Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald adduces some examples illustrative of the current crisis in American higher education:
A miscellany of indictments of the current state of American education:
1) The alacrity with which Princeton University hired Cornel West as a university professor, and the delight expressed by the Provost and others in the Princeton administration at this great catch.
2) The elevation of Maria Rosa Menocal, author of a book that purports to study the wonders of the “convivencia” in Islamic Spain, to the supreme authority on this subject.
Menocal’s book itself is sentimental nonsense, not only in form but content. It is a perfect compendium of all the twaddle that has been passed off as history about Andalucia. Her bibliography, incidentally, fails to mention any of the authoritative sources on the history of Muslim Spain — in particular, it does not even list (much less give any sign of her having actually read) Evariste Levi-Provencal. Nor does it show any sign that she has read Dufourcq.
Instead, her notions of Spain are right out of the works of romantic fiction — Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra (tales indeed) and Chateaubriand’s Le Dernier des Abencerages. What is fine for Chateaubriand is not fine for what is supposed to be an historical study. I mean, for god’s sake, some of his best passages in the Memoires d’Outre-tombe are entirely fictional: see his sonorous sentences about his visit to “les champs de Lexington,” where he never was. And that’s not all: there is also much more fantasy about il sospiro del Moro, the nobility of those Muslims, the wonderful way Maimonides was treated (why, then, did he flee Moorish Spain?), on and on.
The failure to list, or even be aware of, the most authoritative studies of Moorish Spain would be disturbing in a high school paper. What makes it more worrisome, and perhaps representative of the age in which we live, is that Menocal, in her dreamy desire to emphasize convivencia, ignores the realities of Muslim rule and the real status of non-Muslims subjugated to that rule. She has not the slightest idea of what dhimmitude entailed, or why a Jew could be a court doctor or even high-ranking official, while all of his co-religionists would still be subject to humiliation, degradation, and the permanent insecurity that was apparent, for example, in the massacre of Grenada’s Jews in 1066 — and he himself could in a New York or Cordova minute be thrust down himself.
Yet she is no goofy armchair historian, without access to a library. No, she is presented to us as the Director of the Whitney Center for the Humanities at Yale. Yale, as I understand it, likes to think of itself as having some standards. Where are they?
The latest issue of the Yale Review tells us proudly that four professors have been appointed to Sterling Professorships. Three were in science. The only one from outside science was Maria Rosa Menocal.
3) The delight expressed by Stephen Greenblatt at the appointment of Homi Bhabha to a professorship at Harvard a few years ago. Bhabha, who is a professor of English, cannot express himself clearly in written English. Not because he comes from abroad. No, his prose has won prizes because of its impenetrable jargon, its postcolonial projects of phallic hegemony, things like that. Things like the quintessence-of-nonsense paragraph specially written for the “MESA Nostra Contest” (which google).
4) Then there is Fawaz Gerges. It is stunning to think that Gerges has managed to climb the greasy pole at Sarah Lawrence, where Adda Bozeman, the unacknowledged source for much of Samuel Huntington’s work, and herself the keenest early warner about Islam’s threat to everyone else, once held sway.
5) There is also the entire disgraceful operation of lean, mean, jogging John Esposito, head and master of all he surveys at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown.
6) And finally, there is the MEALAC Program at Columbia. It is not possible, at Columbia’s MEALAC program, to learn much of anything about the all-important subject — Islam, its tenets, or the history of Muslim conquest and subsequent treatment of non-Muslims. So much attention is given by Saliba, Dabashi, Khalidi, El-Haj, etcetera etceterum to one subject — “Palestine” — that they simply have no time for larger investigations.
Columbia once had the most distinguished scholars of Islam — Joseph Schacht and Arthur Jeffery come swimmingly to mind. Now? Now it is the kind of place, in its MEALAC program, that only Adel Jubeir, and Saeb Erekat, and Amr al-Moussa, and of course 80% of the membership of MESA (the Middle East Studies Association of America, a de facto subsidiary of the Arab League in collaboration with Al-Azhar University and Hamas) could love — or even take seriously.
In his “Edward Said” Chair, Khalidi is giving his crude money’s worth. Why, he even takes part in panel discussions, sponsored by the New Yorker, on the Middle East. Everything, everything but Islam will be discussed, but especially the problem of Isr…oh, you know what I mean.
Could a professor at Columbia simply be a propagandist whose every sentence is a half-truth that keeps his audience from ever learning about Jihad, or about what really underlies the Arab refusal to contemplate a permanent acceptance of an Infidel state, mighty Israel, in its midst?
Jacques Barzun must not be pleased. Nor, one is glad to report, are many alumni. And the beating heart of Columbia, as at every American university, is its Development Office. Alumni, give that Development Office palpitations. Force them to spend on an in-house defibrillator. It may be the only way to get the attention of the trimmers and time-servers, those who rose to the top of academic administration without thinking clearly about their own duty to be informed, and to instruct, and not merely to deliver themselves of Comnmencement Speech pieties as they “take a leadership role.” But their attention it will get.