Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald asks some questions about what students at the University of North Carolina learn about Islam -- questions that have become more pointed in light of the actions of distinguished Tarheel alumnus Muhammad Reza Taheri-azar.
What have University of North Carolina students learned about Islam -- before Muhammad Reza Taheri-azar's grim lesson? UNC students are no doubt now wandering about, wondering where their former fellow student, that "nice guy, but a loner" Taheri-azar got his strange ideas. And they will wonder, because nothing any of them had ever been taught in classes would lead them to think that there's much to worry about from ordinary Muslims, from plain old Islam itself. It was just those "radicals," "extremists," "Wahhabis," "Salafists," those who "would pervert a noble religion" as Bush and Rice like to put, that anyone had to be concerned about. And of course there none of them could possibly have been admitted to UNC.
Carl Ernst supposedly enlightens UNC students on the nature of Islam. Does he tell them that it is a literal-minded religion in which the Qur'an is the immutable and uncreated Word of God? Does he introduce students to the contents of the Qur'an and the Hadith? What's that? -- his students reading this now ask. What's the Hadith? Oh, he gave us two of those and told us not to bother to read any others because they wouldn't be on the test. Does he assign to them the Sira? (What's that?). Okay, but at least they know what's in the Qur'an, right?
No. To read the Michael Sells version of the Qur'an, the one forced on innocent incoming freshman at UNC/Chapel Hill a few years ago (and may still be forced on them) is not to become acquainted with the Qur'an. In fact, one will learn next to nothing valuable without reading several versions synoptically, without understanding the principle of abrogation or naskh by which the milder verses (such as they are, and few as they are) are cancelled out by the harsher later verses (especially the last of the Suras in time -- Sura 9). And if further you do not realize how mild even the best English translation of the Arabic Qur'an makes it sound (the word "punishment" or "punish" in English does not convey the full meaning of the Arabic word or words it is used to translate), then that course is a guide to nothing and nowhere.
Carl Ernst was a great pusher of the Sells version. What else is he pushing on his students? And who is minding the store at UNC/Chapel Hill to make sure that the apologists for Islam, who are light on the real thing, and certainly will not inform their students fully either about the tenets of Islam or about the history of Muslim conquest and subsequent subjugation of all conquered non-Muslims (Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists), are reined in? Perhaps sensible people in the administration can, if there is a separate department of Islamic or Middle Eastern Studies, place it under the careful jurisdiction of a larger department unlikely to be full of such apologists, and at least some of whose members will not be dissuaded from such oversight by cries of "faculty autonomy" -- nor intimidated by the claims of "professional expertise" that turn out to be false.
Easy question: is the Sells version assigned to students at UNC/Chapel Hill in courses? Yes or no? If it is, then the President, the Trustees, and various interested faculty members should now take it upon themselves to read the Qur'an with the necessary guides to interpretation, so that such seemingly innocuous phrases as "in the path of God" are given their real meaning -- and by "guides" one does not mean Michael Sells at Haverford or those who backed the use of his sanitized Qur'an as required reading for those hapless, trusting Freshman. And they should, while they are at it, read the Muslim biography of Muhammad, and read as well the biographies of Sir William Muir, or Tor Andrae, or Arthur Jeffery, or other Western scholars of Islam. They should read a few hundred of the Hadith (the sayings and acts of Muhammad), which are as important, for most Muslims, as a guide to existence, as the Qur'an itself -- and indeed the Qur'an without the Sunnah, it has often been said, could hardly be understood, but the Sunnah without the Qur'an is another thing.
And then there are the books of Robert Spencer, and Bat Ye'or, and Ibn Warraq's Why I Am Not a Muslim. Start reading, all over the campus -- and compare what you learn with what certain professors have been assuring you, with their highly selective reading lists (if Sells is on it, can Maria Rosa Menocal be far behind? And what about Said's "Orientalism"? And Khaled Abou el Fadl as a Young Star in the Firmament of -- well, of something). All so predictable.
Google "MESA Nostra" and start there. It's a big problem. It's all over the place. But on each campus, some faculty members, and some members of the Administration, and some trustees and alumni, and even some students, have got to grab hold of this problem, and not let go.