Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature and Chairman of the Middle East Languages and Cultures department at Columbia University, figures prominently in the work of those of us trying to bring accountability and balance back to the field of Middle East studies. His anti-Western, pro-Islamist, and, at times, anti-Semitic commentary have been noted by Campus Watch on many occasions.
Indeed, he holds the current "Quote of the Month" spot for his review of the film "300," in which he likens the Persian Empire to modern-day America and the Spartans to the "Iraqi resistance, the Palestinians, [and] Hizbullah," while attempting to justify suicide bombings by comparing them to the Spartans' last stand at Thermopylae. This is what many have come to expect from Dabashi, whose apologetics seem to know no bounds.
Dabashi makes another appearance of sorts in an outtake from the upcoming documentary, "Indoctrinate U." The film, which will feature interviews with Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes and Middle East scholar Martin Kramer, focuses on bias and the "institutional intolerance" that's rampant in higher education. Filmmaker Evan Coyne Maloney has been making deleted scenes available at the "Indoctrinate U" website and the first of these involves Columbia University (watch it here).
In a "Columbia Quiz" given randomly to students and other passersby on campus, Maloney uses a Dabashi quote to make a point about what passes for acceptable in academia today. Titled, "A Professor's Lesson in Tolerance and Civility," the clip features Maloney asking quiz takers to guess whether the following quote originated with "a) Adolph Hitler b) Osama bin Laden or c) a Columbia professor":
Who said of "Israeli Jews...the way they talk, walk, the way they greet each other, there is a vulgarity of character that is bone deep and structural to the skeletal vertebrae of its culture"?
The results are humorous, and yet also rather frightening. None of the quiz takers know off the bat that the quote belongs to Dabashi and one even tells Maloney that she suspects "this whole thing is designed to make me say a Columbia professor." A few correctly guess that a "Columbia professor" is the answer, while others, after appearing visibly shocked by the bigotry of the quote, assume that it originated with either Hitler or bin Laden.
When Maloney informs them that the quote is, in fact, attributed to "Hamid Dabashi, the Chair of the Middle East Languages and Cultures department," the reaction is mixed. Some just shake their heads in consternation, one cheers that she got the answer right, and others simply look uncomfortable.
One student remarks, "I remember reading about this. It was insane," and then goes on to ask if it happened "while he was teaching here." "He's still here now," answers Maloney. Then he concludes: "That's the kind of education you get up here at the Middle East Languages and Culture department at Columbia, I guess."