While teaching at Scottsdale Community College, political science professor Nicholas Damask came under fire when part of his classroom's final quiz was revealed on social media after a Muslim student took offense. Three questions sparked a wave of outrage, ultimately landing the popular educator on the chopping block for alleged Islamophobia:
- Who do terrorists strive to emulate? (A. Mohammed)
- Where is terrorism encouraged in Islamic doctrine and law? (A. The Medina verses [i.e., the portion of the Qur'an traditionally understood as having been revealed later in Muhammad's prophetic career])
- Terrorism is _______ in Islam. (A. justified within the context of jihad.)
The trio of questions was in context to the course's portion on terrorism, which the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) cited in its lawsuit on behalf of student Mohamed Sabra. The suit accused Damask of teaching misinformation and hate speech, and the group demanded that he cease teaching materials that "have the primary effect of disapproving of Islam."
Damask refused to apologize, even after receiving death threats for including material portraying Islam as potentially inherently violent. Even when the college initially promised to force Damask to apologize to students and remove the teaching materials, he stood his ground, according to the Arizona Daily Independent.
"I was explaining to the students that this were the justifications that they were using for terrorist acts," Damask said. "Al Qaeda would say where they get their example from. They would point to Mohammed and point to certain verses from the Quran. To relay this information to students shouldn't be controversial at all."
After refusing to give in, the college launched an internal investigation into Damask's curriculum and came to a surprising conclusion. The test questions were explaining terrorism in context with major Islamic terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. Damask was merely presenting the claims of these global terrorist organizations as to why they commit such acts, AZ Central reports.
"If there was such a thing as Mormon terrorism and Southern Baptist terrorism, we would have a unit on that, too," Damask said. "But we don't, so we don't spend any time talking about that."
The college was forced to issue an apology to Damask and launched yet another investigation, this time into the handling of the first investigation of their professor. District Interim Chancellor Steven Gonzales expressed his concern over the school's "rush to judgment" of Damask and issued a public apology.
"I apologize, personally, and on behalf of the Maricopa Community Colleges, for the uneven manner in which this was handled and for our lack of full consideration for our professor's right of academic freedom," Gonzales said in a statement.
Gonzales promised that Damask was not at risk of losing his job anymore and that the school would defend his academic freedoms. Still, the professor is wary of the administration's dedication to protecting his rights as an educator.
"Then the college bureaucrats started their phone calls," Damask recalled. "They told me the material was Islamophobic and offensive. I could see where it was going. The college was going to throw me to the social media mob."
CAIR is still adamant to force the school to censor Damask's teaching. However, the professor is even more concerned that the academic elites want to stop him from teaching certain major historical events in order to appease angry people.
"It is about world events that are important to learn about," Damask said. "After 9/11, I increased the content on terrorism. Are we going to fake that Al Qaeda didn't exist or doesn't exist? Are we going to say 9/11 didn't happen? Some bureaucrats don't want me to talk about that in class? That's insane."
Damask vows to continue teaching the motivation behind formidable terrorist groups, regardless of who the information offends. Unfortunately, religious zealots are no longer his only foes as academia turns toward political correctness.