In February 2003, three current or former instructors in Middle East studies at the University of South Florida in Tampa were charged with racketeering and conspiracy to murder. In response, I wrote an article, "Terrorist Profs" reviewing the standing of Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, Bashir Musa Mohammed Nafi, Sameeh Hammoudeh in the profession. What particularly surprised me was how their Middle East studies colleagues continued to praise them, that even after the indictments.
Arthur Lowrie, formerly vice chairman of USF's Committee for Middle Eastern Studies, praises Shallah for his "good scholarly work." And Gwen Griffith-Dickson, director of Islamic studies at Birkbeck, describes Nafi as "highly respected," lauding him for his efforts "with energy and commitment, to encourage critical thinking about religious issues and academic balance in his students, and thus to encourage social responsibility."
Well, it gets worse. Those three were only indicted (their trial is currently underway); what about a convicted abettor of terrorism? Mohamed Yousry, 49, an Arabic-language translator, was convicted on Feb. 10, 2005, in connection with Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh. He is guilty of providing material aid to terrorism and conspiring to deceive the government and awaits sentencing on Sept. 30. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
When not translating for the blind sheikh, Yousry was writing a Ph.D. dissertation about him at New York University. Zachary Lockman the professor who originally had urged him to write about Abdel Rahman, testified on Yousry's behalf at the trial. After the conviction was handed down, Lockman referred to it as "ludicrous" and described Yousry as "a very sweet, mild-mannered guy" whose political views "are not those of Omar Abdel Rahman by any stretch of the imagination." (August 7, 2005)
Comments: (1) Is it not amazing that Middle East studies professors have nothing but nice things to say about those accused and convicted of abetting Islamist terrorism? More dramatically than anything else, this reveals the field's degradation.
(2) I can't wait to hear the encomia should the Tampa gang be convicted.