The Future of Academia
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
Daniel Pipes: Thank you, Congressman [Jack Kingston], and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's my pleasure to be here. And, again, I commend David Horowitz for his focus on the universities, not just visiting them incessantly but taking them as an important aspect of his work in the various institutions he has. They are, I agree with Lanny [Griffith] that they're one of the worst institutions in the United States in terms of having been taken over by the Left. I just simply say there are four institutions that have been captured by leftists: the mainline churches, the media, the universities, and Hollywood.
I have a niche topic of the campus problem, which is Middle East and Islamic studies. It's not particularly worse than, say, anthropology or Latin American studies or English literature, but it is more prominent, and it plays a larger role in the formulation of policy. There are topics that we must deal with as a country where the specialists have a unique role. For example, what is jihad? This is something we cannot turn to the government for, Hollywood, the churches, the media. One really has to look to specialists on religion, history, and the like to get an understanding what jihad is. What has been declared against us? And it's interesting to see that the virtually unanimous response by the specialists on this topic is apologetic, obfuscatory.
Jihad means the extension of Muslim control of territory against non-Muslims. It is not about converting people. It is about extending power. But if you look at what the academics are saying, the people who should know, they deny that that is what it is. They'll sometimes acknowledge that it's a defensive war, which it's not, but most of the time they will say it is moral self-improvement. My favorite definitions are as follows: controlling one's anger, working on behalf of feminism, and combating apartheid. This is what these specialists are telling us. And this is important because jihad is a significant factor in our foreign policy now.
My focus is really on the college faculty, because my understanding is that the origins of the problem lie with the specialists who are working on the Middle East and Islam, not the biologists, for example, who take this as an avocation, not the students, not the administrators.
I see five problems in this field, and I would expect that they apply to other fields, as well:
First, what I mentioned just before, apologetics, an unwillingness to confront the difficult issues. There has never been a full-length study of Osama bin Laden by the academics. They don't look at the repression on Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The two million dead in Sudan as a result of jihad has never been studied in depth. Muslim anti-Semitism is off the table. What one finds instead is apologetics, dealing with, say, the PLO, Iran, or Libya, portraying these in a favorable light.
Mistakes are the second problem. Because the analysis is so lopsided, there's no debate, and so what one finds as a consensus. The consensus on the Left, as you might expect, is wrong. For instance, the assertion that militant Islam will serve as a democratizing force in the Middle East and abroad, or that the Palestinian Authority is going to be democratic.
Then there's extremism. I hardly need give you the kind of examples of anti-Americanism one finds. It's ubiquitous.
There's intolerance of opposing points of view. Again, it's standard issue. I wouldn't say that everybody has the same point of view. There are differences, of course, but it's all on one side of the great debate.
And, finally, the most appropriate to this discussion, there is an abuse of power vis-à-vis students. One finds over and over again that students are not allowed to dissent from their professors' viewpoints. And I hear about this in an odd kind of way, because I am contacted by students once a month or so, reporting to me that they cited me in a paper, and the professor writes back on the paper that I am not a source that may be cited.
Things have gotten so bad that what one has is a situation largely characterized by sterility, ineffectiveness, and an inability to answer the public need at a moment of national emergency. This is truly a field dominated by arrogance, and it's a classic example of intellectual hegemony.
By way of solution, I have created something with my colleagues, as you heard before, called "Campus Watch," which focuses on the Middle East studies faculty and does two things: It argues with the professors, takes issue with what they're doing, in the hope that it will spur their doing a better job. And, secondly, it is a kind of Consumer Reports for students, parents of students, alumni, legislators, Department of Education, state legislators, and Congress.
We got started a year ago, September of 2002, with a website, a rather modest website, which merely posted some articles by others that we had noted and found interesting. And what was curious is that the specialists on the Middle East and Islam responded to our modest website with a fevered reaction. The least hostile of the names we were called was McCarthyite. And you can imagine the more aggressive ones.
The interesting result of this was to give us a platform. Our little website became a national—indeed, international—topic. Four newspapers in Germany, for example, wrote full-scale articles about us. We were on the map, and this in turn gave us the means to make ourselves heard, it brought in funds, so we beefed up our staff and have been engaged in a series of studies, many of them published on FrontPage Magazine.
We've even gotten into investigative work. In October of 2003 alone, for example, we did three investigative studies. At the University of Michigan, we found that the website of the Middle East Center endorsed Wahhabi websites At the University of Pennsylvania, we found the administration funded a talk by William W. Baker, a wild-eyed anti-Semite. And at Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter, Florida, not far from here, we found that an exchange professor in the U.S. government-sponsored Fulbright Program by the name of Mustafa Abu Sway is an activist in Hamas, something which did not particularly perturb the university.
We have suggested that the U.S. government de-fund Middle East studies (and area studies programs more generally). Our premise is that taxpayer money going for these projects is explicitly designed to bolster the national defense – these are important languages, important cultures for us to know about. Yet, many Middle Eastern centers have explicitly rejected the idea of service to the government and basically said to students, "Take the money, and use it for your own purposes." So, we're thinking, why spend taxpayer money on institutions that want to misuse it? Why not give this money to the military institutions?
And, finally, we have supported House Resolution 3077, which calls for an advisory board to oversee the spending of U.S. federal money on area studies, what's called Title VI. Right now, the government hands out the money and then doesn't look at what's happening with it. We're saying, someone should see what's going on. This too has generated a furious reaction. What we sometimes call adult supervision gets our friends at the universities very annoyed and understandably so.
So we've got the attention of our colleagues in the universities, and I think it's a healthy development. They now are aware that students might turn to us with their stories, are aware that we're watching the student newspapers to see what inanities they might have spoken. We are looking at their research, we are watching, and we might post it, and we might make fun of it, and we might bring into public attention, and we might write about it. We might even go on television about it.
And I think there has been a discernible effect. I flatter myself perhaps in thinking that the rather subdued academic response to the war in Iraq in March and April may have been, in part, due to our work. Thank you.
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