Middle East studies in the News
Who Will Step Forward to Defend Free Speech?
Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents and infidels in the Muslim world are routinely beaten, jailed, lynched, stoned, crucified, and executed for alleged "blasphemy" or for their failure to convert to Islam.
Europeans who have criticized tribal customs that are both illegal in the West as well as barbaric, such as FGM, child marriage, polygamy, normalized daughter- and wife-beating, and human sacrifice (honor killing), have been sued, fined, censored--and murdered. They and their families have been shot at and death threatened. Some truth-tellers require round-the-clock protection and must live at undisclosed locations.
This does not (yet) happen in America. What does happen is censure, demonization, death threats, mob bullying, internet swarms, and an increasing refusal to to listen to such "blasphemous" ideas on campus or in the mass media. Attempting to do so risks riots and dis-invitations.
One is supposed to do the right thing for it's own sake, not in order to be rewarded. However, what is most important is that dissidents and truth-tellers--especially those who are punished for exposing shameful truths--be supported, either privately or publicly. We understand who are opponents are. We want to see what the bystanders will do. We need to know who is standing shoulder to shoulder with us, who and how many might join a resistance movement to the increasing overreach of the Brown Shirts.
Thus, when I was dis-invited by the King Fahd Center at the U of Arkansas School of Law, I wrote to a number of dissident and feminist colleagues: Muslims, ex-Muslims, Jews, and Christians. They were all people whose work I had personally and publicly covered, whose back I had when they were under siege, and whom I had interviewed at their request.
Guess what? Two ex-Muslim dissidents, a man and a woman, were apparently "too busy" to even pick up the phone nor did they offer to sign a letter or write an article. (One did eventually send a statement of support.) A third Muslim for whom I went the distance, wrote that she was still grieving the year-old death of her mother and could do nothing to help with the "cruelty and injustice" of our world. A fourth Muslim, a woman, whose back I had many times, including recently, never, ever responded. Perhaps she is traveling. My fifth and sixth Muslim colleagues, both of whom I'd written about at length, and more than once, did not reach out on their own--and I did not write to them directly. My seventh Muslim colleague, whose work I have endorsed, and an eighth Muslim colleague, who is on record admiring my work, have yet to respond.
Finally, weeks later, a ninth Muslim woman whom I had contacted, wrote a warm and supportive letter, said she was traveling and could do nothing for three weeks but once she returned, she'd like to help in any way she can. A tenth Muslim, my colleague, Ali Alyami, the Director, the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, instantly wrote the following. I have his permission to quote him.
"To accuse Professor Phyllis Chesler of being an Islamophobe is repugnant and an argument designed to silence anyone who highlights abuses of human rights, especially the barbaric dishonor killings everywhere in the world. I read Professor Chesler's commentaries and analyses and know that she is not anti-Muslim. There is no one who can be more Islamophobic and ant-Muslim than Muslims themselves and their lucratively paid apologists. Highlighting crimes against the voiceless and helpless in Muslim lands, or any lands, is a noble act of courage and commitment to do what's humane and right."
My friend and dissident colleague, ex-Muslim Ibn Warraq, wrote this:
"I am indeed sorry to hear about the cancellation of your invitation. I hope you can write about the cancellation itself which might make some other media outlets headlines. But this is happening to many: Ayaan [Hirsi Ali] was 'dis-invited'to a lecture she was supposed to have given in Australia. You can take comfort in the fact that your contributions to scholarship are considered dangerous by fascist regimes like Saudi Arabia. You have my total support."
Thus 3 of these 10 Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents and feminists (30%) responded supportively.
My perspective: Muslim countries are not overly generous to Muslim refugees or to other Muslims in distress. Child rearing among Muslims is often brutal--although versions of child abuse exist everywhere. Why should I expect reciprocity or generosity from people (Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents, apostates, and feminists) who already live under incredible siege, whose own deadlines weigh them down, and who may themselves have rarely been on the receiving end of solidarity or generosity?
Four Jewish Zionists: pundits, editors, and academics, were right there for me. They blogged, linked to, and tweeted out several blogs on the subject. I am incredibly grateful for their support. A fifth Jew, an anthropologist, has been dealing with these issues and insisted on Doing Something. She chose to write an unsolicited letter and sent it directly to the Director of the King Fahd Center.
A sixth Jewish Zionist, about whom I've written when he reached out in distress, moaned and groaned about his own sorrows--and did nothing. A seventh Jewish Zionist, whose troubles in academe I covered in depth and at length, did not reach out on his own. Weeks later, when I finally asked him why he had remained so silent, he admitted that he did not think he had to "reach out personally" and he apologized.
Thus, five of seven Jewish Zionists (71%) were supportive and reciprocal.
A Christian colleague whom I had contacted and who is quite the expert on Western academic suicide, immediately agreed to write a piece--as did a second Christian academic. A third Christian academic offered her support at once. The (possibly Christian) law professor who had invited me was initially outraged on my behalf; thereafter, she became increasingly cautious in dealing with me; she had to protect her institution, her own reputation, and perhaps her job. A fifth Christian, insisted on writing an unsolicited letter to the Director of the Center.
Thus, about 100% of the Christians responded warmly and immediately.
A wonderfully principled Sikh friend and colleague who is familiar with my work, critiqued this dis-invitation all over social media. She also subsequently contacted the Conference participants whom she knew personally and connected us. We are now all in touch.
No lawyer has stepped forward who is willing and able to represent me and all the other academics and scholars who have been dis-invited.
No group of academics have launched a petition or a campaign of any kind on behalf of those academics whose reputations have been sullied, who have not been paid for their preparation.
No group has, as yet, undertaken lawsuits, not only on behalf of free speech, but also on behalf of the rights of students to learn the truth of a matter instead of only junk knowledge; to be educated as opposed to indoctrinated; to learn how to tolerate, value, and handle intellectual diversity without resorting to insults and mob violence.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.
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