Arizona State University law professor Khaled Beydoun joined Rutgers University law professor Sahar Aziz at a Nov. 14 webinar to discuss Beydoun's book The New Crusades: Islamophobia and the Global War on Muslims. Befitting Aziz's long record of error-ridden analysis and Beydoun's dubious harassment claims, the pair painted a bizarre and quite inaccurate picture in which Muslims worldwide are perpetual victims of an undefined phenomenon referred to by the neologism "Islamophobia."
Yet despite their self-serving delusions of persecution, both Aziz and Beydoun are high-profile scholars who command the respect of their peers, which is in itself a damning indictment of the state of current Middle East studies.
Both Aziz and Beydoun are beneficiaries of the largesse of leftist billionaire George Soros, who among other malfeasances has blamed Jews for bringing antisemitism upon themselves. Aziz is a former Soros Equality Fellow and Beydoun received an Equality Fellowship from Soros's Open Society Foundation. This appears to have been money well spent. According to his online biography, Beydoun "has emerged as a leading voice on Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim identity on [sic] the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DIE) space, holding trainings at Fortune 100 companies" including Apple, Google and Meta.
Aziz, the director of Rutgers' Center for Security, Race and Rights (CSRR), hosted Beydoun as part of CSRR's "Humanizing the 'Other' Lecture Series." Beydoun discussed his book, a global tour d'horizon of "Islamophobia." He castigated, for example, India, claiming that the country's 2019 Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) is a "central pillar of the structural Islamophobic architecture." This act gave various non-Muslim South Asian refugees in India an expedited path to Indian citizenship, while Muslim refugees can and do become Indian citizens through preexisting mechanisms. As observers have noted, the United States and other nations also have laws specifying specific refugee provisions for certain groups. Beydoun, in other words, was talking nonsense.
In France, Beydoun found "Islamophobia" present "across the political spectrum." This, he claimed, was strangely enough the result of France's "modern literacy" of Islam. In particular, he pointed to France's long involvement in Algeria, which he called "one of the most brutal colonial experiments in modern history." Thus, Beydoun claimed, the French "have a greater knowledge of what Islam is and what Muslims have done historically than what an American might have"—an unintentionally damning confirmation that familiarity can indeed breed contempt.
Beydoun cited common French views of Islam, yet made no comment on whether such opinions are merited. He claimed, for example, that "Muslim women are essentially oppressed, lack agency" with respect to Islamic practices like hijab body coverings, without any critical discussion. Therefore, he said, French restrictions on such religious attire is "paternalistic in nature."
He asserted that the French believe Muslim "men are violent, warmongering, oppressive, patriarchal," as if such characterizations were self-evidently false. Yet the French are well aware of the fact that people with Muslim backgrounds, who are 8% of the French population, comprise over 60% of the country's prison population. They likely also know why European Union countries continue to view jihadism as a major terror threat.
As for the U.S., Aziz reiterated the tired refrain that the American government was "targeting Muslim communities" in its fight against jihadism. Yet Beydoun himself confessed why the American authorities' measures were justified. Hamas, he admitted ever so gently, has "tenuous connections" to many American Muslim organizations through Muslim Brotherhood networks. He was, perhaps, delicately referring to such groups as the Hamas-derived Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
On the bright side, however, "popular media did a good job" covering the 2015 murder of three Muslim University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill students, stated Beydoun. This was an ironic statement, since many, like then-President Barack Obama and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, falsely claimed at the time that the killings were a hate crime. Yet investigations into the killer—atheist Craig Hicks, who was angry over a parking dispute—revealed no anti-Muslim animus, resulting in Hicks's later 2019 conviction on murder rather than hate-crime charges.
Inevitably, the webinar turned towards Israel's current military campaign to destroy Hamas in the Gaza Strip following the jihadist organization's horrific Oct. 7 massacre. Aziz offered the usual apologetics for Hamas, stating that Israel's self-defense was "disproportionate and brutal" and "genocidal in intent," even while Israel provides humanitarian aid to Gaza, which Hamas steals while it hides behind civilian human shields. She decried a supposed Israeli "death by starvation policy and death by dehydration policy" that does not exist. She also bashed the massive rally for Israel and against antisemitism in Washington, D.C., which took place the day of the webinar, as a "march for genocide"—even as she sought to defend a genocidal terrorist organization.
Beydoun engaged in similar apologetics, saying, "Islamophobia functions discursively to essentially flatten the people of Palestine as a presumptively terroristic group based on racial and religious identity." Clearly, besides thinking that a non-existent country called "Palestine" somehow exists because he says it does, Beydoun appears to believe that the only explanation for revulsion at Hamas's horrific atrocities is anti-Muslim bigotry.
He further added, "It has become more palatable on a broad scale to criminalize and vilify Muslim identity as a consequence of Palestinian identity," as if the acknowledged Islamic nature of Hamas and the recent antisemitic "protests" supporting it do not reflect badly on Islam itself.
Beydoun also made a now-familiar tendentious comparison to Russia's war on Ukraine, saying there is a "popular celebration of Ukrainian humanity in ways that have been denied to Palestinian people." The problem is that Ukrainians never supported or attempted to commit genocide against Russia. Hamas, on the other hand, has enormous popular support among pro-jihad Palestinians, who lead the world in antisemitism. In Gaza, the "Palestinian people" voted Hamas into power in 2006.
Equally absurd was Beydoun's assertion that "Islamophobia" and antisemitism "are both very kindred forms of bigotry." This both denies the rampant antisemitism in the Middle East and Muslim communities in Europe and the United States, and equates Jew-hatred with an amorphous term coined to suppress critical examination of Islam.
Aziz echoed Beydoun in her discussion of American academia's response to the Hamas massacre. "Nearly every university president has issued a statement that has been staunchly in defense of Israel," she claimed, and "humanized Israelis and empathized with the lost lives and the hostages of Israelis." Humanizing and empathizing with victims of barbaric terrorism is apparently intolerable to her. She also conveniently erases the vicious antisemitism of students and faculty that has gripped college campuses across the United States, often with little or no pushback from the responsible administrations.
As high-profile representatives of the lucrative "Islamophobia" industry, which is a central feature of contemporary Middle East studies, Aziz and Beydoun peddle antisemitism as righteous anger and terrorism as "resistance." Both promulgate a worldview that sees people not as individuals possessed of free will, but as members of a hierarchy of victimized groups. They and their fellow travelers should be both intellectually debunked and fiscally defunded.
Andrew E. Harrod, a Middle East Forum Campus Watch Fellow, freelance researcher, and writer, is a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter: @AEHarrod.