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Painting with a broad brush

Reader comment on item: Islamists Police the Classroom [at the University of South Florida]

Submitted by Naomi Hordes (United States), Jan 5, 2004 at 13:14

Hi again Mr. Pipes:

As usual, I agree with the general content of your article on the possible dangers of Islamist pressure on academics teaching courses on Islam and the ME.

But, would you not agree that we should be careful not to paint with too broad a brush - i.e. if there was a university course being taught on Judiasm, Yahadut, Israel, the ME, the Jewish community would not find it unacceptable or even unusual to have Jewish students enroll in the course to monitor ( even for YOUR own monitoring system) and perhaps to try to ensure that the course presented views that the Jewish community thinks represents itself. Any community has the right to define for itself what it considers its own values and an academic institution shoudl be a place where a variety of interpretations can be offered, even including an accurate presentation of those of a religious community itself.

Academics have the right to interpret any subject , including the history, beliefs and views of another religion, in whatever way they want. I certainly would not want Eward Said to have presented a course on Judaism with no input from knowledgeable Jews.

I can envision some perfectly normative Moslems who might feel the same way about a non Moslem teaching a course on a topic they feel strongly about.

I am certain that you were not intending to indicate that they should not have that right - merely to indicate that no group ought to have the right t o censor academic freedom and that attempting to attract converts should have no place in an academic environment. But I think you do your argument harm -and run the danger of having it dismissed as a polemic - if you don't at least acknowledge that there could be legitimate reasons for monitoring even classes on Islam.

Keep up the good work. I marvel at your output - and your stamina! You are a welcome voice in the wilderness. Hopefully more people are seeing the light.


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