Columbia University has more than its share of intellectual hacks, and high on the list is Joseph Massad. Professor Massad's controversial beliefs invite mockery. He believes the Iraq war stemmed from the sexual prowess of the American male ("In such a strategy, Iraqis are posited by American super-masculine fighter-bomber pilots as women and feminised men to be penetrated by the missiles and bombs ejected from American warplanes."); he condones terrorism against Israel ("This can be done by the continuing resistance of Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories to all the civil and military institutions that uphold Jewish supremacy"); and lastly, he attempted to exile a student from his class who had the gall to disagree with him.
Massad's most recent work further supports the idea that Massad belongs on a psychiatrist's couch, not behind a podium. In Desiring Arabs, Massad asserts that the West "produces homosexuals as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist." But for colonialism, Massad contends, there would be no gay people in the Middle East for the tyrannical governments of Egypt and Iran to persecute. Although Massad says he opposes hanging gay people, he shifts the blame from the hooded executioners to the United States.
When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Columbia last fall and made a similar claim ("In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country."), students laughed and booed. They recently, however, elected to award Massad the Lionel Trilling Book Award for making the nearly identical claim. Last year, Marty Peretz reported some good news: Columbia University had declined to give Massad tenure. Apparently, Peretz spoke too soon. After cries from the Middle Eastern Studies Department, the Provost agreed to appoint a second ad hoc committee this year. Will Columbia have the good-sense to banish him once and for all?