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Requiring Islam By: Paul Hollander
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Requiring incoming freshmen at the University of North Carolina to read a partial and incomplete interpretation of Koran has been a triumph of political correctness and the hypocrisy and double standards often associated with it. In the first place one may ask, if the goal is purely educational, as the university authorities claimed, why should such a requirement be limited to Islam — excluding other major world religions? Why not also require students to read something about Buddhism, Judaism, and the major varieties of Christianity of which they are also ignorant? Surely Catholics and Protestant know little of each others' beliefs and religious teachings and many misconceptions of Judaism still flourish waiting to be dispelled.

The educational authorities at Chapel Hill argue that there is at the present time a particularly pressing need for a better understanding of Islam and dispelling misconceptions about it. There would be little to object to if indeed the program at North Carolina represented a serious attempt to understand Islam even at the exclusion of other religions. But the claim that this requirement was introduced merely to foster a better understanding of Islam and Islamic cultures is not credible. If that were the case students would have been required to read not merely the early chapters of the Koran; they would also have been assigned various interpretations of Islam, including critical ones, and those which probe the affinities between the professed beliefs and behavior of Islamic terrorists and aspects of the Koran which apparently lend themselves to such uses.

Instead the university authorities intended to expose students to an uncritical, partial and selective treatment of the Koran and one which by passes the attempt to understand the connection between Islamic beliefs and the savagery and fanaticism of terrorists who insistently proclaim being motivated by such values and beliefs. There is every indication that the book the students were required to read avoids reference to the militant, intolerant, dogmatic, conflict-oriented and self-righteous aspects of Islamic beliefs which have an affinity with the mindset, motivation and behavior of Islamic terrorists.

And if the academic authorities wished students "to understand a culture we don't know anything about" — as Chancellor of North Carolina University Moeser said in an interview reported in the New York Times (August 20) — students should have been given the opportunity to learn something about the Sharia Laws which legitimate discrimination against women and the most brutal ways of punishing criminals such as stoning, flogging, amputation and beheading for reasons American students would find barely comprehensible, let alone justified.

Will the newly assigned volume and the teachers discussing it explain (in search of a better understanding of a different culture) why these exceptionally gruesome forms of punishments persist only in Islamic cultures and countries? Do such punishments represent a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of Islamic values and if so why have they persisted for centuries? Evidently a discussion of such and other unsavory practices and attitudes are not part of the educational efforts in North Carolina — perhaps they are considered harmless items of "cultural diversity" students need not be familiar with, let alone be judgmental of.

Even if it were true (which it is not) that there is nothing in the Koran and Islamic religious teachings that could possibly justify, legitimate, motivate or inspire the action of terrorists, it would still have to be asked why, and on what grounds they claim the opposite. What makes it possible for the terrorists to find legitimation and encouragement in these religious beliefs? Even if the Koran does not outright advocate the indiscriminate slaughter of civilian "infidels," how is it possible that the terrorists succeed in finding in it legitimation for such actions? What aspect of these religious doctrines help them to fantasize about Paradise awaiting them as a reward for killing the infidel?

These are exactly the kinds of questions which have been raised in connection with the relationship between Marxist theory and the practices of communist states and movements. People seeking to defend the purity and high moral tone of Marxism insisted that there was nothing in it to justify or legitimate the murderous, repressive policies of communist systems, that theory and practice were wholly unrelated. By contrast communist leaders constantly invoked Marxist theory and ideals to justify their actions and claimed to be deeply committed disciples of Marx and, authoritative interpreters of his thought. Nor was it difficult to find certain affinities, if not explicit connections, between Marxist ideas and the policies of communist states. What precisely was the nature of the connections, of the affinity? Why did these ideas lend themselves to misapplication or distortion, if indeed that what the case?

These are precisely the questions that should be raised regarding Islam and the political violence associated with it. But this not part of the educational program at the campuses of the University of North Carolina; rather, it appears that an effort is underway to erase and divert attention from the possible connections between Islamic beliefs and Islamic political behavior, including terrorism..

Why this urgency to absolve Islam of any responsibility for what has been done in its name? Why to expose students to a book that will leave them with an uncritical interpretation of Islam? Why the reluctance to embark on a serious educational effort that would help students grasp the essentials of this religion and culture and their impact on the political beliefs and behavior of those molded by them?

The answer lies in attributes of the politically correct mindset and the adversary culture that continues to dominate our institutions of higher education. The educators in charge of this program in North Carolina would prefer their students to believe that the source of all current social, political, economic or spiritual problems and conflicts is located in the United States or the Western world. Blaming Islam, or Islamic fanatics for terrorism is inadmissible and politically incorrect because it lets the United States off the hook. If people in other countries hate the United States there must be good reasons for it. We must look for "root causes" — which always end up being U.S. foreign policy and the nature of American society. We must always be self-critical, never critical of others — that is, outside the United States or outside Western cultural-political sphere. We must not be judgmental of religious or other beliefs — unless they happen to be American or Western.

The University of North Carolina seeks to encourage a positive, or least non-judgmental view of a religion that has numerous less than appealing features and of those who believe in it and tend to be deeply alienated from contemporary American society. Political correctness and one of its defining feature "multiculturalism" (that is, a reflexive aversion to all things Western) hold the key to the determination at the University of North Carolina to impose a selective and flawed understanding of Islam on its freshmen.

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