Correspondence between Campus Watch and the University of Michigan regarding Wahhabist site forwarded by Center of North African and Middle Eastern Studies.
Campus Watch's letter of th, 2003, to Michael Bonner, associate professor of medieval Islamic history and outgoing director of University of Michigan's federally subsidized Center of North African and Middle Eastern Studies (CMENAS).
Dear Professor Michael Bonner,
It has come to our attention that the CMENAS' web-based federally funded "outreach" links to and, more importantly, appears to endorse a radical Wahhabist website.
Under "General Resources" and the heading "Islam: Questions and Answers" any visitor to CMENAS will be unknowingly directed to the readings and opinions of a Saudi educated Wahhabist cleric that will inform a high school teacher searching for classroom resources or students looking for general information that:
• Waging jihad (sacred war) is incumbent on Muslims "to make the people worship Allah alone and to bring them forth from servitude to people to servitude to the Lord of people." [i] Not engaging in jihad "leads to doom in this world and in the Hereafter." [ii]
• "Muslims are commanded" to kill non-Muslims when they "are at war with the Muslims and do not have a peace treaty with the Muslims or are not living under Muslim rule." [iii] Thus, not only are Muslim U.S. soldiers forbidden to fight for their country against Islamic terrorists, Muslims in the U. S. are commanded to kill non-Muslim Americans.
• Destruction of Israel is the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. "A solution cannot be reached in this matter unless it is regarded as an Islamic issue and the Muslims cooperate to find a solution, and wage an Islamic jihad against the Jews..." [iv]
• Rank anti-Semitism pervades the site. One page indicates that Palestinians face an "unending Zionist arrogance and aggression, which pays no heed to human dignity or any covenant or treaty, or any law". All of this derives from the notion that "their evil rabbis and warlords encourage them." [v]
There are numerous additional examples.
First, are you aware of these items that appear on your website?
Second, are these teachings endorsed, as they appear to be, by CMENAS and the University of Michigan?
Jonathan Calt Harris
Michael Bonner's Reply of September 10th, 2003:
Dear Mr. Harris,
Thank you for your message. Since July 1, I am no longer director of CMENAS. I'll pass your message along. I haven't studied this matter yet, but my first thought is that web sites link to one another in all sorts of ways and that it's impossible to predict or protect against it. Of course CMENAS does not endorse Wahhabist teachings, or any other religious teachings for all that. Anyway, CMENAS will look into it. Michael Bonner
Reply of Jonathan Calt Harris, managing editor of Campus Watch, th 2003:
Thank you for your prompt response.
If you visit the site you will see it is far more than a simple link. The entire Wahhabist site appears and remains searchable under the CMENAS banner. Moreover, visitors are given no indication that they have left the University of Michigan's web domain or CMENAS. Far from unpredictable or unprotectable, such a web construction requires very particular web design, is seemingly endorsing a Wahhabist Saudi-trained cleric's readings, and is offered every day under the aegis of CMENAS.
Select heading, "Islam: Questions and Answers"
Jonathan Calt Harris
Reply of Michael A. Fahy, CMENAS program associate, th, 2003:
Dear Mr. Harris:
We would like to express our appreciation for your calling this to our attention. The appearance of the link in question is the product of a clerical error and insufficient oversight on our part. It has been removed. Your objections to the link are well founded, especially in view of the number of other, high-quality resources that are available through our website, including those provided by sister institutions. We also recognize that the problem was compounded by the site's design, which could give the impression that CMENAS endorsed the interpretation of Islam offered in that website. We most certainly do not endorse these views. We are committed to education about the Middle East and North Africa, and we do not support political mobilizations on behalf of any particular actor within the region. We regret any impression to the contrary.
Thank you again for your interest.
Michael A. Fahy
PS: Please be advised that Michael Bonner's term as Director of CMENAS ended on June 30, 2003; the new Director is Professor Marcia Inhorn.
Letter of Jonathan Calt Harris to University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, th, 2003.
Dear President Coleman,
In early September, it came to the attention of Campus-Watch.org that the University of Michigan's Center of Middle Eastern and North African Studies (CMENAS) had its federally funded "outreach" website linked to and, more importantly, apparently endorsing a radical Wahhabist website.
When first informed of the linked site on Sept.9, the outgoing director, Michael Bonner, disclaimed any knowledge of its connection to Wahhabist propaganda. On futher investigation, however, CMENAS ceded that Campus Watch's concerns were validated and removed all connections to the Wahhabi site on Sept.11.
Under "General Resources" and the heading "Islam: Questions and Answers" any visitor to CMENAS was directed to the readings and opinions of a Wahhabist cleric. A high school teacher searching for classroom resources or students looking for general information were informed that:
• Waging jihad (sacred war) is incumbent on Muslims "to make the people worship Allah alone and to bring them forth from servitude to people to servitude to the Lord of people." Not engaging in jihad "leads to doom in this world and in the Hereafter."
• "Muslims are commanded" to kill non-Muslims when they "are at war with the Muslims and do not have a peace treaty with the Muslims or are not living under Muslim rule." Thus, not only are Muslim U.S. soldiers forbidden to fight for their country against Islamic terrorists, Muslims in the U. S. are commanded to kill non-Muslim Americans.
• Destruction of Israel is the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. "A solution cannot be reached in this matter unless it is regarded as an Islamic issue and the Muslims cooperate to find a solution, and wage an Islamic jihad against the Jews..."
• Palestinians face an "unending Zionist arrogance and aggression, which pays no heed to human dignity or any covenant or treaty, or any law". All of this derives from the notion that "their evil rabbis and warlords encourage them."
CMENAS was recently nearly $1 millon dollars in federal aid for the coming three years. The outgoing director of CMENAS, Michael Bonner recently stated that the center is "carrying out programs according to the precise requirements" of the Department of Education.
CMENAS program associate Micheal Fahy informed us that the embedded link was a clerical error resulting from "insufficient oversight" by the center. Fahy conceded that CW's objections to the link "are well founded" and explained that the problem was compounded by the site's design, which "could give the impression that CMENAS endorsed the interpretation of Islam offered in that website." Fahy added, "We most certainly do not endorse those views."
While Campus Watch appreciates the rapid response by CMENAS to its inquiry; it also believes that citing a clerical error cannot close the issue. We have asked the Department of Education to examine more closely where CMENAS'federal Title VI money is going, and how these tax dollars are spent.
We also call on you to investigate what happened in this instance and what else might be awry in the CMENAS outreach program. University authorities have a responsibility to take all actions necessary to prevent the subsidizing of racism, hate speech, and religious extremism.
Jonathan Calt Harris
President Coleman's reply of Oct 13th, 2003:
Dear Mr. Harris:
Thank you for your October 7 email message.
I am familiar with Campus Watch's mission and appreciate how closely you have reviewed the website of our Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies.
I have consulted with the Center's director, Marcia Inhorn, and with Michael Kennedy, vice provost for international affairs and director of the International Institute in which CMENAS sits, about this matter. They have both investigated the situation thoroughly, and I am satisfied with their response.
As you and all scholars know, it is vital for the academic community to work constantly to improve the quality of its work. I find CMENAS Program Associate Michael Fahy's reply to you therefore most appropriate. I echo his sentiment: we thank you for your interest in our Center's work, and thank you for helping to improve it by pointing out an inappropriately labeled link to a website whose contents were written elsewhere.
I concur with what I believe is your view, that it is unfortunate that some Muslim clerics write such incendiary comments as those you quote. It is even more unfortunate that some people will act on them. And it is additionally unfortunate that there are those beyond Islam who believe that this captures the religion's purpose. Like you, I presume, we believe there should be more study and education about Islam's full array and the character of the region in which its influence is greatest. I am pleased that our Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies works to elevate our scholarship and understanding about the region.
I appreciate your alerting me to your intention to write to the Department of Education, and I understand from the Director of CMENAS that you have indeed sent a letter. To be sure, the Center is often in contact with the Department, and we are always ready to discuss matters of interest related to our programs and their scholarly success. However, we certainly believe that the study of the region is so potentially conflicted that it is better to extend as far as possible the space for open and respectful scholarly discussion across academic orientations, rather than to encourage governmental investigation into matters that the academy can properly resolve through academic and peer review. I take the CMENAS response to your original inquiry as evidence of the power of the former approach.
As you know, our university is fully committed to, and works constantly in, assuring an open and respectful academic environment. We believe our commitment to academic integrity is, in the long run, the best assurance of the noblest goals we seek in higher education. We appreciate your support in that effort.
Mary Sue Coleman
cc: Michael Kennedy, Vice Provost and Director, International Institute
Marcia Inhorn, Director, Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies
Edward McDermott, Program Officer, National Resource Centers, US Department of Education