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The Fighting Islamists of Notre Dame By: Thomas Ryan
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Founded in 1986 by an endowment from Joan B. Kroc, wife of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame describes its focus as “the religious and ethnic dimensions of conflict and peace building; the ethics of the use of force; and the peacemaking role of international norms, policies and institutions.” The Institute offers a Supplementary Major, an Interdisciplinary Minor, and a graduate-level Master of Arts degree, and courses that range in topic from 9/11, to environmentalism, to immigration issues, to peace protests and demonstrations, to studies of the Islamic religion and culture. The Institute also hosts an Annual Student Peace Conference. What the Institute isn’t saying in its boilerplate is that its agendas – like those of virtually all other “Peace Studies” programs – are one-sided and radical, bent on “understanding” our radical Muslim enemies and being antagonistic to the existence of the United States.

Reflecting this, in February 2004 the Institute offered a tenured position to Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss-born Muslim academic and professor. Presented as a Muslim moderate and reformer, Ramadan has been celebrated by intellectuals and news outlets; including Salon.com, which stated that he “could be one of the most important intellectuals in the world,” comparing the Islamic scholar to a modern-day Martin Luther; and Time, which named Ramadan one of the world's top hundred scientists and thinkers.


In truth, Ramadan, like the late Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, is a “master of double talk,” relaying to Western ears an amicable message of unity between Western and Muslim peoples, but expressing his true feelings of Western hatred to his Muslim brethren. Upon offering Ramadan the position at the Institute, Director Appleby stated, “We find him invaluable because he takes the risk of talking to both worlds. If we are going to avoid a violent conflict with radical Muslims, we will do so by taking the risk of understanding their point of view, their criticisms of the West, and also having the authority to talk with them.”


Ramadan’s maternal grandfather was Hasan al-Banna, an Egyptian schoolteacher, who, in 1928, founded the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical group considered to be the first of the modern Islamic fundamentalist movements from which such terrorist groups as Gama'a al-Islamiya, al- Jihad, and Hamas were spawned. The intention of the Muslim Brotherhood is not only to propagate Islamic teachings, but also to preach a radical and often violent philosophy aimed at conquering Western political and social ideologies, and reclaiming the Middle East to traditional Islamic values. Al-Banna has said, “If you suffer [death] in the way of God, it will be your profit in this world, and your reward in the next.”


Tariq Ramadan was schooled in Philosophy, French literature, and Islamic studies, eventually obtaining two degrees and seeking positions as a professor in the fields of Philosophy and Religion. Ramadan served at the University of Fribourg and the College de Saussure, before accepting the tenured position of Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute. In July of 2004, Ramadan was made aware by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that his work visa had been revoked, barring his entrance into the U.S. Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the DHS, stated that Ramadan’s visa revocation had been conducted in accordance with a law that denies entry to foreigners who have used a “position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.”


Although Ramadan dismissed his denial of admittance as “unjustified,” the Islamic scholar’s own words and actions over the years certainly demonstrate the reasons why U.S. officials refused to allow him into the country. Ramadan’s connections to Islamic extremism are numerous. For example, according to Spanish judge Balatasar Garzón, Ramadan had “routine contacts” with Ahmed Brahim, an Algerian man believed to be both the financial chief of al-Qaeda, as well as the financier of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. In 1995, while suffering a series of terrorist attacks in Paris perpetrated by the Algerian Islamist terrorist movement, French Interior Minister Jean Louis Debre forbade Ramadan to enter France because of his connections to the terrorist group. And according to the French daily newspaper Le Monde, Ramadan is suspected of having links with al-Qaeda, and is believed to have organized a 1991 meeting between al-Qaeda second-in-charge, Ayman al Zawahiri, and Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in the 1993 bombing of the first World Trade Center.


Despite his associations with known terrorists, following the revocation of his visa, Ramadan demanded, “Can you prove the ‘links’ to terrorists?…Have you read the articles in which I call upon fellow Muslims to condemn unequivocally radical views and acts of extremism?” But, regardless of his profession of innocence of both word and deed, Ramadan has made statements that follow suit with his fundamentalist affiliations, using his position as a commended Islamic scholar to shrewdly undermine Western ideologies in both written and spoken form. His anti-Semitism and sexist views have been well documented, as he failed to condemn the practice of stoning women for crimes against Shari’a (Islamic law). Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Ramadan rejected the notion that there was any proof that bin Laden was involved, and additionally described the 9/11 attacks, the Madrid train bombings, and the Bali nightclub attack as “interventions.” Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Muslim Council and head of the Paris Mosque, has said, “when one invites Tariq Ramadan, it is not to listen to what Allah and the angels said; Ramadan is the vehicle of fundamentalist Islam.”


Whereas the Department of Homeland Security made certain that the students at Notre Dame would not be subject to Ramadan’s sympathies for terrorist Islam, David Cortright, an individual who has repeatedly blamed America for the 9/11 attacks is already serving on the faculty of the Kroc Institute. Cortright, who is a research fellow for the Institution, opposes the terrorists but like their apologists thinks America is responsible for them: “As we mount an effective attack against terrorism, we must also re-orient our foreign policy toward justice. Our response must use two hands, one seeking to eliminate terrorist networks, the other re-examining our own policies to find more equitable and even-handed approaches toward Arab nations. We must ask ourselves why these [9/11] attacks have occurred, and what the United States has done to incur such wrath. Could it be our unyielding support for Israel at the expense of Palestinians; our large-scale and seemingly permanent military presence in and around the Arabian Peninsula; our constant bombing and draconian sanctions against Iraq; our support for repressive governments in Egypt and other Arab states?” Of course if the United States can't even overthrow a monster like Saddam Hussein without Cortright complaining, why should anyone think his response would be any different if we tried to overthrow the governments in Egypt and other Arab states?


Cortright’s record of political activity does not encourage one to think he would look favorably on America’s opposition to any totalitarian regime. He is the founder of Urgent Call and president of the Fourth Freedom Forum, two nonprofit organizations that are steeped in the Cold-War-era movement against American nuclear weapons. The nuclear freeze movement was a virtual surrogate for the Soviet Union in seeking to “freeze” the levels of U.S. missiles in Europe and preserve a massive Soviet superiority. Today, these organizations continue to oppose U.S. military and defense systems in the face of post-Communist threats. Cortright is also a founder of the left-wing Win Without War coalition, which adamantly opposed the effort to topple Saddam and and called for censure of President Bush.


In November 2003, the Kroc Institute teamed up with the Fourth Freedom Forum to publish a research and policy analysis paper, “Toward a More Secure America: Grounding U.S. policy in Global Realities.” The paper was specifically co-authored by Cortright and fellow Kroc Institute professor George Lopez, and served to blame the Bush administration, and America in general, for the terrorist threat our country faces. The paper states:

Without reducing the threat of international terrorism, the [Bush] Administration has pursued a bullying form of unilateral militarism, which has belittled the United Nations, lampooned traditional allies, and offended Muslims around the globe. These actions have made Americans less secure and the world a more dangerous place…The United States is also threatened by the longer-term effects of growing lawlessness and the increasing isolation of the U.S. from like-minded states. U.S. leaders have contributed to this lawlessness and isolation through a penchant for unilateral action, the abrogation or disregard of international agreements, and the invasion of Iraq without UN approval.

Absent from the recommendations of the Kroc Institute and the Fourth Freedom Forum are any steps towards combating the violent Islamic fundamentalism that has little regard for international law.


The Kroc Institute Director, R. Scott Appleby has had a lot to say about Islamic fundamentalism, however. Appleby has specifically sought to diminish the impression that that Islamic fundamentalism is a growing threat. “It would be misleading,” he wrote after 9/11, “to say fundamentalism is on the rise now. I would say we're just more aware of it because these people are better organized, more mobile and more vocal than ever before.”


Appleby served as editor for the book Spokesmen for the Despised Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East, published in 1997. In the book’s introduction, he further expresses the belief that the actions of the terrorist group Hezbollah were guided by a desire to avoid taking innocent lives. Appleby might try explaining that to the 242 US marines on a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon who were blown up by Hezbollah in 1982. Appleby writes, “In the contemporary Middle East, we have seen what happens when a charismatic leader announces ‘a break in the established normative order.’ Under particular kinds of conditions he thereby unleashes forces beyond his control. This is certainly one of the lessons of [Sayyid Muhammad Husayn] Fadlallah. As a scholar of Islamic law, the spiritual mentor of Hizbullah followed a very precise legal formula in justifying suicide bombings (normally, suicide is a clear violation of Islamic law), and he studiously imposed religiously derived restrictions on the use of violence in general (insisting, for example, that Hizbullah avoid the death of innocents whenever possible).” This reassurance is deceptive since in the eyes of militant Islamic fundamentalists, no non-fundamentalist or Westerner is innocent; the 9/11 attacks, which claimed nearly 3,000 innocent lives, proved just that.


Appleby has also made comparisons between Osama bin Laden and President Bush. In a 2003 interview, Appleby asserted that the Sept. 11th attacks were an attempt by Osama bin Laden to awaken Muslims from passivity and to demonstrate that there’s a crisis of religion and culture and that Muslims must take sides in the fight. Appleby suggested that President Bush had adopted the same stance when he stated, “You’re either with us or against us.” This makes no distinction between the aggressor and his victim.


Yet another Kroc Institute professor Cynthia Mahmood has said we need to pursue a dialogue with Osama bin Laden, and not confront him with violence. Mahmood is a professor of Anthropology, and serves as the Institute’s director of graduate studies. In February 2004, Mahmood delivered a talk to neighboring Goshen College, titled “When People of Faith Become Militant.” In her speech, Mahmood recounted her experiences interviewing Pakistani militants that later fought with the Taliban. She described to the students in attendance that at one point during her interview, one of the militants purposely aimed a gun at her, and that she was able to diffuse the situation by offering to talk to the man about his concerns. She went on to say that they ended up talking over tea. Mahmood’s principal recommendation for dealing with terrorists is engaging them in conversation. In her 2002 article “Why We Need to Talk to Extremists,” Mahmood compares suicide bombers to those who join the U.S. military, stating that their goals are no different. Of the State Department’s revocation of Ramadan’s visa, Mahmood said:

It's a real pity for the United States to be afraid of alternative voices. Unless we engage in discussion with them, it becomes an echo chamber where we talk to each other constantly. Places like the Kroc Institute have to push the envelope a bit.

In fact what she was pushing was a troubling addition to the echo chamber. Mahmood added that Ramadan was a “star,” revealing where her sympathies lay.


According to Appleby, who also seems intent on bringing coals to Newcastle, “[T]he Muslim voice needs to be heard on campus and in the country.” In 2003, Notre Dame required incoming freshmen to complete an assigned reading in preparation for an academic convocation entitled, “The United States and the Middle East: Do We Face a 'Clash of Civilizations?'” Appleby moderated the convocation. The assigned reading was not Samuel Huntington’s path-breaking (but pro-Western book) of that title. It was Seyyed Hossein Nasr's book The Heart Of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity, an apologist’s view of Islam, which hides the darker sides of fundamentalist Islam. Appleby justified this on the grounds that “The idea behind the summer reading requirement and academic convocation was not to provide even one percent of the knowledge of the Middle East that professors...provide in their courses – that would be impossible in so short an assignment. Rather, the goal was to demonstrate how scholars think about such issues.” Actual scholars, rather than activists like Appleby, would normally think about such controversial issues by presenting more than one side of the argument. But that is too much to expect from an ideological institute like Kroc.


Of The Heart of Islam, Appleby had “no doubt, of course, that every first-year student has read and reflected upon every assigned page.” One student who did was freshman Dan Martin. In a September, 2003 article in the student newspaper The Observer, Martin shared his thoughts on the text:

Months ago, when I first learned that my class was having an ‘academic convocation,’ I was baffled. As our servicemen are dying fighting murderous Islamic fundamentalists across the globe, the University wrote to tell me that I was expected to sit in an ivory tower and have ‘intellectual’ discussions about Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s The Heart of Islam?…[M]ost offensive is when Nasr writes, ‘When some people attack Islam for inciting struggle in the name of justice, they forget the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution.’ Nasr equates systematic attacks carried out by Muslims on innocent men, women and children to the actions of our founding fathers. In essence, Nasr finds little difference between a suicide bombing of a bus of school children and our founding fathers throwing British tea into the Boston Harbor.

This sickening conflation of Islamist terrorists and America's founders is all-too-common in Peace Studies departments. 


In October of 2003, the Kroc Institute’s benefactor, Joan Kroc, passed away. Her will specified that the Institute would receive an additional $50 million, and that all funds from the endowment must be designated for “the provision of education and training of Kroc Institute graduate students, [and] the hiring of professional staff and faculty who have recognized expertise in peace studies, and the development of classroom education and clinical training.”


The following year, in 2004, the Kroc Institute and the U.S. State Department engaged in a 6-month-long battle over the revocation of terrorist apologist Tariq Ramadan’s visa, leading him to officially resign from the faculty in December. Despite the knowledge of Ramadan’s conspicuous connections to terrorism, Appleby said that the university would continue to pursue Muslim “scholars,” whatever their affiliations or beliefs. The integrity of their institute's curriculum, the quality of education their students receive, and the survival of the United States are clearly not issues.

You may e-mail Thomas Ryan by clicking here.

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