Campus Watch in the Media
Scholarship, Policy, Debate and Conflict:Why We Study the Middle East and Why It Matters
This has been a difficult year for people who study the Middle East--as it has been for people who live there. Memorable mostly for its dilemmas and disappointments, it has not been the kind of year on which one would ordinarily dwell. Yet there are important lessons in this year, lessons about the relationship between scholarship and policy, about the responsibilities imposed by an academic life in a time of deeply divisive debate and conflict, and about why what we do is profoundly important, not just to the small community of our professional peers but for the health of our society and of our world. It is to those questions–and the lessons I believe we must draw from the experience of this year--that I want to devote our attention this evening.
We all know what this year has represented. The New York Times bade farewell to 2002 with an editorial on the Middle East saying they could not recall "a more dispiriting time" but, as it turned out, things could get worse, and they did. The long-anticipated invasion of Iraq replaced a brutal tyranny with an ill-conceived American occupation, and soldiers and civilians lost their lives by the dozens for months after United States announced the mission had been accomplished on May 1st last spring. Indeed, the world lost some of its most dedicated and distinguished international civil servants in the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad in August. The American "road map" that was supposed to show the way out of the bloody Israeli-Palestinian impasse was soon in tatters as well, and the appalling routine of bombing and retaliation continued, producing little but death and recrimination. Osama Bin Laden, architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington continued to appear in videos, urging his supporters to remain steadfast in opposing the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever else the opportunity presented itself. As the year began to draw to a close, the governments of both Syria and Iran came under heightened Administration scrutiny as accomplices in the terror than now seemed to emanate from virtually everywhere.
The increasingly polarized and–it must be said–increasingly bigoted rhetoric in which these global battles seemed to be cast was hardly reassuring. In October, at a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad received a standing ovation for a speech in which he observed, among other things, that "the Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy: they get others to fight and die for them." The Bush administration promptly denounced these "hate-filled remarks." In the same week, however, when asked about the speeches that US Lt. General William Boykin gave, while in uniform, describing Muslims as worshipping an "idol" and not "a real God," and Islamists as wanting to destroy the US "because we are a Christian nation," US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that he could not prevent military officers from making controversial statements. There was, as the New York Times, opined, "more than a whiff of hypocrisy in Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks."
The desire to appeal to bigotry and intolerance while simultaneously disavowing it was widespread. During the summer Congressional recess, the Bush Administration appointed a conservative polemicist, Daniel Pipes, to the board of the government-funded United States Institute of Peace, thereby avoiding what would have been tendentious hearings exploring widespread complaints about his anti-Muslim bias. Pipes himself complained that the accusations were unfair, claiming he always distinguished between "Islam" and "militant Islam," the former being a faith for which he has "enormous respect" and the latter "a global affliction." In fact, he had referred in print to Muslims as a whole as "a basically hostile population" and argued that the "distinction between terrorists operating in the name of Islam and ordinary Muslim ‘moms and dads'....is a true and valid distinction, but it goes much too far, and if adhered to as a guideline for policy, it will cripple the effort that must be undertaken to preserve our institutions."
The assault on the region, the battles it reflected and fostered, and the increasingly loathsome rhetoric that attended them both, was accompanied by an offensive against the associated US area studies community, represented in universities, especially the university-based Title VI National Resource Centers on the Middle East, and by our own Middle East Studies Association. University appointments were announced in newspapers with headlines like "Anti-Israel U: Rashid Khalidi starts his new job as the first Edward Said Chair at Columbia University;" that chair itself was discussed in another local paper under the headline, "Hauser Helped Fund Professor of Hate." Title VI National Resource Centers--the university-based area studies research centers which receive funding from the Department of Education--came under attack in complaints about bias in the academy; objections to a proposal for an appointed Board to monitor the centers were tartly dismissed with the suggestion that those who objected shouldn't "take taxpayers' money.... Get off the public dole and find other subsidies--perhaps from one of those rich Saudi princes on an academic shopping spree.... You won't be missed..."
Dispiriting indeed. Not many of us went into Middle Eastern studies in the hope that the region would descend into this dreadful state, suspended between despotism and anarchy, nor in the expectation that the field itself would be fraught with this kind of mistrust, division and bitterness. How did this happen, and what can we do about it? These are questions about the relationship between policy and scholarship in a time of troubles, and finding the answers requires a measure of candor and courage on our part.
Let's start by considering what is at issue. There has been much to criticize for a long time in both the policy and the scholarship within and on the Middle East although we have been far too shy in acknowledging it. As we know, in the region itself, decades of despotism, once fed by Cold War imperatives, continued as if by inertia while most of the rest of the world embraced, or at least reluctantly acceded to, recognition of human rights and associated political and economic institutions. After brief flirtations with liberalized politics and economies in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of the regimes of the region cynically, and more or less openly, traded acquiescence in internationally sanctioned agreements for promises of international support and of a free hand at home. The 1990s were not a time of much development in the Middle East; indeed, apart from AIDS-ravaged sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East recorded the lowest growth rate in the world--and the total tally for growth in the twenty-five years ending in 2000 appears to have been negative.
The political consequences were not difficult to discern. Fully ten years ago, Hala Mostapha, an Egyptian writer, surveyed the Egyptian political scene and despairing concluded that "we are faced now with two alternatives. Either we become a police state and step back from the democratic advances that have been made, or we descend into disorder and perhaps civil war." Mostapha's bleak assessment was by no means unique. In October of the same year, one-time member of the Palestine National Council Edward Said examined the prospects for democracy for the Palestinians in the wake of the Oslo Accords, asking, "will there ever be truly representative institutions? One cannot be very sanguine... Alas one can already see in Palestine's potential statehood the lineaments of a marriage between the chaos of Lebanon and the tyranny of Iraq."
The impact of deteriorating economies and decaying polities, of misguided and sometimes venal policy, on the cultural and intellectual life in the region was corrosive, as decades of overbearing censorship and underfunded universities and research institutions depleted and fragmented the region's intellectual landscape. And this is where we--the students and scholars of the Middle East--come in. Few of us are equipped to correct decades of economic mismanagement in the region, nor to right all the political wrongs, but most of us are necessarily and inextricably interested in the consequences of these policy fiascoes for our own work and that of our colleagues. Indeed, for us, as for the region's residents, this sorry story is not merely academic, if I may put it that way. The policy world profoundly shapes the research and educational terrain in which we work both in the region and in the United States.
Let us take the region first. In 2003 alone, a quick and unsystematic survey reveals a deeply troubling picture of research interrupted and education suspended. In February, concerned about the impact of the looming war in Iraq, the American Center of Oriental Research temporarily closed its office in Amman and decamped to Cyprus; American Institute of Maghrebi Studies Center in Tunis received threatening phone calls in March. In Amman, more than 20,000 demonstrators were locked into the main campus of the University of Jordan for a day by riot police. In Khartoum, at least one student was killed when police broke up a march towards the US Embassy. By April, students and government agents clashed violently at Sanaa University and the Yemeni government asked that foreigners not leave the capital city, disrupting research in the country. In May three members of Iraq's Mustansiriyah University faculty--all former Ba'th Party members--were murdered and notes threatening others appeared on campus walls, telling them to stay away from campus "or else."
In July an anthropologist at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia was quoted in the US Chronicle of Higher Education as observing, "My freedom is limited so I have to watch my language carefully and say what should be said, not what I want to say." If he did not, he said, students would report him to the university president, as they had several of is colleagues. This was by no means unique to Saudi Arabia, of course; all of us have colleagues across the region who could say the same thing. I myself had just such a whispered conversation with a friend on the faculty at the University of Tunis in July.
Over the summer, MESA's own Committee on Academic Freedom called attention to reports that after some minor student protests at several universities in Iran in June, "the dormitories of these universities were viciously attacked by bands of vigilantes in the early hours of the morning on June 12 and 14, when their residents were asleep." Ordinary routines at other universities in the region were disrupted as well: the vicious politics of the Israel-Palestine conflict led to a bombing at Hebrew University, the temporary closing of access to Bir Zeit University, and the routine harassment of students and faculty at Bir Zeit and al-Quds Universities.
Scholarly exchange was threatened. Numerous conference organizers in the United States found their participants from the Middle East unable to obtain visas in time to attend the meetings. Indeed, at least four participants in this MESA meeting are not here because they were unable to obtain visas--and that is among though who were willing to try. In early summer, Dariush Zahedi, political science lecturer at Berkeley and director of the West Coast operations of the American Iranian Council was arrested in Iran and charged with spying for US; he is still incarcerated, having spent much of this time in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer. Zahedi is an advocate of improving American relations with Iran; two of his colleagues were jailed in Iran last year for conducting a poll that showed that a majority of Iranians want better relations with the United States.
Of course, polling is a dangerous pursuit in much of the Middle East, and it is not only the regimes that don't want to know, or don't want anyone else to know, what people think. Khalil Shikaki, an eminent Palestinian political scientist, Columbia PhD, and director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah was roughed up and pelted with eggs in July as he prepared to announce the findings from a region-wide survey of Palestinian refugees showing that only a small minority of them would exercise a "right of return" to Israel as part of a peace agreement. Shikaki explained that the dozens of rioters had hijacked his news conference and looted his office in order to send a signal to the Palestinian regime. 
Among the few bright spots in the year was the release of Saadeddin Ibrahim, eminent sociologist and chair of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo, who was acquitted of all charges after a three year legal fight and 15 months in prison. In the initial trial, Egyptian State Security had argued that in conducting voter education and election monitoring projects funded by a democracy promotion project of the European Union, Ibrahim and his colleagues at the Center had tarnished the country's image abroad, received funding without authorization and appropriated money by fraudulent means.
Ibrahim's release was widely and properly celebrated but, as Mona El-Ghobashy had reported, the case revealed deep-seated suspicions about the nature of social research. "More than once," she wrote, "the proceedings took on the air of a primer on what research centers do and how they are run, reflecting the general lack of awareness and attendant suspicion of these institutions in Egypt. And more than once the defense directed questions to witnesses asking them to clarify the role of a board of directors, the planning of a budget, program evaluation and audit, and the necessity of external funding…. The former president of Helwan University, explained in his testimony that "if it weren't for foreign funding for scientific and social research in Egypt, we wouldn't have any."
These are examples of something we all know is true: the universities, research agendas and educational programs throughout the Middle East and North Africa are diminished and distorted by the demands for politically palatable outcomes. Indeed, the second Arab Human Development Report, released in October, was blunt:
Impressive gains in the quantitative expansion of education in the Arab countries in the last half of the 20th century are still modest in comparison with other developing countries or with the requirements of human development. High rates of illiteracy among women persist, particularly in some of the less developed Arab countries. Many children still do not have access to basic education. Higher education is characterized by decreasing enrollment, and public spending on education has actually declined since 1985. In all cases, nevertheless, the most important challenge facing Arab education is its declining quality.
The Report attributes the weakness of education to a variety of factors, many of which should be of interest to us as members of the scholarly community that cares about the Middle East: restrictive interpretations of Islam, neglect and deterioration of Arabic, conformist tendencies in popular culture, increasingly inequitable distribution of income, growing apathy. Reflecting my own disciplinary persuasion--and the assessment of the Report's authors--I will focus largely on the political impediments.
As they put it, "One of the main results of the unstable political situation has been the subjection of scientific institutions to political strategies and power conflicts" and they recommend "guaranteeing the key freedoms of opinion, speech and assembly through good governance bounded by the law." The region will not thrive without robust research and educational establishments and for that, they argue, "constitutions, laws and administrative procedures need to be refined to remove all restrictions on essential freedoms, particularly administrative censorship, and regulatory restrictions by security apparatuses on the production and diffusion of knowledge...
All of this is true. Our counterparts and colleagues work in dreadful circumstances and we, the American scholars of the Middle East, have known about it for years. Unfortunately, we have too often chosen not to advertise it. Thousands of individually rational decisions, as my political science colleagues might observe, contributed to a collective abdication of responsibility. In the social sciences, graduate students who wanted jobs and junior faculty who wanted tenure mimicked their colleagues in other areas and looked for flickers of electoral politics and glimmers of economic privatization--the currency of post-Cold War social science--and neglected the stubborn durability of the authoritarian regimes and a corresponding growth of popular alienation and despair. More senior scholars, pained by the demoralization in the region and its neglect in their disciplines, suspended active research agendas in favor of administrative assignments in their universities. (I know whereof I speak.)
In the humanities, many scholars who sustained engagement with colleagues in their disciplines and in the region were reluctant to jeopardize access to visas and research authorizations; in their excessive caution, they failed to speak out about the often appalling predicaments of their friends and colleagues there. And finally, of course, we all wanted to protect and preserve what little space those very colleagues in the region enjoyed to conduct research and publish their scholarship, and we avoided saying things that might endanger them. Still, over my more than decade-long association with Human Rights Watch, I have been astonished by the number of my colleagues who expressed private admiration for the organization's work but refused to lend their name to it, worried that by associating themselves with an organization that might be critical of local governments, they would compromise their research access, or that of their friends and colleagues.
Yet there is a terrible irony here. Today that reluctance to speak up and speak out may be putting at jeopardy precisely what we had hoped to protect. The understandable impulse to try to preserve our own visas, and our colleagues' jobs, by--to put it charitably--being "discreet" has allowed others, from our disciplinary colleagues to newly powerful non-academic think tanks and advocacy organizations, to shape our research agendas and exploit our work for purposes we would not recognize, much less endorse. Now, its not just research visas in Egypt or Morocco that are in peril but student visas to study in the United States. Its not just Saudi and Tunisian professors who worry that what they teach will be reported to university presidents but American academics as well. In other words, "the subjection of scientific institutions to political strategies and power conflicts" is not just "their" problem, it is a problem for all of us.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service now requires foreign nationals from a wide variety of Arab and Muslim countries (or even nationals from other countries, like Canada, who may have been born in such Arab or Muslim countries) to report for special fingerprinting, photographing and interrogations. Visiting scholars from the Muslim Middle East are routinely harassed at airports as they travel to professional meetings like this one. Prospective students are discouraged by these regulations from applying to or accepting offers of admission from American universities. The Arab Human Development Report suggests that the number of Arab students studying in the United States dropped by 30 percent between 1999 and 2002 and according to the Chronicle on Higher Education, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait sent 25 percent fewer students to the United States in the fall of 2002 than the year before. As an official in the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education said, "We are looking almost everywhere in an effort to provide an alternative for our students wanting to study abroad....We still think the U.S. is the best place but we have had to compensate for the visa delays."
In the meantime, and even more importantly, the academic freedom and integrity which have made American educational institutions the envy of the world, and have drawn scholars and students from across the globe, is no longer beyond doubt. Policy advocates and polemicists who wish to dictate the range of respectable political conclusions now pose a serious threat to our scholarly integrity. Self-appointed guardians of the academy now use websites like Campus Watch to "invite student complaints of abuse, investigate their claims, and (when warranted) makes these known," presumably to university presidents. As one of its defenders put it,
Well, academic colleagues, get used to it. Yes, you are being watched. Those obscure articles in campus newspapers are now available on the Internet, and they will be harvested. Your syllabi, which you've also posted, will be scrutinized. Your websites will be visited late at night. And to judge from the Campus Watch website, the people who will do the real watching will be none other than your students....
To ensure that this effort to monitor what is taught in university classrooms is not left to the fickle devices of University students and administrators, however, this purpose is being urged on Congress. The International Studies in Higher Education Act, HR 3077, would create an "International Advisory Board" to "monitor, apprise and evaluate" activities supported under Title VI of the Higher Education Act, the provision which supports international and area studies programs around the country. What is the charge of the Board? To, among other things, ensure that university programs "reflect diverse perspectives and the full range of views on world regions, foreign language, and international affairs."
Although diversity is hard to argue with on campuses these days, in fact, American educators have always reveled in the "marketplace of ideas." In the sometimes raucous competition, as we well know, even the most implausible arguments are entertained, and often subjected to withering criticism. Over the course of time, good ideas drive out bad. American universities don't teach pre-Copernican astronomy, phrenology, fascism, astrology, eugenics, and a host of other wrong-headed notions (except in courses on the history of ideas), precisely because debates about truth are at the essence of the university, but we do entertain many different kinds of ideas in our search for that truth.
This plan to monitor and evaluate the universities and their area studies programs is not about diversity, or even about truth, but about the conviction of conservative political activists that the American university community is insufficiently patriotic, or perhaps simply insufficiently conservative. As one of the witnesses who testified in favor of the Board at hastily called hearings in June later put it, "the higher education lobby is petrified that a board with members appointed by a Republican administration might break the left's monopoly on Title VI."
In fact, what the university community is indeed profoundly worried about is the prospect of a Board mandated by the Federal government--whether in a Republican administration or Democratic, whether right-wing or left--and designed to interject partisan politics on campus. We, who have seen precisely that impulse distort and debilitate scholarship, research and education in the Middle East, know that this will tarnish our image around the world, and do serious harm to the enterprise of higher education in the United States.
Under these circumstances, it may not be surprising that the field of Middle East studies is not reproducing itself but it is worth noting nonetheless. MESA today represents about sixty percent of the scholars and students in the field. Among its members, economics, sociology and, oddly, language related fields are declining in favor of religious studies and art, architectural history and film studies--all important and valuable fields in their own right but, given current patterns of student course selection and newspaper column inches, are unlikely to generate enormous enrollments, widespread popular attention or broad public support for the project of Middle East studies over the long run. Whether as a cause or a result, funding for areas studies has atrophied; in 1967, there were a total of 2,344 Title VI foreign language fellowships awarded; in 2003, after the increased post-September 11 funding, there were 1640 fellowships, again for all languages. Perhaps even more worrisome, in 1990 a little more than 40 percent of the full members of the Middle East Studies Association were over fifty years old; in 2002, it was 60 percent.
It must be said that MESA as an institution has served its members fairly well in helping to sustain the field, both in North America and in the Middle East itself. It has provided a forum in the Annual Meeting at which scholars can discuss issues of import in the region, as opposed to in the disciplines in which most of its members operate. In establishing the Committee on Academic Freedom, MESA has both publicized some of the abuses of the region's governments and expressed solidarity with our colleagues in the region.
Yet, there is far more that we must do, as an institution and as individuals. We have a special responsibility, in fostering intellectual exchange, promoting high standards of scholarship, enhancing education and encouraging public awareness of the Middle East to ensure that our academic collaborators and colleagues are not treated like enemy aliens, their religions maligned and motives impugned. Scientific and scholarly exchange should not be impeded and dissemination of ideas must be respected without regard to the national origin, political persuasion or disciplinary loyalty of their authors.
We need to be able to acknowledge the failings of our work without embarrassment--remember that no bench scientist is afraid to report negative experimental results--but we must also assertively deploy our unparalleled expertise to provide unique insight and understanding of the Middle East. The Middle East Studies Association is, in fact, where people congregate who speak the languages, fathom the economies, know the histories (and the debates about the histories), appreciate the jokes, understand the insults, and recognize the aspirations in the Middle East today. What does that unique insight and understanding mean, and what relationship might it have to policy?
This question is worth reflecting on carefully, for the academy and the policy world cannot afford to be mutually incomprehensible. Certainly, scholars are often dismissive of the lack of analytical rigor that typifies the conduct of public policy--the need to act before all the answers are known--while policy practitioners are bemused by the theoretical pretensions of scholars--the reluctance to act in the absence of all the answers. Yet we have already seen how policy can shape the arena in which scholarship takes place, for good and for ill, and there is a widespread presumption that scholarship should also shape policy. On the part of policymakers, for example, Representative Pete Hoekstra in his press release announcing that the authorization of Title VI has passed the House subcommittee describes the purposes of the Title VI centers: "to advance knowledge of world regions, encourage the study of foreign languages, and train Americans to have the international expertise and understanding to fulfill pressing national security needs." From the scholar's perspective, just last year, my predecessor as MESA President, Joel Beinin, while acknowledging that " we cannot and should not speak with one voice as authorities whose academic expertise give us exact knowledge of the best way to protect Americans from acts of terror, to remove Saddam Husayn from power, to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, or other desirable goals" nonetheless argued that "we should speak publicly about such topics because our opinions are likely to be much better informed than most citizens." Clearly we all believe that knowledge, understanding and issues of public moment should somehow be linked.
And, in fact, ever since the creation of research universities in the United States, more than a century ago, academic research, particularly but not exclusively scientific and social scientific research, has been presumed to serve important purposes for policy and policy-makers. Probably since the rise of the early modern state, and certainly since the development of the modern welfare state, it has been assumed that policy should be based on empirical, scientifically developed evidence--as opposed to religious conviction, ideology, personal whims or merely guesswork. This search for evidence in the formulation and conduct of policy led quite naturally to scholars. During the Second World War, for example, as Alexander Stille tells us,
The United States, which did not even have a foreign intelligence service before the war, hired numerous professors, scholars and intellectuals of varying backgrounds to prepare reports to help them understand Germany [and Japan], including Herbert Marcuse (even though he was a well-know Marxist philosopher), the psychologist Erik Ericson, the Great German art historian Richard Krautheimer and the anthropologists Margaret Mead [and Ruth Benedict].
The ability of policy-makers to draw on university-based expertise–independent, it should be noted, of the partisan or ideological preferences of its authors--has been the rationale for government support of university-based research in the United States and around the world for the six decades since that war. What makes the disputes today so exceptionally troubling is not that they reflect debates about whether partisan preferences should be a filter or standard by which the contributions of scholarship should be evaluated, although that is often how the issue is framed. Nor is it really a question of whether scholars and policymakers even acknowledge their mutual reliance. No, far more profoundly, this debate is about whether evidence is important in policy-making at all.
In the wars on terror and on Iraq, evidence has been scarce and little regarded. From the questions about "sexed-up" intelligence reports; the suggestion that claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction were really rationales of bureaucratic convenience in creating constituents for the war on Iraq; the cavalier willingness to lock up terror suspects for months or years without any verifiable evidence of wrongdoing; to the deliberate efforts to create popular perceptions of links between Saddam Husayn and al-Qa'ida, we have been living in an era in which evidence plays little or no part in policymaking. Robert Reischauer reflected earlier this year on the importance of evidence in policy in a very different arena--domestic social programs--but his observations are worth pondering for a moment:
Public policy in the United States in recent years has increasingly been conceived, debated, and evaluated through the lenses of politics and ideology--policies are Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative, free market or government controlled. Discussion surrounding even much-vaunted bipartisan initiatives focuses on the politics of the compromise instead of the substance or impact of the policy. The fundamental question--will the policy work?--too often gets short shrift or is ignored altogether.
As Reischauer points out, the evidence produced by scholarship and science does not create policy or guarantee its success--it merely frames the choices and identifies the costs of various alternatives--but in its absence, policies are, as he put it, "likely to fail because they may not be grounded in the economic, institutional and social reality of a problem....Politically acceptable doesn't necessarily mean effective, affordable, or otherwise viable."
Informing policy debates with the sort of evidence scholars bring to bear is an essential part of responsible policymaking in the modern world. We, as the community of scientists and scholars devoted to the production and deployment of evidence, a project we sometimes call the search for truth, must remain faithful to that purpose even, perhaps especially, when policymakers seem distracted or uninterested. We must also make that evidence accessible. This neither requires nor excludes scholars, or their students, serving on the government payroll or endorsing a particular policy position. On the contrary, particularly in a democracy, the fulfillment of what we call "national security needs" is as much about meeting an obligation to contribute to the education of citizens--voters and taxpayers--as it is assessing or adopting particular policy stances. This we can do in the private and not-for-profit sectors, in think tanks and advocacy organizations, in the media and private businesses, in classrooms and research journals--wherever our work informs open and vigorous debates about the merits of policy perspectives and proposals–as well, of course, as in government.
To be responsible citizens, deploying our expertise effectively, we need not agree with a policy--or even with each other. Some of us may testify before Congress or write op-ed pieces in the newspapers or appear on television as "experts." Others will organize campus debates, seminars and demonstrations. Still others will simply equip their students with knowledge and insight enough to be better citizens of their county and the world, more knowledgeable, more critical, armed with better evidence and more refined analytical skills.
To sustain the remarkable–and remarkably important–position we hold in society, as both scholars and citizens, we have two obligations. We must do what we do--proudly, confidently, and energetically. We must be constantly, restlessly open to new ideas, searching for new evidence, critical of received wisdom, old orthodoxies, and ancient bigotries, always creating and criticizing ourselves, each other and our world. This is the life of scholarship and we must embrace it for what it is and do it well. We must train our successors in this discipline and educate the broader public about the value of evidence and the various ways to critically assess it. This is how we contribute to the public good, directly and indirectly.
At the same time, we must be absolutely uncompromising in upholding the rights that permit us to fulfill that first responsibility: the rights to freedom of information, expression and association, in the United States and around the world, for ourselves and our colleagues. If MESA is to accomplish its purposes in this difficult time, we as an institution must devise ways to support and defend our members both individually and as a scholarly community. We must encourage and celebrate efforts to collect evidence and to refine how we assess it, and to bring those efforts to bear in the classroom and in vigorous public debates about the policies of governments throughout the region as well as here at home. We cannot be idle when polltakers are roughed up or jailed because their findings are politically unpalatable, when students are told to report on faculty whose partisan commitments may be politically unpopular, when research is discredited not on its merits but by the sources of its funding, whether in Iran or Saudi Arabia or Egypt or the United States.
We need to say this, and to act on these principles, as loudly and as often as necessary. MESA's contributions to this effort will renew and revitalize the organization. This is not simply about MESA as an association, however, it is about our responsibilities as individuals as well. Whatever we each do, in our universities and colleges, in our local communities and in the Middle East itself, we must recognize that this is not a time to be intimidated or complacent--to be "discreet"--about infringements of the rights upon which we and our colleagues rely as scholars and as citizens, whether in the United States or in the Middle East itself. If we abdicate our responsibilities as citizens, we undermine our standing as scholars and teachers. We must not only advocate for our rights but we must also exercise them.
This essay is an extension of my presidential letter to the MESA membership, published in the Association Newsletter, Winter 2003, and several passages are reproduced from that letter.
See New York Times, "Malaysian Leader's Talk Attacking Jews Draws Ire from Bush," New York Times, October 21,2003; "U.S. General Apologies for Remarks about Islam," New York Times, October 18, 2003; "The General Who Roared" New York Times October 22, 2003; for Pipes' remarks, see Militant Islam Reaches America, by Daniel Pipes (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002), p. 102, 124.
New York Post, August 25, 2003; New York Sun, July 25, 2003.
Martin Kramer, "Title VI in Congress: Not on Our Dime" http://www.geocities.com/martinkramerorg/2003_10_14.html
quoted in The New York Times, 1 April 1993
Edward Said, "The Morning After," London Review of Books 21 October 1993, p. 4-5.
Richard Monastersky, "Overseas Research Becomes Casualty of War;" Daniel Del Castillo, "Backlash in the Middle East," The Chronicle of Higher Education April 4, 2003
Associated Press, "Iraq Professors shaken by Threats," June 30, 2003.
Khalid Raihan, professor of anthropology at King Saud University, quoted by Daniel Del Castillo, "Saudi Arabia's Identity Crisis," The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 11, 2003.
http://payvand.com/news/; The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 31, 2003.
James Bennet, "Palestinian Mob Attacks Pollster," The New York Times, July 14, 2003
See the website: www.democracy-egypt.org. Mona El Ghobashy, "The case of Saad Eddin Ibrahim reveals deep-seated suspicions about the nature of social research," Cairo Times, January 24, 2001
Arab Human Development Report, executive summary, http://www.undp.org/rbas/ahdr, October 2003, p.3
Arab Human Development Report, executive summary, p.10-12
Arab Human Development Report, Executive Summary, op. cit., p. 2; Jennifer Jacobson, "U.S. Foreign Enrollments Stagnate," The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 7, 2003, p. A44.
Martin Kramer, "Qui custodiet ipsos custodes? Campus Watch" at http://www/martinkramer.org/pages/899529/page899529.html
Stanley Kurtz, "Hearing Both Sides of Title VI," National Review Online, June 23, 2003.
Data on MESA and on historical levels of Title VI funding graciously provided by Executive Secretary Amy Newhall, October 2003.
I treat this dilemma in some detail in Pursuing Truth, Exercising Power: Social Science and Public Policy in the Twenty-first Century (Columbia University Press, 2003)
"Education Subcommittee Approves Hoekstra measure to Strengthen International Studies in Higher Education, Ensure Programs Fulfill National Security Needs," Committee in Education and the Workforce, September 17, 2003.
Joel Beinin, "2002 Presidential Address: Middle East Studies After September 11, 2001," Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, vol. 37, no.1, Summer 2003.
"Experts Can Help Rebuild a Country," The New York Times, July 19, 2003
"The Case for Evidence-Based Policy" Urban Institute Annual Report, May 2003Note: Postings in "Campus Watch in the Media" do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch.
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