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Academia Silent on Militant Islam By: Jonathan Calt Harris
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 25, 2002


Interested in knowing more about “The Rug Producing Bazaaris of the Holy City of Qum”? Curious about the “Ceramic Production & Consumption in Almohad Seville”?  Fascinated by the latest scholarship on “Changes in Religious Celebrations among Moroccan Immigrant Women in the Netherlands”? 

If so, then the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) conference on November 23-26 in Washington is your cup of tea. But if you want to gain insights into the dangers of militant Islam to America, you’ll probably want to take a pass on this particular meeting. 

In fact, in a conference of 558 papers or presentations, the topic of terror or terrorism appears exactly twice in the presentation titles. And even then, both instances refer to America’s “War on Terror,” distancing the speakers by use of quotation marks.

For that matter, the “Al-Qaeda” is mentioned exactly once.  “Fundamentalism” also appears only once. Islamist movements in the Arab world are presented in only one panel, and couched as “resistence movements”, and “Militant Islam” is not the subject of a single paper.

In contrast, the date September 11 does appear often in the title of sessions and papers; it is even in the title of the presidential address (“Middle East Studies After September 11”).  This subject is not viewed from the perspective of American interests or American policy but from its impact on Middle Easterners. 

A “thematic conversation” dilates on “September 11 and the Muslim Public Sphere.” A round table addresses “Where the Palestinian Problem is Heading in the Post September 11 Environment.” Papers address such issues as “Effects and Aftermath of September 11 on Palestinians in the U.S.” and “Islamic Legal Interpretations and Responses to the September 11 Attack.”  Curiously, the only mention in the entire program of American suffering is a paper titled “American Muslims Post September 11.”

In short, not a single scholar will present a paper concerning militant Islam’s war on America in the entire MESA conference of 2002.

Other topics are also conspicuous by their absence from the meeting: Palestinian suicide bombing, the targeting of civilians, and anti-American incitement.

It’s not as though the members of MESA have not been urged to take up subjects useful to the country as a whole.  After 9/11, the Bush administration increased federal funding by over $20 million, or 26 %, for International Education and Foreign Language Studies, the largest single year increase in the program's history. This money, and the many more millions U.S taxpayers spend on Middle East studies through Dept. of Education fellowships and grants has essentially brought forth a big goose egg. 

The conference reeks of apologetics.  Take the subject of women, a topic taken up by over 60 papers or events. Only one specifically discusses Islamism and feminism, and then only in Morocco. Issues such as the oppression of women, their lack of basic rights, and the brutality they suffer under any militant Islamic rule would seem to rate more than a single paper.

Instead, such topics as “Coffee Houses in Bahrain” and “Persian Humor in an International Context”are discussed. 

Despite the Middle East and militant Islam dominating the American national debate, the scholars of these subjects have chosen to opt out and either bury their heads in esoteric subjects or offer blatant apologetics. 

Taxpayers and university donors take note what you are paying for.




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