Imagine it's June 1942 - just a few months after Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States. At Harvard University, a faculty committee has chosen a German-American to give one of three student orations at the festive commencement ceremony. He titles it "American Kampf," purposefully echoing the title of Hitler's book, "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle") in order to show the positive side of "Kampf."
When this prompts protests, a Harvard dean defends it as a "thoughtful oration" that defines the concept of Kampf as a personal struggle "to promote justice and understanding in ourselves and in our society." The dean promises, "The audience will find his oration, as did all the Harvard judges, a light of hope and reason in a world often darkened by distrust and conflict."
Then the student turns out to be past president of the Harvard German Society, a group with a pro-Nazi taint - but the administration still isn't bothered. Nor is it perturbed that he praised a Nazi front group for its "incredible work" as well as its "professionalism, compassion and dedication to helping people in dire need," then raised money for it.
Far-fetched? Sure. But exactly this scenario unfolded last week at Harvard. Just replace "German," "Nazi," and "Kampf" with "Islamic," "militant Islamic" and "jihad."
Faculty members chose Zayed Yasin, 22 and the past president of the Harvard Islamic Society, to deliver a commencement address. He earlier had sung the praises of and raised money for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a militant Islamic group closed down by President Bush.
Yasin titled his talk "American Jihad," echoing Osama bin Laden's jihad against the United States. Yasin declared an intention to convince his audience of 32,000 that "Jihad is not something that should make someone feel uncomfortable."
Hmm. The authoritative "Encyclopaedia of Islam" defines jihad as "military action with the object of the expansion of Islam," and finds that it "has principally an offensive character." The scholar Bat Ye'or explains for non-Muslims through history this has meant "war, dispossession . . . slavery and death." That does indeed sound like "something that should make someone feel uncomfortable."
Sadly, this episode is no aberration, but indicative of two important developments.
Apologizing for militant Islam: Hiding jihad's awful legacy is standard operating procedure at Harvard. A professor of Islamic history portrays jihad as "a struggle without arms." The Harvard Islamic Society's faculty adviser defines true jihad as no more fearsome than "to do good in society." All this is part of a pattern of pretending Islam had nothing to do with 9/11.
Neutral in wartime. Harvard appears neutral in the current war, as Harvard Business School student Pat Collins pointed out in a scathing Washington Times op-ed. Take the example of Hamas: While President Bush has called it "one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world today," a Harvard spokesman replies "no comment" when asked if it is a terrorist organization and the university has allowed fund-raising on its premises on behalf of Hamas.
Even today, militant Islamic groups have full access to university facilities and the right to advertise their activities. Yet the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), a training program for the U.S. armed forces, is the only student group at Harvard to be denied access to university facilities and disallowed from advertising its activities.
Unfortunately, Harvard's stance is typical of nearly all North America universities. Almost every Middle East specialist hides the truth about jihad and (as shown by a chilling report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Defending Civilization) almost every campus drips contempt for the U.S. war effort (typical statement: "The best way to begin a war on terrorism might be to look in the mirror").
"You are with us, or you are against us": Harvard and other universities need to look hard into their soul and decide on which side they stand.
Daniel Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org), director of the Middle East Forum, received his A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard and taught history there.