Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, produces a steady stream of writings that downplays the threat radical Islam poses to America and the West. His opinions are at odds with the beliefs of most Americans. Now, through a project designed to foster an understanding of America in the Arab world, he appears to be at odds with himself.
Cole is one of the most politically driven Middle East studies professors in the U.S. From his perch in Ann Arbor, he tried to explain away Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats to "wipe Israel off the map" by claiming - inaccurately -- that it was a mistranslation. He has also attempted to whitewash Americans' views of the Saudis and their radical strain of Islam known as Wahhabism. Last year, in a statement that further soiled his academic reputation, he compared Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
In spite of this record, however, Cole has embarked on a laudatory project that could, in effect, repair some of the harm wrought by his earlier writings.
Together with several University of Michigan colleagues, including Near Eastern Studies professors Michael Bonner, Raji Rammuny, and Marcia Inhorn -- who has since moved on to Yale and found herself under fire -- Cole created a non-profit called the Global Americana Institute (GAI).
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