The Corner

ASMEA Diagnosis

As a final comment on yesterday’s Jihadology posts, behold the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, which is a serious scholary organization. You will recognize some of the names in its leadership (one of them rhymes with Hictor Vavis Danson).

Executive director Dave Silverstein e-mails:

I read your posts today on “Jihadology” with great interest. I agree that we don’t need another obscure, hyper-specialized academic discipline to adequately and accurately understand what al-Qaeda and their fellow travelers are up to. Instead, might I recommend something rather simple like academic freedom and intellectual diversity on campus?

There are good people in the universities who study the Middle East and other regions of the world that are fonts of terrorism. But most of those honest scholars willing to dissect and denounce modern terrorism are constrained from doing so due to the prevailing, and career-stopping, winds of political correctness.

Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami long ago recognized this Orwellian trend in Middle East studies. The same trend can be found in many other branches of the social sciences, including African studies. Their solution was the creation of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, a non-partisan academic society dedicated to reforming and enhancing these disciplines. Our early success -we have members on 366 campuses around the world including Egypt, Iran, Nigeria and South Africa- tells me that ASMEA has struck a chord and that the Academy can produce serious scholars interested in honest debate about jihad and the full range of subjects that comprise our disciplines.

You may be certain that we have a long way to go before our fields of study, and the rest of the social sciences, are restored their former glory. But the search for objective truth, diminished though it may be on campus, still has its champions. They are the scholars we should look to for understanding the terror threat that faces us.

John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

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