As a House subcommittee (of the Committee of Education and the Workforce) holds hearings Thursday on "International Programs in Higher Education and Questions of Bias," it is investigating the federal funding of campus-based area-studies centers and programs. The representatives might wish to consider a dismaying pattern that pertains to one of those areas, the Middle East.
Statements by some of the leading lights in Middle East studies spout comments quite similar to the contents of textbooks used in the grade schools of Saudi Arabia. Anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic sentiments found in the latter seem to wend their way to our most prestigious campuses. The two educational systems in general could not be more dissimilar, but they sure are comparable in this one regard.
First in the list below is an excerpt from a Saudi textbook dating from 1994-2001, approved by the Ministry of Education, and currently in use. Then follows a parallel quote by a professor currently teaching at an American university.
On Jews and Judaism:
Calling for the destruction of Israel:
U. S. — Israeli collusion on Middle East policy:
Zionism as a tool of U. S. Imperialism:
American greed for Arab oil:
That Wahhabi religious indoctrination of children is replicated in some U.S. universities fits into a larger pattern of degradation of Middle East studies. Other symptoms of this pattern include the fact that accused Islamist terrorists work within its ranks without anyone remarking on this fact or finding their views outlandish; and that the study of militant Islam and Islamist terrorism are widely ignored, to the point that Beinin, in his recent presidential address to the Middle East Studies Association's annual meeting, mocked such studies as "terrorology" and praised the "great wisdom" of his colleagues in avoiding them.
Rather than increase Americans' understanding of a key region, university-based specialists on the Middle East at least some of the time are forwarding the same racism and falsehoods found in the Wahhabi schoolbooks. Federal funding of area-studies centers and programs was increased post-9/11 by 26 percent to nearly $80 million annually. The questions of what taxpayers are actually paying for are now before Congress.
In light of the comparisons above, a closer look at Middle East studies in the United States seems long overdue.
— Jonathan Calt Harris is managing editor of Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.