Brandeis University, America's most famous Jewish-founded institution of higher education, seems to love hiring Islamic radicals.
I wrote about the school's employment of Palestinian radical Khalil Shikaki in these pages back in February. Now meet Professor Natana J. DeLong-Bas - a strident defender of Saudi-style extremist Muslim ideology, who's just gone on record denying that Osama bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks.
A visiting lecturer in Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at Brandeis since 2005, DeLong-Bas actually teaches Islamic Studies courses. (She's also an adjunct professor in theology across town at Boston College.)
Her 2004 book, "Wahhabi Islam," calls the ultra-fundamentalist Saudi state religion a positive trend "for the revival and reinterpretation of Islam in the 21st century." Indeed, she depicts the deviant doctrine behind al Qaeda as anti-jihad, benevolent and even feminist.
In an interview on the book, she actually claimed that Ibn Abd al-Wahhab - the founder of the Saudi death cult - held "a vision of Islam that included tolerance and respect for Judaism and Christianity . . . The future of Wahhabi Islam is one of hope."
This is a whopper on a level with calling the Spanish Inquisition a friend of the Jews. True, Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab tended to ignore Jews and Christians - because neither group had a presence in the wild desert of eastern Arabia from which he emerged. His focus was on Muslims who didn't agree with his theological views - he called for their murder, and his followers shed the blood of Shia Muslims (among others) in rivers. Later Wahhabis simply applied the same bloody logic to non-Muslims.
But last week DeLong-Bas topped herself. In a Dec. 21 interview, she told the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "I know of no convincing evidence that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center. All we know about him is that he praised and commended those who did it."
She went on to argue that al Qaeda-style extremism has nothing to do with Saudi-financed fundamentalism or the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The Saudi interviewer, Huda al-Saleh, asked who does inspire Saudi terrorists. She answered blandly, "Radicals in Saudi Arabia are not influenced by Islam, as so many people think . . . The main factors are political: the Palestinian problem . . . Iraq . . . and U.S. support for Israel."
She also insisted that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was never violent. In fact, it had an armed wing from its founding in the '20s, assassinated Egyptian officials in the 1940s, and tried to kill President Gamal Abdal Nasser. DeLong-Bas uses the ambiguities of its founder over when to begin the violence to whitewash the movement.
Delong-Bas' work to clean up the image of Saudi extremism, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, suggest she's incompetent for any academic posting in her field. Support for that agenda is particularly outrageous for one of American Jewry's top universities.
One is hard put to gauge who is living in a more distorted, hallucinated world: Natana DeLong-Bas or her employers. An inquiry into how such individuals get hired at Brandeis is overdue.
Stephen Schwartz is executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism (islamicpluralism.org).