Campus Watch Research
Middle East Studies Profs Gone Bad
by Cinnamon Stillwell
A former visiting assistant professor of Islamic studies at Harvard Divinity School, Daulatzai has joined the growing ranks of Middle East studies academics who run afoul of the law. Their misdeeds, which range from sexual harassment to domestic abuse and murder to terrorism, demonstrate that being "a professor" is no barrier to criminality.
Just last month, a professor in McGill University's Institute of Islamic Studies whose name has not been released to the public was accused of "sexual violence" by way of stickers left in women's restrooms on campus. The professor, who is up for tenure this semester, denies the charges, despite former students testifying to his "predatory" behavior. An open letter to Robert Wisnovsky, Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies, from the World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association reiterated the allegations, recommending against tenure and concluding that "women are at a disadvantage within the Islamic Studies department."
Another kind of relationship between student and teacher underpinned a controversy earlier this year involving Rollins College professor Areeje Zufari. Zufari, a Muslim, resigned in April following a conflict with Christian student Marshall Polston, whom she had falsely accused of stalking after he challenged her anti-Christian, Islamist assertions. After a wrongful suspension and a disciplinary hearing, Polston was reinstated, while Zufari now teaches at Valencia College. Even more sordid is Zufari's past, including numerous ties to Islamist associations and an affair with a married man under FBI investigation for terrorist activity.
White, no stranger to frivolous lawsuits and accusations of "Islamophobia," is currently suing UCF for discrimination, claiming he was forced to resign in 2015, because, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, "he is black and Muslim, and because he proposed recruiting more black and Muslim students to the school." He alleges that he received threats and that the University rejected his early proposals to initiate the now-extant Islamic Studies and Middle East Studies programs, but UCF spokesman Chad Binette contends that "his claims have no merit." Predictably White, who now bills himself as a "devout Islamic scholar," is being represented by the Islamist organization the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Meanwhile, Youssif Zaghwani Omar, a Libyan-born teacher's assistant in Arabic—not an assistant professor as reported at the time—at the University of Missouri, was arrested on suspicion of child abuse for the violent assault of a 14-year-old female relative in 2015. Omar drove to her high school, saw that she wasn't wearing a hijab (headscarf), and proceeded to grab her by the hair, slap her across the face, and pull her by the hair down a flight of stairs and into his car.
Villanova University history professor and director of the Center for Arab American Studies Mine Ener's case is perhaps the most horrific. In 2003, Ener admitted to slashing the throat of her six-month-old, Down Syndrome-stricken daughter at her mother's home. Charged with second-degree murder, Ener then committed suicide in jail by smothering herself with a plastic bag. Reportedly, she had suffered from post-partum depression and expressed thoughts of suicide and harming her baby in order to end her "suffering." In 2008, Villanova made the controversial decision to dedicate a new section of its library to Ener.
In the realm of terrorism, three University of South Florida Middle East studies professors, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, Bashir Musa Mohammed Nafi, and Sameeh Hammoudeh, were among eight men charged with racketeering and conspiracy to murder in 2003. Indicted as "material supporters" of the "foreign terrorist organization" Palestinian Islamic Jihad, all three were praised afterwards by their colleagues and described as "scholarly" and "highly respected."
Diab was arrested in 2008 and extradited from Canada to France in 2014, where several court decisions to grant him bail have been overturned on appeal. The investigation ended in July, but the judge's decision on whether to drop the charges or proceed to trial is still pending. Meanwhile, Diab maintains his innocence and his supporters are asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to encourage French authorities to release him.
While every profession has its bad actors, the field of Middle East studies is riddled with them. It suffers from the violence, radicalism, and misogyny afflicting the region from which so many of its academics hail. Moreover, it is arrogant and self-righteous, rejecting the outside criticism that exposes its misdeeds in favor of a closed circle that affirms its worst inclinations. Condemning the democratic West while elevating Islamism, the field betrays its moral confusion. Is it any wonder that the worst follows?
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