Early in Islamic history, Ali ibn Abi Talib fought against the Kharijites, a breakaway extremist group and possible founder of Islamic extremism, and created the slogan "La hukma illa li-llahi" - "There is no rulership except that of God." Ali ibn Abi Talib was supposed to have said "Khata kalam murhak yurad bihi batil," or "These are righteous words intended for false purposes."
Today the United States faces a similar problem as the government considers appointing a council that would oversee the $95 million in federal subsidies for Middle East and other area studies programs, in the interest of reflecting "diverse perspectives and (a) full range of views." In reality, the push for this council is an ultra-conservative movement that seeks to curb alternative viewpoints in the classroom.
Since the devastating September 11 terrorist attacks on our nation, students have rushed to study Arabic and the Middle East in an attempt to better understand those whom we are told are the enemy. Conservative self-appointed educational "watchdogs" such as Daniel Pipes, leader of "Campus Watch," and Martin Kramer have called the education these students are receiving biased and anti-American. Kramer recently stated, "Academic colleagues, get used to it. You are being watched ... Your syllabi, which you've also posted (on the Internet), will be scrutinized. Your Web sites will be visited late at night." These are men whose favorite target is the late Edward Said - author of "Orientalism," Columbia University professor, and the scholar who is the very reason we have Middle Eastern studies at all.
The argument is that government money should not be used in the interest of promoting such beliefs. I understand this argument. I also understand that I have no interest in genetic engineering or nanotechnology - or Mars - yet I understand that the government regularly spends a considerable amount of money on such endeavors, probably for good reason. Further, a good friend and former Student Association colleague of mine, Gary Livacari, recently wrote in The Hatchet that despite the fact that only a few conservative administrators and professors are out there, he has never experienced any bias because of his conservative ideas. I'm a registered Republican and regularly oppose liberal viewpoints in class but have never been targeted for persecution by professors - or classmates, for that matter.
This is because it is absolutely imperative that the administration of this University - a school that was recently slated by the Princeton Review as the third most politically active in the country and therefore, I would expect, has a healthy and diverse dialogue - stand up for and fight this proposed council for "diverse perspectives" and recognize it as merely an attempt to stop the free flow of ideas and beliefs on college campuses. Further, I urge all students who are taking international studies to take note of the possibility that government money earmarked for education could soon come at the cost of educational freedom itself.
I am all for a diverse range of opinion, but what is being proposed is indeed righteous words intended for false purposes. It is more than unsettling; it is downright un-American.
-The writer is a freshman majoring in Middle Eastern studies.