The idea that you have to have a degree in something in order to be able to speak about it competently and accurately is too absurd to warrant any serious reply. As Daniel Pipes points out here, when it comes to Islam, it is often just the opposite nowadays — a fact for which we have the ideological straitjacket of the Middle East Studies Association to thank.
“MPAC Calls Me an ‘Expert on Islam,'” by Daniel Pipes at History News Network, September 24:
Why thank you, Muslim Public Affairs Council, for this endorsement. It’s much appreciated, even if came in a 65-page pamphlet, Not Qualified: Exposing the Deception Behind America’s 25 Top Pseudo-Experts on Islam.
According to MPAC, a leading Islamist group based in Los Angeles, those 25 would be Andrew Bostom, William Boykin, Stephen Coughlin, Nonie Darwish, Steven Emerson, Brigitte Gabriel, Frank Gaffney, David Gaubatz, William Gawthrop, Pamela Geller, John Giduck, Sebastian Gorka, John Guandolo, Tawfik Hamid, David Horowitz, Raymond Ibrahim, Zuhdi Jasser, Andrew McCarthy, Walid Phares, Patrick Poole…Robert Spencer, Erick Stakelback [sic], David Yerushalmi — and me.
The gravamen of MPAC’s analysis is that members of this group overwhelmingly are not what it calls experts on Islam, where this term is defined as
[A]n individual who has formal academic qualifications in Islamic Studies from an accredited institute of higher education in the West or those institutes of higher education in Muslim-majority countries that rank among the world’s top 500 universities. In order to be classified as “expert”, as defined above, one’s credentials must also be publicly verifiable.
According to MPAC, “Of the 25 people examined, only 1 (4%) had the qualifications to be considered an ‘expert’ on Islam.” That 4% would be me. In another place, MPAC contradicts itself and allows that Raymond Ibrahim also has “the formal and verifiable academic credentials to be classified as an expert.” Even more contradictorily, as the pamphlet title implies, MPAC says I am a “pseudo-expert” expert on Islam.
My first question is, why does MPAC chose individuals who make no claim to expertise in Islam (such as John Giduck and David Horowitz), but exclude critics with academic credentials in Islamic studies, such as Fouad Ajami, David Cook, David Forte, Efraim Karsh, Martin Kramer, Bernard Lewis, Michael Rubin, Philip Salzman, and Kemal Silay?
My main objection is to the emphasis on credentials. The field of Middle East studies demonstrates — only too colorfully — that possessing a PhD does not guarantee competence. Sadly, it’s almost the opposite.
It’s not where a person went to school in his or her twenties, the languages he or she knows, or his or her years living abroad that matters but the capabilities, knowledge, energy, and intelligence he or she subsequently displays. Speaking as someone who has the requisite degrees, languages, and years abroad, I despise this self-serving emphasis on academic pedigree which would exclude non-PhDs from commenting on things Muslim.
It is a natural consequence of the Islamic supremacist/Leftist control of Middle East studies in the U.S. If they were on the outs in the nation’s colleges and universities, you’d hear Islamic supremacist groups like MPAC railing against the entrenched, hidebound academic establishment, the good old boy network, and emphasizing the fact that academic credentials do not make for accuracy, or lack thereof for unreliability.
A number of individuals on the MPAC list of 24 have made real contributions. Take the example of Robert Spencer: he has a mere M.A. in religious studies, lacks fluency in Middle Eastern languages, and has not lived in a Muslim-majority country, to be sure, but he has developed a deep erudition on Islam demonstrated in his many books. Indeed, I challenge MPAC to put him toe-to-toe with any PhD”d expert on Islam of its choosing. I nominate that foremost credentialist, John Esposito, for the job.
This made me smile, because indeed, when I challenged Esposito to debate, he sent me his resume. In any case, the list of these puffed-up pseudo-academic clowns who have ducked my debate challenge is very long. I am still ready to debate any of them. But none of them will accept. They claim that it is because of all my hateful hatefulness, but that is an obvious dodge, and in any case, irrelevant, since my books have more readers than all of theirs put together: if I am really so horribly hateful, it would be all the more urgent to refute me and show me up by defeating me in debate, so as to end my baneful influence forever. But none of them do it, because they all know they cannot. They all know that I am telling the truth, and thus they won’t debate me because the debate would make that fact all too obvious.
This next part is very funny, considering how Salam al-Marayati is one of the most arrogant and unpleasant people in a field crowded with them:
(Amusingly, by insisting that only those with a degree in Islamic studies may comment on Islam and Muslims, MPAC has just fired its own staff. Its leader, Salam al-Marayati has an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and a graduate degree in business administration. And yet MPAC mires itself in deep Islamic issues.)…