More academic dhimmitude, or perhaps, in this case, taqiyya: a class at Colgate University called “Islam and modernity,” being taught this spring by one Omid Safi, has listed me within a group of “Islamophobes, Neo-cons, Western triumphalists.” (Thanks to Mrs. Obelix.)
Students are required to write a three-page report on one figure (or all of them; Dr. Safi is not quite clear on this point) from this rogues gallery:
Critical reports on Islamophobes, Neo-cons, Western triumphalists, etc.: 3 pages each on. Include: a brief biography, intellectual history, and comments on Islam (and/or Middle East where relevant)
-1) Bernard Lewis, 2)Samuel Huntington, 3)Fareed Zakaria, 4)David Frum, 5)Paul Wolfowitz, 6) Leo Strauss, 7) William Kristol, 8) William Bennett, 9) Daniel Pipes, 10) Charles Krauthammer, 11) Alan Bloom, 12) Robert Spencer, 13) David Pryce-Jones, 14) Stephen Schwartz, 15) Bat Yeor,16) Jerry Falwell, 17Pat Robertson, 18 Francis Fukuyaman, 19Patricia Crone 20 Niall Ferguson 21 Robert Kagan 22 Dore Gold 23 Ibn Warraq
I am honored to be included in such an illustrious list, and to be mentioned in the same breath as Bat Ye’or, Ibn Warraq, Patricia Crone, Daniel Pipes, David Pryce-Jones, and other great thinkers.
But of course this list is ridiculous on its face. People like Bat Ye’or, Ibn Warraq, Crone, Huntington and others are serious scholars who have done important work. On what basis can they legitimately be lumped together with people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and William Bennett? I don’t mean to insult those gentlemen in any way, shape, or form; but I am sure they would be the first to admit that their statements and writings about Islam are not scholarly, but political — and that to include the scholars with the political advocates demeans the scholars’ objectivity. Which is, I’m sure, exactly what Safi meant to do.
Even worse, of course, is the propagandistic basis of this list and the course in general. Labeling a group of people “Islamophobes” in a course about Islam is hardly conducive to freedom of thought. It is especially silly in light of the fact that one person on Safi’s enemies list, Stephen Schwartz, is a Muslim himself.
And for my part I vehemently reject the “Islamophobe” label, which is only a tool used by Islamic apologists to silence criticism. My work is dedicated to identifying the causes of jihad terrorism, which of course lead straight back into the Islamic texts. I have therefore called for reform of those texts — a necessity that should be obvious to anyone of good will, although I have no illusions that it is forthcoming soon or ever, or that it will be easy. I have dedicated Jihad Watch to defending equality of rights and freedom of conscience for all people. That’s Islamophobic? Then is the fault in the phobe, or in the Islam?
Meanwhile, the hapless Colgaters must write a five-page report on “important Muslim thinkers.” This list includes Khomeini, Mohammad Khatami, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, along with more moderate types like Sa’d al-Din Ebrahim, Tariq Ramadan, and Shirin Ebadi. Some who are much more influential today — such as the radicals Sayyid Qutb and Syed Abul Ala Maududi — don’t make the list. But I also think it’s interesting that Safi’s good guys get five-page papers and the bad guys get three-pagers — evidently it’s not all that important in academia these days to study an issue from a variety of perspectives.
But I am not so naive as to think that universities are about objective inquiry and freedom of thought anymore.