Politics & Policy

A Saudi Education, Right Here At Home

The problem of Middle East studies.

As a House subcommittee (of the Committee of Education and the Workforce) holds hearings Thursday on “International Programs in Higher Education and Questions of Bias,” it is investigating the federal funding of campus-based area-studies centers and programs. The representatives might wish to consider a dismaying pattern that pertains to one of those areas, the Middle East.

Statements by some of the leading lights in Middle East studies spout comments quite similar to the contents of textbooks used in the grade schools of Saudi Arabia. Anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic sentiments found in the latter seem to wend their way to our most prestigious campuses. The two educational systems in general could not be more dissimilar, but they sure are comparable in this one regard.

First in the list below is an excerpt from a Saudi textbook dating from 1994-2001, approved by the Ministry of Education, and currently in use. Then follows a parallel quote by a professor currently teaching at an American university.

On Jews and Judaism:

Dictation (8th grade): Jews are “a people of treachery and betrayal” and “their end, by God’s will, is perdition.”

Norton Mezvinsky, professor of history at Central Connecticut State University, finds Judaism a religion of racism with adherents that believe that “the blood of non-Jews has no intrinsic value.” This allows Jews, according to Mezvinsky, to consider that the killings of non-Jews “not constitute murder according to the Jewish religion.” He even states that Judaism teaches, “the killing of innocent Arabs for reasons of revenge is a Jewish virtue.”

On Zionism:

Biography of the Prophet and History of the Muslim State (10th grade): Nazism and Zionism are equivalent in so far as they are both forms of “racist nationalism.”

Hamid Dabashi, professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University, describes Zionism as “a ghastly racist ideology.”

Calling for the destruction of Israel:

Geography of the Muslim World (8th grade): “All Muslims stand together” to achieve their number-one goal, “Purification of Jerusalem from the filth of Zionism, and the liberation of Palestine.”

Joseph Massad, assistant professor of modern Arab politics at Columbia University, deems Israel “a Jewish supremacist and racist state” and declares that “every racist state should be destroyed.” More bluntly yet: “a Jewish state is a racist state that does not have the right to exist.”

U. S. — Israeli collusion on Middle East policy:

Biography of the Prophet and History of the Muslim State (10th grade): “The Zionist Jews are enemies of Islam and supporters of the [modern] Crusaders.” The Reader and [Holy] Texts, (6th grade) teaches “in our time, the Jews have occupied Palestine with the help of Crusadism.”

Likewise, Joel Beinin, professor of Middle Eastern History at Stanford University, teaches that “America’s ‘Zionist lobby’ has “extraordinary power” to install an “uncritically Pro-Israel foreign policy.”

Zionism as a tool of U. S. Imperialism:

Geography of the Muslim World (8th grade): “Britain and the United States worked for the establishment of the Zionist entity . . . that it would become a supporting base for Imperialist and Zionist interests at the heart of the Muslim world.”

Hamid Dabashi: “The so-called pro-Israeli lobby is an integral component of the imperial designs of the Bush administration for savage and predatory globalization.”

American greed for Arab oil:

[Literary] Study, (10th grade): “Following the discovery of oil in the Gulf and on its shores the great powers from East and West have stood waiting for an opportunity to pounce.”

Joel Beinin: the U.S. government, by “blocking democracy and economic development in the Arab world,” show its power “to make and unmake regimes” and thereby guarantee U.S. “access to oil”.

That Wahhabi religious indoctrination of children is replicated in some U.S. universities fits into a larger pattern of degradation of Middle East studies. Other symptoms of this pattern include the fact that accused Islamist terrorists work within its ranks without anyone remarking on this fact or finding their views outlandish; and that the study of militant Islam and Islamist terrorism are widely ignored, to the point that Beinin, in his recent presidential address to the Middle East Studies Association’s annual meeting, mocked such studies as “terrorology” and praised the “great wisdom” of his colleagues in avoiding them.

Rather than increase Americans’ understanding of a key region, university-based specialists on the Middle East at least some of the time are forwarding the same racism and falsehoods found in the Wahhabi schoolbooks. Federal funding of area-studies centers and programs was increased post-9/11 by 26 percent to nearly $80 million annually. The questions of what taxpayers are actually paying for are now before Congress.

In light of the comparisons above, a closer look at Middle East studies in the United States seems long overdue.

Jonathan Calt Harris is managing editor of Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.


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