Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Friedman v. El-Kikhia
A move to muzzle academics is well under way. Tenure, the only barrier preventing recrimination against faculty who teach and express their views on controversial issues, is also under attack.
And of course he was particularly upset at attempts to silence professors of Middle Eastern studies such as himself. He claims that the "system" punishes those who speak out against Israel, or pro-Israeli policies:
Nowhere is this more evident than in Middle Eastern studies, where supporters of censorship have succeeded in pushing through the House of Representatives HR 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act. And although the act covers a host of international relations programs, it particularly scrutinizes Middle Eastern programs in the country.
Middle Eastern scholars are finding it very difficult to teach, write or lecture on U.S. foreign policy or Israeli politics. They are accused by those on the extreme right of "anti-Americanism" for criticizing U.S. foreign policy and by the supporters of Israel with "anti-Semitism" for criticizing Israel.
So how do we square the hysteria displayed by El-Kikhia with this statement by Thomas Friedman in today's SAEN:
Until the recent elections in Iraq and among the Palestinians, the modern Arab world was largely immune to the winds of democracy that have blown everywhere else in the world. Why? That's a pretty important question. For years, though, it was avoided in both the East and the West.
In the West it was avoided because a toxic political correctness infected the academic field of Middle Eastern studies - to such a degree that anyone focusing on the absence of freedom in the Arab world ran the risk of being labeled an "Orientalist" or an "essentialist[emphasis added]."
Speaking from personal experience only, and having sat through nine credit hours with El-Kikhia, I can say that Friedman is more on the mark here.