Introduction: A controversy is brewing in the world of academia, specifically in the world of
Lori Neff: Professor Cemal Kafadar is teaching a class at Harvard on
Cemal Kafadar to students: You must have heard this kind of discourse, it is still very common, especially among the hardcore fundamentalist…
Neff: Kafadar is head of
Kafadar: The advisory council might turn out to play some supervisory role of the content and the modes of analysis and the perspectives that people in Middle Eastern studies adopt.
Neff: And many academics are suspicious of the makeup of the council. Another Harvard professor of
Roger Owen: We don't know who will be on it and who it will be accountable to. It has a very open-ended remit, and therefore we have no idea what kinds of information it will require and what kinds of interventions in will make. It all sounds to us very much like a form of censorship, or at the very least something that will force us into a form of self-censorship.
Neff: That's nonsense according to conservative author and professor Martin Kramer. He is a main proponent of the advisory board. He points out that the House has mandated that the board ensure that diverse perspectives and a full range of views are included in all foreign studies. Kramer says scholars have no reason to be concerned about the advisory board.
Martin Kramer: The board would be appointed from a wide variety of sources, and these people would sit down, go over what needs the program should fulfill. They must hold a hearing before making any recommendation, and of course those recommendations wouldn't be binding.
Neff: But many scholars suspect Kramer's motives. Kramer has been extremely critical of
Kramer: Their whole interpretation of Islamism was that this was a force for progress and reform, and the whole trajectory that they plotted for these movements was away from violence and toward accommodation. The surprising thing on 9/11 wasn't just that Osama bin Laden and his followers did the act [but] the fact that the act seemed to enjoy a fair amount of support, if not acquiescence and enthusiasm, in various parts of the Muslim world and especially in Islamic movements. The academic experts, I think, not only missed it, but they actually were predicting the opposite trajectory for the very same people.
Neff: Like Kramer, Daniel Pipes has been a critic of the way
Daniel Pipes: When you start giving opinions in public, when you are quoted and when you are writing, you are making your materials available and others can do with them what they wish. It happens to me all the time and now it's happening, to their rude awakening, to a number of professors, who until now have been privileged enough not to be critiqued and are not enjoying it.
Rashid Khaladi: They talk about faculty as unpatriotic, implying that they are the judges, in effect, of what is patriotic. They talk about some of the
Neff: Constitutional Law experts say there is nothing about the proposed advisory board that overtly restricts free speech. But they say there could be a threat. The board could indeed violate Constitutional rights, they say, if certain classes are added or dropped, or professors get or lose jobs based on their political viewpoints. For The World, I'm Lori Neff in