Four men were arrested last week in Florida for allegedly funneling money into the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad. One of those was Sameeh Hammoudeh, professor of Middle East studies at the University of South Florida.
Daniel Pipes says many of this country's Middle East study programs have become breeding grounds for anti-Americanism and radical Islamists. Daniel Pipes is the director of the Middle East forum and joins us tonight from Philadelphia.
Good to have you with us.
DANIEL PIPES, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Thank you, Lou.
DOBBS: How serious is the issue of sympathy, if you will put it that—and I'll put it that benignly to begin with, to start with here, the sympathy for radical Islamist thinking at many of the centers for Middle Eastern studies in the country?
PIPES: I think what you'll find in general, Lou, is a sense that militant Islam, what I call militant Islam, is a benign phenomenon, something that is democratizing, is empowering, and is a good thing overall, and so you have a radical disconnect between the analysis of the specialists, the people who really make this their focus, their study, what they devote their lives to, and what the rest of us think about it.
And so, therefore, having these three individuals who are actual terrorists in the ranks of Middle East studies is not that surprising because they fit in.
Now, granted, terrorism is not normal, but the kind of views they had, astonishingly, were normal. Even after the indictment came out last week, their bosses, their colleagues were saying, hey, these are good people, they're scholars, what do you want?
DOBBS: Well, the fact that they are being defended by their bosses is not altogether, I suppose, surprising in any case. But the idea that centers for Middle Eastern study in U.S. universities and colleges around the country would be espousing radical Islamist ideology is somewhat surprising, I think, to most people, and in many cases it's receiving considerable funding and support.
PIPES: Yes, it is receiving considerable support from the U.S. government and from state legislatures. I mean, the taxpayer is paying. In the case at hand, it was the Florida taxpayer who was paying a lot of the bill for the University of South Florida, which was paying for these people.
More broadly, it is the federal government, it is the U.S. Congress, it is the national taxpayer who is giving tens of millions of dollars each year for Middle East studies centers. And my point is that there is an atmosphere of radicalism and anti-Americanism that is something that we, the citizenry should be paying attention to.
I'm not calling for anyone to be fired. I'm not calling for anybody's freedom of speech to be abridged, but I'm saying we've got a problem when there's this radicalized outlook.
DOBBS: A problem indeed. Certainly an important issue when we look at federal and state money being used to fund what is that which is antithetical to U.S., American interests. But we also have, fundamental to American interests, are our freedoms and our liberty, and amongst them, certainly academic freedom. What possible way do we have in which to deal with these issues? What would you recommend as an approach?
PIPES: I'm calling for two things. You may know that I started a few months ago a project called Campus Watch. And we're focused on Middle East studies, and we're trying to do two things. One is a critique by peers, we are Middle East studies specialists ourselves, saying, look gang, you're not doing a good job and here's why and here's what we think you're doing wrong and here's what we suggest you do differently; so changes internal to the field.
And then, secondly, we're trying to bring it to the larger public, such as my being on your show now. We're saying, Americans, there's a problem.
The Middle East is a high-profile field of study, dealing with Iraq, militant Islam, war on terror, Arab-Israeli conflict, things which are at the very heart of our public debate today. And the specialists, the people we rely upon to interpret it, explain it, are not there, are dissimulating, are extremists, are apologetic, are not doing the job they ought to be. We as a citizenry should be paying attention to this fact and improving it.
DOBBS: Daniel, we're out of time. Very quickly, the Web site?
PIPES: The Web site is Campus-Watch.org.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Daniel Pipes.
PIPES: Thank you.