Jihad Watch Board Vice President discusses the impending apotheosis of Juan Cole:
What can one expect from Yale vis-Ã -vis Juan Cole? If the Director of the Whitney Center for the Humanities, Maria Rosa Menocal, has not been taken to scholarly task for her ill-informed feelgood Ornament of the World (which makes no mention of the relevant authorities, such as Levi-Provencal, in her bibliography), but rather has just been rewarded with a Sterling Professorship, that says a lot about Yale. Her Sterling Professorship, what’s more, is one of four such appointments, and the only one outside of science, with its more rigorous no-nonsense standards.
As for Juan Cole, everything Martin Kramer has written about him should be digested thoroughly by those at Yale who are even thinking of touching Cole with a ten foot pole. Then read around. Go to the Yale Library. Check out Joseph Schacht, C. Snouck Hurgronje, David Margoliouth, Arthur Jeffery. Start with those four. Or, if you prefer, read the samples of a few dozen great Western scholars of Islam, those included in the tremendously useful The Legacy of Jihad. Ask a few European scholars — say, Alfred de Premare, or Hans Jansen — or for that matter those who have received their scholarly formation in Europe but are presently in the United States, such as Bernard Lewis, Patricia Crone, and Michael Cook — what they think of the level of Coke’s “scholarship.” For that matter, since the subject at hand is “contemporary” political developments, surely Fouad Ajami and Kanan Makiya should be asked (for there they will be truth-tellers) what they think of Juan Cole’s “scholarship.”
If this charlatan is appointed, it would be a final nail, or rather several final nails, in several coffins. One would be the coffin of MESA Nostra. The American government — or better, qualified and moneyed private individuals who know the truth — should simply set up institutes to teach Americans about Islam and the Middle East, going carefully around the universities — or perhaps carefully vetting every department that would wish to get in on the money. The second coffin, a far more luxurious affair (possibly on display at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home), will be that of Yale itself. Universities live and die now by phony “prestige” and by working up would-be students into a frenzy about it, and by keeping “in touch” with Alumni to remind them of how prestigious their prestigious university prestigiously is, and how all that prestige comes at a price — the price that generous and loyal alumni, basking in that never-ending “prestige,” should be happy to pay, and pay, and pay. (Have you gotten a call, or ten, or fifty, from your university yet? Have you had the good sense to tell them to stop their endless begging, and you choose not to swell their endowment still further?)
If such a scholarly nonentity, is appointed in the “full light of history,” when his work can be easily compared with that of real scholars (Jeffery, Snouck Hurgronje, Schacht, etc.) of the past, and present scholars — Cook, Crone, Lewis, De Premare, Jansen — can give their opinions, what does that tell us about this prestige? And don’t tell us that John Esposito, or Roger Owen, or Hamid Dabashi, or the egregious rock-musician and self-described polymath Mark LeVine (about whom more has been written here) have been the people supplying references for Cole, or that others, including the more plausible representatives of the apologist-lite school, such as Roy Mottahedeh, have been doing so. For god’s sake, the mixture as before is not acceptable. We can’t take more misinformation, nonsense and lies, about Islam. It’s costing us too much — just look at tarbaby Iraq and the dream of a Light Unto the Muslim Nations.
Donations do not matter to MESA Nostra. But they do, very much, to Yale. Yale should be made to suffer, suffer, suffer, if the apotheosis of MESA Nostra and all that is wrong with it, one Juan Cole, is rewarded for his nonstop nonsense by being elevated to the “prestige” of “prestigious” Yale. It is bad enough that the Mearsheimer-Walt parody of scholarship is allowed to go about the world as a “Harvard” product (the imprimatur was removed too late). To have “Professor Juan Cole of Yale” — that’s more of the same.
It may not be possible to recreate an atmosphere in American universities, or in other universities of the Western world, in which disinterested study, rather than transparent apologetics, would be offered to innocent students. Certainly the number of schools where such study is possible has diminished over the past 30 years. Esposito is the rule, not the exception. But one should at least try. And administrators at Yale and members of other departments, such as the history faculty at Yale, now have a duty to inform themselves fully of the extent of the scandal, and not to permit the fellow-travelers of MESA Nostra already ensconced at Yale to manage to smuggle in one more of their number. This was, incidentally, tried recently at Harvard Divinity School by Leila Ahmed, trying through her tools William Graham and Diana Eck to push through the appointment of Omid Safi. Fortunately, she was foiled. Surely those pushing, pushing, pushing for Juan Cole — because he is one of them, and they are with him all the way — can also be foiled at the last minute. They must be — for the sake of Yale’s innocent students, and for the continued support of Yale. For all of the faculty will suffer in the end from a decline in financial support that such an appointment will at this point, and fortunately, automatically trigger.