Trump administration threatens funding for UNC/Duke course promoting Islam

This is long overdue: “The Trump administration is threatening to cut funding for a Middle East studies program run by the University of North Carolina and Duke University, claiming that it’s misusing a federal grant to advance ‘ideological priorities’ and unfairly promote ‘the positive aspects of Islam’ but not Christianity or Judaism.”

There are courses of this kind in universities and colleges all over the country, and have been for years without any pushback. None of the academic institutions that promote this Islamic proselytizing should receive any federal funding at all. Universities and colleges from great to insignificant, from Stanford University in California to Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, have long been radioactive wastelands of Leftist indoctrination and Islamic apologetics in an increasingly totalitarian and threatening atmosphere. They need to be cut off. They need to be cut off immediately. They need to be cut off yesterday.

As it happens, I took a UNC/Duke graduate course on Islam back in 1985, when I was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Even that many years ago, the violent aspects of Islamic doctrine were downplayed and whitewashed. There is no doubt whatsoever that in the intervening years, the impulse to absolve Islam of all responsibility for the crimes committed in its name and in accord with its teachings has only intensified.

“Jay Smith, a history professor at UNC and vice president of its chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said that the Education Department official who signed the letter threatening funding, Robert King, “should stay in his lane and allow the experts to determine what constitutes a ‘full understanding’ of the Middle East.”

“Experts.” Yeah. Everyone at this point should be wary of what historian Christopher Dummitt calls “the so-called proof presented by alleged experts.” He notes, in a fascinating article about his own promotion of currently fashionable gender fictions, that his “own flawed reasoning was never called out—and, in fact, only became more ideologically inflected through the process of peer review.” Yes, and that is happening in every academic department.

“DeVos Threatens College Funding Due to Islam Course,” Associated Press, September 20, 2019 (thanks to Henry):

(AP) — The Trump administration is threatening to cut funding for a Middle East studies program run by the University of North Carolina and Duke University, claiming that it’s misusing a federal grant to advance “ideological priorities” and unfairly promote “the positive aspects of Islam” but not Christianity or Judaism.

An Aug. 29 letter from the U.S. Education Department orders the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies to revise its offerings by Sept. 22 or risk losing funding from a federal grant that’s awarded to dozens of universities to support foreign language instruction. The consortium received $235,000 from the grant last year, according to Education Department data.

A statement from the UNC-Chapel Hill said the consortium “deeply values its partnership with the Department of Education” and is “committed to working with the department to provide more information about its programs.” Officials at Duke declined to comment. The Education Department declined to say whether it’s examining similar programs at other schools.

Academic freedom advocates say the government could be setting a dangerous precedent if it injects politics into funding decisions. Some said they had never heard of the Education Department asserting control over such minute details of a program’s offerings.

“Is the government now going to judge funding programs based on the opinions of instructors or the approach of each course?” asked Henry Reichman, chairman of a committee on academic freedom for the American Association of University Professors.

“The odor of right-wing political correctness that comes through this definitely could have a chilling effect.”

More than a dozen universities receive National Resource Center grants for their Middle East programs, including Columbia, Georgetown, Yale and the University of Texas. The Duke-UNC consortium was founded in 2005 and first received the grant nearly a decade ago.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ordered an investigation of the program in June after North Carolina Rep. George Holding, a Republican, complained that it hosted a taxpayer-funded conference with “severe anti-Israeli bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

The conference, titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities,” included a rapper who performed a “brazenly anti-Semitic song,” Holding said in an April 15 letter….

In the UNC-Duke case, the department’s findings did not directly address any bias against Israel, but evaluated whether the consortium’s proposed activities met the goals of the National Resource Center program, which was created in 1965 to support language and culture initiatives that prepare students for careers in diplomacy and national security.

Investigators concluded that the consortium intended to use federal money on offerings that are “plainly unqualified for taxpayer support,” and that foreign language and national security instruction have “taken a back seat to other priorities.” The department cited several courses, conferences and academic papers that it said have “little or no relevance” to the grant’s goals.

“Although a conference focused on ‘Love and Desire in Modern Iran’ and one focused on Middle East film criticism may be relevant in academia, we do not see how these activities support the development of foreign language and international expertise for the benefit of U.S. national security and economic stability,” the letter said.

Investigators also saw a disconnect between the grant’s mission and some academic papers by scholars at the consortium. They objected to one paper titled “Performance, Gender-Bending and Subversion in the Early Modern Ottoman Intellectual History,” and another titled “Radical Love: Teachings from Islamic Mystical Tradition.”

The letter accused the consortium of failing to provide a “balance of perspectives” on religion. It said there is “a considerable emphasis” placed on “understanding the positive aspects of Islam, while there is an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East.”

It added that there are few offerings on discrimination faced by religious minorities in the Middle East, “including Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Yadizis, Kurds, Druze and others.” Department officials said the grant’s rules require programs to provide a “full understanding” of the regions they study.

Jay Smith, a history professor at UNC and vice president of its chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the letter amounts to “ideologically driven harassment.”

He said the Education Department official who signed the letter, Robert King, “should stay in his lane and allow the experts to determine what constitutes a ‘full understanding’ of the Middle East.”…

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