Middle East studies in the News
Academica in the Hot Seat [incl. Joseph Massad,
by Judith Apter Klinghoffer
Columbia University is boiling. Professors find swastikas and nooses on their office doors and strenuous denials not withstanding Columbia president Lee Bollinger may soon be following in the footsteps Larry Summers. Why? Because he stepped into the maelstrom that is Middle East politics on campus. First, he invited Ahmadinejad to speak and then chastised him prior to his speech.
It was a truly disastrously performance which is currently exploited by Islamist/leftist faculty members to secure tenure for two of their members. They secured one for Nadia Abu El-Haj at Barnard. Now, they are well on their way to secure another Joseph Massad at Columbia. How? With the help of a public letter signed by 109 professors. 69 professors responded with a letter expressing their support for the president. For the first time the post Sixties steady take over of the campuses by proponents of a radical leftist/Islamist anti-Semitic, anti-American relativistic agenda is seriously challenged. Why?
Because 9/11 demonstrated the vile consequences Western education has when offered to Third World students has not only to the Third World but also to the First world. Al Qaeda achieved what the Kmer Rouge failed to do. It convinced increasing number of intellectuals to challenge the academic consensus which blamed everything on Western imperialism and nothing on indigenous Third World forces.
Democracy, Capitalism and technological innovation thrive on critical thinking. In that sense far from breaking the back of Democratic Capitalism, even tenured radicals ultimately served to strengthen it by teaching students that it is good to rebel, i.e., challenge established verities. Here and there a student such as Theodore Kaczynski took the critics seriously and became a unabomber, but those instances were too few and far between to justify a costly challenge to the system.
The trouble is that the system which worked well for the developed world has been truly harmful to the developed world by misleading its best and brightest. Not all Third World tyrants were necessarily educated in the great Western universities but their educated elites did swallowed the radical critic of Democratic Capitalism whole hog and it helped them justify their mismanagement of their home countries. The same can be said of the leading Islamists, Maoists and various National liberation commanders. If the academia had a tough time turning against the Kmer Rouge, it was because Pol Pot was "one of them." He merely put to practice what he learn in the Sorbonne. Voices trying to direct attention to the phenomenon were either silenced or marginalized. Moreover, these ideas were widely distributed in the Third World.
9/11 focused attention on the effect of education on Third World students. At first, few challenged academics directing attention to the usual suspects or root causes such as poverty, hopelessness and racism. Then came the serious research and revealed that terrorists tended to be well educated young people who bought into the fashionable Post Colonial critic and became determined to punish their "oppressors" for destroying their veritable "havens" that their homelands used to be and, indeed, bring about a return to those old time paradises. Princeton University economist Alan Krueger writes:
Pakistan, and Turkey, involving about 1,000 respondents in each country. One of the questions asked was, "What about suicide bombing carried out against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq? Do you personally believe that this is justifiable or not justifiable?" Pew kindly provided me with tabulations of these data by respondents' personal characteristics.
Clearly terrorism is being taught and, therefore, to stop it the teaching of the reasons terror is justified must stop.
How? First and foremost by challenging the scholarship of the those teaching it. Second, by making their propagators face public scrutiny. When such scrutiny leads to demands for sanctions against irresponsible professors, their colleagues often rush to their defense crying foul in the name of academic freedom. This is what is happening in Columbia and this is what happened at Harvard. We must realize that this battle has only just been joined and it is not going to be short, easy or pretty.
Still, nothing less than the survival of the developed world and the defeat of totalitarianism in the Developing world is at stake. For what 9/11 ultimately taught us is that the two are ultimately connected. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, the world cannot forever continue to be half free and half slave and the young cannot forever be taught that there is no difference between the two.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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