The Onslaught of the Academicians

by on January 20th, 2007

Freedom, it has been correctly observed, has a vital corollary, responsibility. Not merely compliance with laws and regulations, but a kind of civic maturity and adherence to the principles of truth. Since our universities are charged with both educating students and with the advancement of knowledge, it’s vital that checks and balances are maintained to ensure a measure of intellectual honesty.

In a recent editorial, Steve Schwartz, Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, exposes Brandeis University Professor of Middle East Studies, Natanta J. DeLong-Bas, for what can only be described as a pattern of willful academic heresy. Beyond denying that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11, the professor blames all of the Muslim world’s problems on the U.S. and Israel. She further denies that religious extremism and Islamic terrorism are causally related.

Mr. Schwartz accurately describes Middle East Studies programs as “totalitarian” in nature because they exist in a hermetic world where information and ideas that don’t neatly comport with their rigid presuppositions are proscribed. As such, they are efficient mechanisms for limiting academic freedom in ways that should horrify university regents, reliably recycling as they do the most egregious stereotypes and specious arguments concerning the true nature of Islamic extremism.

That our children are being intellectually abused and our hard-earned money misspent is sufficiently alarming, but at least as damaging is the fact that these “scholars” feed our media, intelligence agencies, and elected officials, what is unquestionably propaganda, although with the unassailable patina of academic authority.

There is virtually nothing that will arrest intellectual curiosity and inquiry more effectively than the smug and self-serving academics who conduct classes and seminars like educational gulags, pre-emptively dismissing with disarming authoritarianism any challenge to their sanctimonious fictions.

It’s also astounding that so few colleagues, both within Middle East Studies programs and in related disciplines, challenge these Ayatollahs of intellectual rigidity. What, after all, is the ultimate goal of a university if not to ensure academic balance in the pursuit of knowledge, while creating an atmosphere that encourages students to challenge assumptions?

It is merely more evidence–as though more were needed–that liberalism, which has a stranglehold on the entire spectrum of our humanities programs, is an ideologically inflexible and narrow minded polity, one that is at once intellectually insecure and dismissive of any attempt to question its authority.

Mella is Founder and Editor of

Philip Mella