Middle East studies in the News
Defending war threatens free speech
by Naureen Shah
February 20, 2004
EVANSTON, Ill. (U-WIRE) - College students expect to worry about their resumes - not their criminal records. But government intrusion is turning the college campus, a historically ripe ground for activism, into an investigation site - discouraging and sometimes censoring free speech in the process. Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
Today's war on terrorism is being waged on two fronts: the external enemy and internal discord. More powerful than police handcuffs, but less monitored and thus more effective, is government regulation that deters protest. The Bush administration is attempting to quash dissent before it can begin.
On Feb. 2, Army intelligence agents visited offices at the University of Texas-Austin to obtain information on attendees to a conference about Islamic law and sexism without a search warrant, reports The Daily Texan. Employees say they were accosted and aggressively questioned.
On Feb. 8, a federal judge ordered officials at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to turn over records on an antiwar forum held at the school and information related to a local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a New York-based legal activist organization that sponsored the forum. The subpoena might be the first of its kind in decades, reports The Associated Press.
Now the Senate is considering a bill that would create an advisory board enabling national security agencies to oversee curricula, course materials and hiring at universities that accept federal money for international studies. Critics believe the board would act to the detriment of Middle Eastern studies that criticize U.S. foreign policy.
Instead of accepting government regulation, we should understand its ramifications.
The war on civil liberties at home thus maintains the war abroad. Our government relies on our acceptance of the fear-based imperative. We must protect U.S. lives at all costs or else we will again experience the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as a way to justify a massive military budget.
But moreover, that imperative falsely legitimates the constriction of academic freedom at academic institutions such by manifesting in government seizure of library records and class registration. The squelching of free speech facilitates our uninformed consent to an occupation - eerily similar to Vietnam.
The war abroad justifies the war at home, and the war at home enables the war abroad: Our dissidence censored, our country becomes uncritical of war.
That connection is the weak link on President Bush's lockdown of our country. It means that by speaking out against either war, as protesters or students in the classroom, we can resist both.
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