Although Turkey is among the world's largest jailers of academics, a recent conference in Istanbul attracted such professors as (clockwise from top left) Jonathan Brown and John Esposito of Georgetown, Flynt Leverett of Penn State University, and Richard Falk of the University of California–Santa Barbara.
"Turkey seemed like a natural home for me, especially with its current leadership." So declared Sami Al-Arian, the former University of South Florida professor, of Turkey's Islamist and increasingly autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Al-Arian was deported to Turkey in 2015 by the terms of a 2006 guilty plea for his involvement with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Given Al-Arian's Islamist proclivities, it's not surprising that he feels at home in Erdoğan's Turkey, nor that his like-minded U.S.-based Middle East studies friends joined him for the October 8-10 "International Conference on the Muslim Ummah" at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, where Al-Arian is director of the Center for Islam and Global Affairs.
Naturally, conference sponsors included Georgetown University's Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) and participants, ACMCU director (and Al-Arian's son-in-law) Jonathan Brown and founding director John Esposito. The latter is a notorious apologist for Islamism, and Brown, a Muslim convert, openly espouses Islamist tenets, including slavery and concubinage.
Some U.S. academics fit in perfectly in Erdoğan's Turkey.
Other unsavory speakers were the fanatically anti-Israel Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, and Islamist in moderate's clothing Tariq Ramadan, grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University.
Worst of all? The inclusion of ACMCU senior fellow and George Washington University Ph.D. İbrahim Kalın, who since 2009 has been Erdoğan's senior advisor and spokesman. As such, Kalın has echoed Erdoğan's baseless contention that Pennsylvania-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen was behind the 2016 failed coup attempt and thus should be extradited. Moreover, he has defended the subsequent purge of officers, teachers, school administrators, judges, and academics.
That American Middle East studies academics would agree to speak alongside Kalın, who supported the death of academic freedom in Turkey, and Al-Arian, who blames his deportation on "Zionists," speaks to the moral vacuity of the field. They are peas in a pod: shameless proponents of Islamism, grateful recipients of tyrannical regimes' largesse, and shills for dictators. They fit in perfectly in Turkey.
Cinnamon Stillwell is the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at email@example.com.