A professor who was sued — and won — over his teaching about Islamic terrorism says he'll continue to teach the lesson and won't back down to cancel culture.
A Muslim student along with the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Arizona sued professor Nicholas Damask for a lesson he taught — and a quiz he gave — pertaining to Islamic terrorism as part of a world politics class in 2020, claiming in the lawsuit the teaching ran afoul of the student's religious rights.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, though, recently shut down the lawsuit, reasoning the professor had qualified immunity, a protection that shields government workers from civil liability.
"This is kind of a win for our civilization. Enough judges have said freedom of speech and academic freedom is important — that's more important than submitting to someone being offended," Mr. Damask told The Washington Times.
"Civilization one, cancel culture zero," he added.
"The alternative is to run and hide and to give in to the intimidation, which is kind of what this is — in part, at least — to get professors or even teachers to just shut up and not talk about this," he said. "For me and my family, at least,that's not viable. You can't run and hide. You have to stand up to this."
"I'm going to continue to teach about Islamic terrorism as long as someone like Salman Rushdie are being stabbed to death," Mr. Damask added, referring to the 75-year-old author who drew death threats from Irans's leader over his novel "The Satanic Verses."
The posturing comes after the 9th Circuit ruled Mr. Damask's lessons and quiz about jihad and Islamic terrorism did not force a Muslim student, Mohamad Sabra, to violate his faith.
Mr. Sabra alleged that the lesson and a multiple choice quiz violated his religious rights by having him affirm something that is contrary to his faith. A lower court ruled against him.
A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that the college did not have a practice or policy that ran afoul of the Free Exercise or Establishment Clause and that Mr. Damask was protected by qualified immunity.
"Although Plaintiffs allege that Damask has taught his World Politics class for 24 years, they do not allege that the course in other years contained the same content that offended Sabra, or that Damask's views or teaching methods are so persistent and widespread as to constitute part of the College District's 'standard operating procedure,'" the appeals court ruled.
Mr. Sabra said the lesson was "biased" and "distorted" Islam.
One of the multiple choice questions with which he took issue was "Where is terrorism encouraged in Islamic doctrine and law?" The correct answer was "the Medina verses," but Mr. Sabra selected "terrorism is not encouraged in Islamic doctrine and law."
Another question: "Terrorism is ____ in Islam." Mr. Sabra answered "always forbidden," but the correct answer was "justified within the context of jihad."
The three-judge panel said the quiz wasn't enough to violate his religious rights.
"We have never held that actions like the ones challenged in this case constitute a violation of the Establishment Clause or Free Exercise clause. Nor is this the exceptional case where the alleged constitutional violation is so obvious as to obviate the need for a case on point," wrote Judge Richard Clifton, a Bush appointee.
CAIR did not comment about whether it's planning to appeal the panel's decision.
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.