“‘Given what’s happened in Iraq and Palestine, I would be shocked if there wasn’t discontent,’ said Omid Safi, professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” — from this article
Omid Safi made it out of Hamilton, New York, did he? He’d been trying desperately to claw his way onwards and upwards. Leila Ahmad tried to smuggle him into Harvard Divinity School (William Graham and Diana Eck being her dutiful accomplices) but the faculty wasn’t buying — someone was on the qui vive, thank god. And if only someone had been on the qui vive at Harvard Law School when plausible Noah Feldman presented his plausible, conventionally-wonderful resume. If only there had been someone there who actually knew what Joseph Schacht would have made of the likes of Noah Feldman, with his “After Jihad” (the title itself gives him away) and the support he received from, inter alia, John Esposito, Roy Mottahedeh (many cuts above Esposito, but not up in the firmament, not even close, with Schacht and Snouck Hurgronje), and the Two Noble Sanctuaries Adjunct Professor of Islamic Law at Harvard, whose name I have forgotten.
Omid Safi didn’t get to move to Francis Avenue, but apparently he’s made it out of Hamilton, New York to Franklin Street in beautiful Chapel Hill. And here’s how: Carl Ernst must have pushed and pushed and pushed. Carl Ernst, the one who thought the bowdlerized simpering version of the Qur’an by Michael Sells was just the sort of “introduction to Islam” that University of North Carolina freshmen should be required to read: “The Lyrical Suras” — which perhaps even its composer, Michael Sells, must surely be having second thoughts about.
Oh, it’s a closed circle of apologists, hiring and promoting each other and keeping out with care and cunning all those who might upset that MESA Nostra applecart.
In such cases, it is up to the Dean and the President to keep careful watch — and for other departments, such as that of History, to be careful to mind the who’s-teaching-about-Islam store. We can’t let this MESA Nostra business continue too much longer; it is now almost impossible to teach, or be taught about, Islam in a sensible no-nonsense fashion, one that Schacht and Snouck Hurgronje and a hundred other great scholars of the past would recognize as the real thing.
So, if you are the kind of alumnus to whose phone calls the Development Office will urge the President to reply, or if you can organize a group of such unhappy alumni, do so. Force these Administrators hiding behind the idea of “faculty autonomy” to get out and get under, get out and get under the scandalous vehicle for misrepresentations of Islam all over academic America. For these misrepresentations prevail all over, not only where Saudi and other Arab money has set up “centers” and endowed well-upholstered chairs — King Abdul Aziz This, Two Noble Sanctuaries That — in order to keep young, ignorant, easily impressionable American students still ignorant, and impressed with the Received Version of Islam that the Omid Safis and Carl Ernsts (the man who fell in love with Sufism on his own Spiritual Search) present. They keep out the real version as best they can. And they are well-practiced at this, and have so many willing collaborators.
Omar Safi’s schtick is the Nice Guy, the understanding professor, the one who is “genuinely” interested in his students (those innocents can be fooled by so little). But he will not do the one thing students most need: teach them the truth about the subject he purports to be teaching them. This, out of embarrassment, or ignorance, or filial piety, or defensiveness, he cannot do. His Colgate U course on, inter alia, “Islamophobia,” recalled the brainwashing that took place when you were a helpless POW in places like Pyongyang, Hanoi, and Beijing. During the Cultural Revolution one had to denounce one’s own counter-revolutionary sins, don a dunce cap, and be publicly humiliated while expressing public remorse. Now, instead of Mao’s Little Red Book, we have the little Blue Books of American exam-taking, in which dutiful, submissive, and grade-fearing students bow their heads, and regurgitate the pap their “professors of Islamic studies” demand of them.
This “professor’s” ludicrous course featured some palpable pap about “Islam confronting modernity,” with a breathless parroting of fashionable academic terms that carefully avoided the little matter of what Islam is actually all about. Omid Safi has shown himself to be completely uncomprehending of what free, skeptical, and disinterested inquiry can be. His task is to present assorted straw-men, knock them down, and make sure the students, just like those Chinese during the Cultural Revolution, are forced to denounce them (albeit in “papers” and “exams”). And, he devoutly hopes, once programmed they will go out into the world to pooh-pooh all those who have dared to criticize Islam. And students will fear to take issue with the sinisterly amiable lecturer, master of all he surveys, with the all-important power of the grade over his cowed students, and especially over any who dare to dissent.
This is a travesty of learning. This is lecture-hall thought-control. Grades are a way to reward the submissive regurgitators — verily, Islam means “submission” — and to punish those guilty of the “thought-crime” of, well, thought. Can the students, the faculty, the administration, the Trustees in Chapel Hill really have welcomed this?