Outing “outreach”

From Martin Kramer, “Jihad 101,” Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2002, pp. 87-95. Posted retroactively at Sandbox.

In the United States, fourteen Middle East programs based in universities are National Resource Centers—that is, they benefit from a subsidy from the U.S. Department of Education. The subsidy is awarded following a competition held every three years. Programs that wish to be competitive must engage in “outreach”—that is, they must be active in their communities in spreading wisdom about the Middle East. Nearly all centers have “outreach coordinators,” who in normal times do very little: they’ll send a graduate student to lecture at a high school or loan a video to a church group. But in times of crisis, they are swamped with requests for speakers and information. How did they perform after September 11? In at least one case, disgracefully.

That case involves the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. On October 15, it held a workshop for K-12 teachers, entitled “The September 11 Crisis and Teaching Our Children.” Toward that noble aim, the center put together a collection of readings, later offered for general sale through the center’s website.22 It’s nothing other than a propaganda packet of anti-war, anti-American self-hate.

So you think perhaps a few texts by Muslims would be appropriate for the “Teaching about Islam” section? Forget it: instead digest an interview with Islamophile John Esposito, and two long articles by his known associate, Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad (from Esposito-edited tomes). Want to know more about Afghanistan and our major ally there, the Northern Alliance? Read about them in two disparaging articles by Robert Fisk, the militant British journalist who reviles America’s “filthy war.” Then go back and tell the sixth-graders that “Afghanistan Always Beats Its Invaders” (a Fisk selection).

But the best is the “Why Do They Hate Us?” section. You would think that an article by the eminently readable Bernard Lewis—perhaps his famous “Roots of Muslim Rage” from The Atlantic Monthly—would be appropriate for this section. Or maybe Lewis’ well-known article on bin Ladin’s jihad declaration from Foreign Affairs? Wrong again—because the message the kids need to hear is that they hate us, and rightly so. So, read through eleven articles by a parade of scribblers from the left. Here are two articles by Edward Said, and still another by Robert Fisk (all published abroad), suggesting America’s shared culpability for September 11. Read another British journalist, David Hirst, on “The Shame of Palestine.” (No American journalists need apply.) There are contributions from those old left standbys, Tariq Ali and Arundhati Roy, and entries from such tiresome journals of left opinion as Z Magazine and Open Democracy. The only author gone missing is Noam Chomsky.

As a reading list for an anti-war campus teach-in, this selection would be merely execrable. As fare for unsuspecting schoolteachers, dished up by a National Resource Center and subsidized by taxpayer dollars, it should be the subject of an investigation. It is one more argument, if one were needed, for taking the selection of National Resource Centers out of the hands of academic peer reviewers. Government officials should sit on the panels that select these centers and review all their mischief with a skeptical eye. And the sun-dried, Pacific-gazing Middle East “experts” who put out this “critical reader”? De-fund them in the upcoming cycle.

22 At http://www.cmes.ucsb.edu/teacheroutreach.html