religious movement or that Islam has anything to do with the Islamic State. . . . [I]f you look at the cultural production, the intellectual production, the legal and theological production of ISIS, which is plentiful on the Web, there is no question that this is a movement that's drawing on a very particular strain or trend within the Islamic intellectual history, legal history, theological history."

Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern studies and director of the Institute for Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia at Princeton University, speaking at the Ethics & Public Policy Center's May 2015 Faith Angle Forum; "The Islamic State: Understanding its Ideology and Theology," May 3-5, 2015. (link to source)

CAMPUS WATCH, a project of the Middle East Forum, reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them. The project mainly addresses five problems: analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students. Campus Watch fully respects the freedom of speech of those it debates while insisting on its own freedom to comment on their words and deeds.

The Latest on Campus

The Hollow Cry of 'McCarthyism'
July 2, 2015 - Inside Higher Ed

Reza Aslan Hits Back at Atheists Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher, Says It's 'Idiotic' to Blame Religion for Terrorism
July 1, 2015 - The Christian Post

The Middle East Studies Mess
July 2015 - Australia/Israel Review

CNN's Reza Aslan slams Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher on Roots of Fundamentalist Terrorism
June 30, 2015 - Vancouver Observer

An Example of Juan Cole's "Informed" Scholarship
June 28, 2015 - Fousesquawk Blog

Should the University of California Adopt the State Department Definition of Anti-Semitism? [incl. Mark LeVine]
June 25, 2015 - Fousesquawk Blog

Summit Addresses Political, Cultural Changes in International Communities [incl. Paula Rayman]
June 24, 2015 - News of UMass Lowell

Israel-Hating Professor Hired to Teach Class on Israel at University of Missouri [incl. Sherene Seikaly, Adam Sabra, Steven Salaita]
June 24, 2015 -

Academic Vulgarity Highlighted [incl. Mark LeVine, Reza Aslan, Juan Cole, Steven Salaita]
June 23, 2015 - Fousesquawk Blog

Study Abroad Teaches Understanding
June 23, 2015 - Superior Telegram


The Middle East Studies Mess

By Winfield Myers | Thu, 2 Jul 2015, 12:58 PM | Permalink

The chaos gripping the Middle East today stems in no small part from the terrible scholarship of the Middle East studies establishment. So says Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, in an essay commissioned by Campus Watch and sponsored by the Middle East Forum. It appears in the July 2015 issue of the Australia/Israel Review.

The Middle East is in chaos. After four years of Syrian civil war, there are now more refugees and displaced persons seeking to escape violence than at any point since World War II. Libya and Yemen are in chaos. The Islamic State has both revived medieval notions of the caliphate and returned such practices as slavery, beheadings, and crucifixions to the headlines. Turkey, once celebrated both as a bridge between East and West and more recently as proof of the compatibility of political Islam and democracy, slides down the path to Islamist autocracy.

To read the rest of this essay, please click here.


Mark LeVine's Internet Rants Continue

By Cinnamon Stillwell | Sat, 27 Jun 2015, 3:11 PM | Permalink

Mark LeVine

As if to drive home the point CW made recently in the quote-filled article "Bonfire of the Vulgarians: Middle East Studies in Decline," UC Irvine history professor Mark LeVine—whose profanity-laden Facebook call to "dismantle" Israel featured prominently in our round-up—has accompanied a new post on his Facebook page with this brilliant analysis: "F— the occupation. 50 years is enough."

Elsewhere, LeVine, who can't stop posting ill-advised, unedited commentary anywhere and everywhere on the Internet, left a rambling, op-ed length comment for a Jewish Journal op-ed on whether or not the University of California Board of Regents should adopt the U.S. State Department's definition of anti-Semitism. LeVine was not placated by the author's reticence on the matter and concludes his rant with the type of eliminationist rhetoric—couched in platitudes about "Judaism," "human rights," and "democracy"—for which he's become known:

[T]he vast majority of supporters of BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], including the rapidly growing number of Jewish and Israeli supporters, oppose not merely Israeli policy but the Isareli [sic] state as its [sic] presently conceived of and acts--as an ethnocratic, exclusivist state built upon decades of occupation and no willingness to relinquish these claims.

I want to "undo the events of 1948," but not because I hate Israel or am anti-Semitic. Rather, it's because I stay true to the Prophetic Judaism that has always been the core of my identity and the ideals of human rights and democracy for all that they demand. There are many alternatives to the present Israeli political system--confederation, parallel states, binationalism. Advocating for them, and even for the end of a Zionist state cannot be equated with anti-Semitism.

We'll leave it to LeVine to decide if his single-minded obsession with the world's sole Jewish state or his tunnel vision regarding alleged human rights abuses constitutes anti-Semitism. But one thing's for sure: he needs to get help with impulse control vis-à-vis the Internet. Online anger management counselors are standing by. . . .


Bonfire of the Vulgarians: Middle East Studies in Decline

By Cinnamon Stillwell | Mon, 22 Jun 2015, 1:15 PM | Permalink

Earlier this year, a firestorm erupted when Connecticut College philosophy professor Andrew Pessin's 2014 Facebook comments, in which he compared Hamas in Gaza to a "wild pit bull . . . chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape," were deemed "racist" and "dehumanizing" by student activists, colleagues, and administrators alike. Meanwhile, Middle East studies academics regularly emit commentary that is unambiguous in its bigotry, tastelessness, and vulgarity, to nary a peep. Not coincidentally, the vitriol is directed at targets academe finds politically unpopular: Israel, pro-Israel Jews, and anti-Islamists. In the latest Campus Watch research, appearing today at American Thinker, CW West Coast representative Cinnamon Stillwell take a look at the worst of the worst:

A glaring example occurred in late 2014, when UC Irvine history professor Mark LeVine posted an expletive-laden, unhinged rant on Facebook calling for the destruction of Israel. . . . In this age of selective campus hypersensitivity, it's difficult to imagine correspondingly genocidal language being directed at any other country. Given that he's the authorof Heavy Metal Islam, LeVine's juvenile language might be chalked up to his rock 'n' roll persona, but it is hardly befitting the temperament of a scholar.

To read the entire article, please click here.


A Year After His Death, Fouad Ajami's Detractors Look Worse than Ever

By Winfield Myers | Mon, 22 Jun 2015, 9:16 AM | Permalink

Fouad Ajami

Lebanese-born Middle East studies scholar Fouad Ajami died one year ago today. At the time of his death, his lemming-like detractors attacked him, viciously at times, for his refusal to ape their cultural relativism and biased scholarship. Today at FrontPage Magazine, CW director Winfield Myers critiques the critics and finds them boorish and intellectually parochial:

"He came with conceptions, but he made a voyage of discovery. And so he caught truths, deeper and more durable truths about himself and about us all." (The Traveler's Luck)

So wrote Fouad Ajami, who died one year ago today, about Joseph Conrad, whose talents for capturing the clash between East and West he judged superior to V.S. Naipaul's. He might have been writing about his own gift for interpreting the Middle East from his adopted American home. The truths he caught were gained (like Conrad's) through an immigrant's eyes—eyes trained not just on his adopted country, but on the land of his birth.

To read the rest of this essay, please click here.


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