Middle East studies in the News
Teaching and Terror at DePaul
by Thomas Ryan
DePaul University, the largest Catholic university in the nation, has recently taken strides in embracing the anti-Israel fringe that has infiltrated its faculty and student body. In September of 2004, professor Thomas Klocek, after 14 years of service to the school, was suspended for verbally engaging members of the pro-Palestinian extremist group Students for Justice in Palestine, a group whose 2002 national conference was sponsored by the Islamic Association for Palestine, an organization that raises money for the families of suicide bombers. In September of 2003, DePaul hired notorious Holocaust denier and Hezbollah defender Norman Finkelstein as a full-time assistant professor in its political science department. Now DePaul has made a strategic decision to become one of the leading universities in the country for Islamic Studies, filling the program's faculty with professors resolved to spreading the word of anti-Israel zealots.
In September of 2004, DePaul launched its Islamic World Studies Program, offering students of the University both a major and minor in the subject of Islamic religion and culture. The program notes that "the core course work in Islam, language study, fieldwork, as well as opportunities for study abroad, and service learning would afford students an opportunity to develop an understanding of the Islamic world from local as well as international perspectives. This approach to the study of Islam is currently unmatched anywhere else in the United States and perhaps the world." What the program's boilerplate doesn't mention to prospective students is its overt pro-Palestinian slant, which encompasses both the faculty and course material.
Serving as the Director of the Islamic World Studies Program is Aminah Beverly McCloud, a follower of Louis Farrakhan who helped DePaul launch the department in response to what she believes is mass ignorance among Americans about the general Islamic world. McCloud has contended "that Islam was the core of civilization and a worldwide religion is absent from undergraduate study. The only thing talked about worldwide is Muslim terrorists." Although McCloud insists that she seeks to teach students about facets of Islam removed from fundamentalist militancy, McCloud's connections to, and use of books in favor of, Islamic extremism prove otherwise.
McCloud teaches the courses "Islam in the United States," which has as its objective to leave students with a basic understanding of the history of the contemporary communities of Muslims in the United States; and "Islam in Global Contexts," which attempts to provide "an overview of the worldview of Islam with a focus on its historical development in major parts of the world." One of the books McCloud uses as a required reading for both of these courses is Seyyed Hossein Nasr's book The Heart Of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity. An apologist's view of Islam, the text habitually conceals the darker sides of fundamentalist Islam. In the book Nasr writes, "When some people attack Islam for inciting struggle in the name of justice, they forget the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution." In this rudimentary and erroneous observation, Nasr is equating terrorist attacks and suicide bombings enacted on innocent civilians to throwing tea into the Boston Harbor.
Another book that McCloud has as a required reading in one of her classes is Nisanit by Fadia Faqir. A Publishers Weekly review of the book notes, "Mired in political rhetoric, this alarming first novel by a Jordanian native tracks a Palestinian terrorist, his girlfriend, and his Israeli interrogator. The subject matter – a terrorist's thought processes, his lethal acts (including the murder of nine Israeli settlers), capture, torture and attendant plunge into madness – is potentially gripping, but Faqir repeatedly proffers graceless, simplistic agitprop instead of careful plotting or characterizations." In the book, the Israelis are portrayed as malicious sadists, and the protagonist of the story, a terrorist named Shadeed, ponders the prospect of peace, observing, "It would never spread over their country until these aggressors [the Israelis] stopped polluting their air."
Being a black Muslim, McCloud has often found herself to be at odds with Middle Eastern Muslim Immigrants. "In their pursuit of the American dream and whiteness," McCloud has remarked, "the new arrivals have largely ignored African-American Muslims, and have assumed that they can impose their own understanding of Islam on African-Americans." A devotee of the Nation of Islam, McCloud has noted that the organization must impose a greater leadership role in the social, spiritual, and political aspects of Black "mainstream" culture. McCloud has said that the Nation of Islam must define what Islam is within the American culture, "because there is an impetus in this country for the immigrant community to define what is Islam, and they're very adamant."
Despite her misgivings towards foreign-born Muslims, McCloud has, on occasion, extended her support to them. In 2004, she was a signatory to a document denouncing the U.S. Patriot Act and imploring U.S. authorities to grant Tariq Ramadan permission to teach at Notre Dame. Ramadan, grandson of Hasan al-Banna, the founder the Muslim Brotherhood, and a professor of Philosophy in France, was asked by Notre Dame to be the University's Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the school's Kroc Institute. The Department of Homeland Security barred his entrance into the U.S., citing a law that denies entry to foreigners who have used a "position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity." Although Ramadan dismissed his denial of admittance as "unjustified," the Islamic scholar's own words and actions over the years certainly demonstrate the reasons why U.S. officials refused to allow him into the country. For example, according to Spanish judge Balatasar Garzón, Ramadan had "routine contacts" with Ahmed Brahim, an Algerian man believed to be both the financial chief of al Qaeda, as well as the financier of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. In 1995, while suffering a series of terrorist attacks in Paris perpetrated by the Algerian Islamist terrorist movement, French Interior Minister Jean Louis Debre forbade Ramadan to enter France because of his connections to the terrorist group. And according to the French daily newspaper Le Monde, Ramadan is suspected of having links with al-Qaeda, and is believed to have organized a 1991 meeting between al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri, and Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in the 1993 bombing of the first World Trade Center. Also signing this document with McCloud were:
McCloud is also a speaker with The Muslim Students Association (MSA), which was established in 1963, has 150 chapters at Universities throughout North America, and is a key lobbying organization for the Wahhabi sect of Islam. In recent years, the MSA has solicited donations for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, whose assets the U.S. government seized in December 2001, because the organization was giving financial support to the terrorist group Hamas. The MSA also maintains strong ties to the Virginia-based World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), established in 1972 and directed from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The WAMY's Virginia offices have been a central target of the U.S. government's post-9/11 investigation of Islamist groups suspected of funding terrorism.
McCloud's in-class behavior and attitudes towards her students is reportedly appalling. On the website RateMyProfessors.com, where students grade their teachers, McCloud received an overall score of 2.4 (out of 5) for overall quality. One student writes, "It's amazing that someone like this is allowed to teach. If you're ready to be her toady, agree with everything she says and fall all over yourself by extolling her self-proclaimed ‘genius,' then I guess you would love her. Anyone with half an independent brain will resent her enormously." Another student writes, "Honestly, I hated going to her class. When I first tried to participate in class, she made me feel inferior. After that class, she has always intimidated me. She wasn't very compassionate when I came to her for help. But I tried really, really hard to earn a ‘C.'" Another students notes that McCloud "will put students down at times," and yet another remarks that "she only likes people who think like her."
Another professor who teaches in the Islamic World Studies Program is Khaled Keshk. Upon the creation of the program, Keshk stated that American universities should modernize their curricula of Islamic Studies, which he believes has been taught purely from a colonialist perspective. Keshk has said, "Many Middle East centers teach about Lawrence of Arabia. But we want to study the religious ramifications of what is happening." In his mission to modernize Islamic studies in his own classes, Keshk, like McCloud, resorts to using biased texts that blithely portray Palestinian terrorism as a reaction to Israeli atrocities.
According to the course syllabus, Keshk's class "Religion and Politics in the Middle East" is purported to explore "Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as they develop and interact in the Middle East." Far from providing a comprehensive look into each of these religions as they occur in the Middle East, Keshk seems fixated on Islam. One required reading for the class is the book Hezbollah, by Hala Jaber. The book literally asks the question "Does Hezbollah deserve its reputation?" and goes on to describe the Lebanese terrorist organization as "passionate" and "devoted to furthering an Islamic way of life." In no way a journalistic effort, the book glorifies Hezbollah, a group that killed more than 200 U.S. Marines in their barracks in a 1983 suicide truck bombing in Beirut.
For this class, Keshk also has students read: The Society of the Muslim Brothers by Richard P. Mitchell, which details the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is believed to be the principal organization from which modern terrorist groups, including Hamas, were established; and The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun, who now rationalizes and justifies Palestinian suicide bombings.
In his class "The Islamic Experience," Keshk requires students to read two books by Georgetown University professor, and radical Islam apologist, John Esposito. The one book, titled What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, uses a question-and-answer format to address such assumed popular questions as "What is the significance of Mecca?" and "Why do Muslim women wear veils and long garments?" and "Why are Muslims so violent?" In answering the question, "Does Islam permit suicide bombers?" Esposito writes, "In Israel-Palestine, increased Israeli violence, brutality, and targeted assassinations reinforced the belief among many Palestinians and Muslims that so-called suicide bombers were not committing an act of suicide but one of self-sacrifice, engaged in resistance and retaliation against Israeli occupation and oppression." Throughout the book, Esposito is blatantly critical of the U.S. and Israel and is given to defending Islamic extremism. Keshk also has students read Esposito's Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam. The book asks the questions, "Who are the Muslim extremists who perpetrate such deeds [as 9/11]?" and "Why do they hate us?" The book's answer: because of "frustration and anger at U.S. policy."
If DePaul University truly wishes to be the preeminent University for Islamic Studies, it must weed out those professors bent on turning the program into a purveyor of the religion's radical element.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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