April 11, 2004
More academic dhimmitude, or perhaps, in this
a class at Colgate University called "Islam and modernity," being
taught this spring by one Omid Safi, has listed me within a group of "Islamophobes,
Neo-cons, Western triumphalists." (Thanks to Mrs. Obelix.)
Students are required to write a three-page
report on one figure (or all of them; Dr. Safi is not quite clear on
this point) from this rogues gallery:
Critical reports on Islamophobes, Neo-cons,
Western triumphalists, etc.: 3 pages each on. Include: a brief
biography, intellectual history, and comments on Islam (and/or
Middle East where relevant)
-1) Bernard Lewis, 2)Samuel Huntington,
3)Fareed Zakaria, 4)David Frum, 5)Paul Wolfowitz, 6) Leo Strauss, 7)
William Kristol, 8) William Bennett, 9) Daniel Pipes, 10) Charles
Krauthammer, 11) Alan Bloom, 12) Robert Spencer, 13) David
Pryce-Jones, 14) Stephen Schwartz, 15) Bat Yeor,16) Jerry Falwell,
17Pat Robertson, 18 Francis Fukuyaman, 19Patricia Crone 20 Niall
Ferguson 21 Robert Kagan 22 Dore Gold 23 Ibn Warraq
I am honored to be included in such an
illustrious list, and to be mentioned in the same breath as Bat Ye'or,
Ibn Warraq, Patricia Crone, Daniel Pipes, David Pryce-Jones, and other
But of course this list is ridiculous on its
face. People like Bat Ye'or, Ibn Warraq, Crone, Huntington and others
are serious scholars who have done important work. On what basis can
they legitimately be lumped together with people like Jerry Falwell,
Pat Robertson, and William Bennett? I don't mean to insult those
gentlemen in any way, shape, or form; but I am sure they would be the
first to admit that their statements and writings about Islam are not
scholarly, but political — and that to include the scholars with the
political advocates demeans the scholars' objectivity. Which is, I'm
sure, exactly what Safi meant to do.
Even worse, of course, is the propagandistic
basis of this list and the course in general. Labeling a group of
people "Islamophobes" in a course about Islam is hardly conducive to
freedom of thought. It is especially silly in light of the fact that
one person on Safi's enemies list, Stephen Schwartz, is a Muslim
And for my part I vehemently reject the "Islamophobe"
label, which is only a tool used by Islamic apologists to silence
criticism. My work is dedicated to identifying the causes of jihad
terrorism, which of course lead straight back into the Islamic texts.
I have therefore called for reform of those texts — a necessity that
should be obvious to anyone of good will, although I have no illusions
that it is forthcoming soon or ever, or that it will be easy. I have
dedicated Jihad Watch to defending equality of rights and freedom of
conscience for all people. That's Islamophobic? Then is the fault in
the phobe, or in the Islam?
Meanwhile, the hapless Colgaters must write a
five-page report on "important Muslim thinkers." This list includes
Khomeini, Mohammad Khatami, and
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, along with more moderate types like
Sa'd al-Din Ebrahim,
Tariq Ramadan, and
Shirin Ebadi. Some who are much more influential today — such as
the radicals Sayyid Qutb and Syed Abul Ala Maududi — don't make the
list. But I also think it's interesting that Safi's good guys get
five-page papers and the bad guys get three-pagers — evidently it's
not all that important in academia these days to study an issue from a
variety of perspectives.
But I am not so naive as to think that
universities are about objective inquiry and freedom of thought
Posted at April 11, 2004
|Notes: The following represents questions
and comments on the Jihadwatch website:
Only one question: does he
Such apologetics and propaganda for the
Jihad at a 501(c)(3) organization are being subsidized, indirectly, by
American taxpayers. It used to be that brainwashing 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.
In this "professor's" ludicrous course,
some palpable pap about "Islam confronting modernity," with a
breathless parroting of fashionable academic terms that carefully
avoid the little matter of what Islam is actually all about, he shows
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
programmmed 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 travesty of learning, this
lecture-hall thought-control (grades are a way to either reward the
submissive regurgitators -- verily, Islam means "submission" -- and to
punish those guilty of the "thought-crime" of -- well, thought. Can
the students, the Colgate faculty, the administration, the Trustees
continue to stand for this?
Congratulations, Robert Spencer. Being on
these lists means you are getting to them and effecting cultural
change. It is a perverse award, but it is telling.
I was glad to see Bat Ye'or's name on the
list too. It was only a couple of years ago that Esposito was telling
the media that Bat Ye'Or was an academic joke.
Now they are taking her seriously
enough to attack her. Excellent!
Robert, look at that list; are you
absolutely certain that you couldn't have a conference, seminar, or
formal meeting of some sort on the subject of how Islam endangers us?
It looks to me as if having a lot of these experts serving as faculty
members would be a huge drawing card.
Surely if the costs of having the
conference were kept reasonable, and tuition or fees could also be
kept within reason, there would be no problem with cost overruns.
Vendors, such as authors, could offer their goods outside the
conference halls, there could be post-lecture panel discussions, etc.
We do this sort of thing all the time in medicine, and it's a very
Judging from the postings at this site,
I can't imagine that the audience interest wouldn't be there. I
suppose that it would draw a strong anti-American element to protest,
but in a sense, that would be good, since it would clarify to the
general population some of the differences we have within our own
country, demonstrate to those who have serious concerns about Islam
but who feel alone that they aren't really alone, and maybe even make
some of our Muslim "friends" a bit nervous, since there could be no
doubt that bit by bit, they are being "outed."
Please give it some thought. Sure, you
would become the enemy of the PC crowd, but since you already are, it
would only increase the number of enemies you have--and provide
millions of dollars worth of publicity.
P.S. Maybe it would ultimately provide a
little bit of pressure on the politicians, too. . .
Mr. Spencer, consider it a badge of honor.
At LGF we've been called gay, homophobe, islamophobe, fascist, racist,
neonazi jews-for-bush. I guess those are all synonyms for
truth-speakers these days...
Mr. Spencer - Congratulations. You are
correct in characterizing this as attempt to silence your criticism,
and then, of course, ours. Hugh is also correct in his description of
the "academic courses" that are nothing more than "regurgitation for
grades" of the opinions and bias of the instructor.
It is an outrage than anyone affiliated with a college can get away
with offering and teaching such a course and with creating and
publishing an "enemies list."
Politically correct speech and non-hate policies are just lipservice
on many of today's campuses when the perpetrators are Muslim or
The silver lining is that some of Safi's
students might actually start READING "Islam Unveiled", instead of
merely READING ABOUT Spencer's books.
Futhermore (perhaps due to moral clarity?)
writers like Spencer and Ye'or are so much easier to read than
double-talking John Esposito and tedious know-it-all Edward Said.
In effect, this can backfire on Safi.
Anti-jihadis in the area should donate
copies of these books to Colgate University library in order to help
bring about Safi's meltdown.
LOL Not only are you in the power group,
Mr. Spencer, you also present a calm and intelligent presence when
speaking on television. Now -- if we could only have all of you from
this "list" speaking together at one time in the same room ... What an
Well done, Robert! You have made the
A-list of those academics fighting to preserve Western civilization
from the Islamist onslaught.
(Note: As for Islamo"phobia"- I must say, I have not seen evidenced in
your work any fear whatsoever. Acuity, clarity, perceptiveness,
analytical competence- but never fear of Islam.)
The list of people the students have to
report on is excellent. Some of the students will actually learn
something, despite the professor.
I still remember writing a report when I
was 10 or 11 years old on the Byrd dynasty of Virginia. That was part
of my earliest political education.
I live in Upstate New York and attended a
public lecture by Professor Safi over two years ago at the Utica
Public Library. Although I did disagree and question much of what was
presented in his lecture on Islam I nevertheless found him to be a
well-meaning, courteous, sincere, and kind individual both at his
presentation and through several e-mails I exchanged with him over the
next 2 years.
I think that what
would be both useful and honest would be a curriculum where both the
works of, for example, Edward Said and Bat Ye'or, might be read,
evaluated, and discussed rather than the one-sided approach the Dr.
Safi favors. Also, it might be helpful for Dr. Safi to consider that
as a Iranian/Persian of Muslim decent, his Zoroasterian ancestors
shared much of the bloody and unhappy treatment doled out to other
dhimmi peoples throughout the Near East, North Africa, and beyond.
With best wishes to all. Matthew J.
I bet that some are out there smiling
smugly because they have plenty of cash to disseminate their lies.
Cash to fund slanted textbooks, cash to fund universities chairs, cash
to fund "educational centers," and so on. Yet who will fund Robert?
Ask around. Some of us must know folks with deep pockets.
As a student in Professor
Safi's "Islam and the Modern World" course, I am not only shocked at
the insults directed towards my professor, but insulted that the
students in his class are portrayed as "hapless," "cowed," and
"dutiful, submissive, head-bowed" individuals. Essentially, we are
described as mindless human beings. Every student enrolled in this
course had full access to a class description before signing up and
enrolled knowing what we would be discussing. The accusations being
made about our assignments and the legitmacy and intentions of
Professor Safi are ludicrous and completely false, and I personally
find it quite odd that they are being made without any true insight or
firsthand accounts of our course.
The assertion by "Hugh" that the students in the class will "fear to
take issue with the sinisterly amiable lecturer" as for concern that
we will receive a poor grade, could not be farther from the truth. As
a Roman Catholic, I have never once felt as though I was being judged
by Professor Safi for my own background or beliefs, and he is
constantly encouraging us to bring up any thoughts or ideas, even
those we might think to be challenging his own beliefs, because he
respects all of our opinions. He encourages us to think critically and
analyze everything we read, and I cannot think of one student who
feels powerless or frightened in any of his courses.
Basically, I simply do
not understand how people think they know so much about Professor
Safi, his class, and the way he teaches without ever attending a
course. That, to me, is the absolute greatest ignorance.
My dear alissa,
I take it, then, that you have no problem
with his a priori labeling of the work of an entire group of writers,
which includes many serious and internationally respected scholars,
with the dismissive and tendentious label of "Islamophobe"?
Leave me and my books out of it,
although I reject the label for myself as well. I invite you to read
the works of Bat Ye'or and then come back and tell me she is "Islamophobic."
After reading this string
of comments about my professor, I feel compelled to respond. First of
all, I am offended by your insinuation that we 'hapless colgaters' are
subject to brainwashing by Professor Safi. By your rationale, every
introductory class I have taken has brainwashed me. Secondly, I think
you have all placed to much emphasis on the "Islamaphobe" assignment.
In case none of you knew, Colgate has highly demanding cirriculum.
Three pages is nothing. In Safi's class alone we have had to write 30+
pages on topics other than "Islamaphobes. In my four classes combined,
I have written close to 100 pages this semster. We don't all spend our
time pondering a 3 page assignment we had in the begininning of the
year. Furthermore, you have all failed to grasp the methodology behind
professor Safi's grouping of Islamaphobes. As he explained it in
class, the list was made up of people who have been publically
critical of Islam. There is no secret agenda aimed at demeaning the
work of serious scholar by grouping them with Falwell and Roberstson.
Safi was simply trying to introduce us to some popular ciritcisms of
Islam so that we could engange them in our other readings. He never
told us to criticize them. He simply told us to objectively summarize
their views on Islam. At no point have I suspected that Professor Safi
has a 'secret agenda', as some of you seem to suggest. Although I
don't plan on studying Islam in the future, I feel privelged to have
gotten the opportunity to study with Professor Safi. I have never come
across a person who seems so firm in his commitment to peace and
understanding among people. Frankly, I am shocked by the way you all
have villanized him. He is probably one of the nicer, more
understanding professors at this institution. I dont understand how
presenting the pluralistic and peaceful aspects of Islam is a bad
thing. Yes, there is much ugliness in Islam. We see it in the news all
the time. I think everyone should get the whole picture, the good and
the bad. If we rely just on what we see on the news, we run the risk
of being brainwashed in a much more dangerous way. Imagine if we
judged Christianity just by what we saw in the news. Are pedophile
preists the norm? Of course not. Do the actions of extreme christian
cults like the branch davidians relfect christian values? of course
not. Similarly, we cannot denounce Islam as a religon of violence and
hate simply because some people chose to distort it's teachings.
In closing, I would
like to say that I am appalled by what I have heard on this message
board. On the whole, you people appear to be quite an intolerant
bunch. How can you pretend to know "what islam is all about"? Have you
spent your life studying it? Are you a Muslim?
You compare Safi to Mao? Utterly Ridiculous.
"Does he have tenure?"
That's a horrific comment. I though you were a proponent of freedom?
Who sounds like Mao, now?
My dear Josh,
"First of all, I am offended by your
insinuation that we 'hapless colgaters' are subject to brainwashing by
Please specify where I made such an
"insinuation." This is a piece about Safi's lack of academic
objectivity and objective vilification of my work and that of others.
Nowhere does it say you or your fellows are brainwashed. If you see
through what he is doing, I applaud you.
"By your rationale, every introductory
class I have taken has brainwashed me."
I take it you have not studied logic.
"In case none of you knew, Colgate has
highly demanding cirriculum. Three pages is nothing."
That was precisely my point.
"Safi was simply trying to introduce us
to some popular ciritcisms of Islam so that we could engange them in
our other readings. He never told us to criticize them. He simply told
us to objectively summarize their views on Islam."
He told you to do that by labeling us
(wrongly) as "Islamophobes."
"I dont understand how presenting the
pluralistic and peaceful aspects of Islam is a bad thing."
No, that's just swell, Josh. But
calling me names, and calling other people names, and thereby
demeaning serious scholarship -- that's not so swell.
"How can you pretend to know 'what
islam is all about'? Have you spent your life studying it?"
Mr. Spencer: When I asked "Have you spent
your life studying Islam" I was not refering to you. I am well aware
of your credentials. I should have clarified that I was responding to
Also, keep in mind that
the main purpose of Safi's course is to introduce us to the discourses
taking place in progressive and liberal muslim circles. the three page
paper was assgined to provide some background on the criticims of
Islam, that is all.
My dear Josh,
I suggest you ask Professor Safi why, if
"the three page paper was assgined to provide some background on the
criticims of Islam," did he tag me and others with the inflammatory,
pejorative and inaccurate label of "Islamophobe."
You can also tell him that I'd be happy
to come to Colgate this fall and speak to his class about these
issues. We can make the whole thing question/answer.
Getting off the topic, I have a few
questions id like to get your opinion on.
What kind of approach do you advocate
for dealing with the problem of international terrorism? (Broad, I
Do you beleive U.S foriegn policy over
the last thirty years has consistently reflected our commitment to the
ideas of democracy and justice?
Don't we run the risk of creating more
hatred towards 'the west' by pursuing only military policies?
Should we put pressure on Israel to
appease the Palestininians? Wouldnt that ease tensions and save lives
in the long run?
My dear Josh,
"What kind of approach do you advocate for
dealing with the problem of international terrorism? (Broad, I know)"
I respectfully suggest you read my book
"Onward Muslim Soldiers."
"Do you beleive U.S foriegn policy over
the last thirty years has consistently reflected our commitment to the
ideas of democracy and justice?"
You are asking me to comment on US
foreign policy since 1974; this is a huge topic, involving 6
presidents, about 15 congresses, etc. In any case, my writings focus
on jihad, which I demonstrate in "Onward" is not a reaction to any
particular policy from outside the Islamic world. My books are not
apologetic works for any political policy.
"Don't we run the risk of creating more
hatred towards 'the west' by pursuing only military policies?"
Yes. The ideological struggle is
"Should we put pressure on Israel to
appease the Palestininians? Wouldnt that ease tensions and save lives
in the long run?"
Appeasement by anyone is never wise,
and always encourages the one being appeased.