Yesterday, Muslim extremists in North London held a conference under the title “September 11: A Towering Day in History.” The Times of London carries the most detailed story. The Finsbury Park mosque was bedecked with posters of the Twin Towers in flames and banners proclaiming: “Islam Will Dominate the World.” Speakers hailed Al-Qa’ida for delivering a powerful blow to America, the extremists claimed new recruits, and they promised new attacks if America strikes Iraq.
No less disturbing, to my mind, is a report in this morning’s Frankfurter Allgemeine on the proceedings of the First World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES), meeting in Mainz, Germany. Elsewhere I have written about how the initiative for this event came from America’s own Middle East Studies Association (MESA). “Only rarely was self-criticism heard from the ranks of the Middle East researchers,” reads this morning’s report. “Everyone concentrated on criticizing America. And self-critical utterances were made in such a way that, at the end, America was again held responsible for everything.” The correspondent lamented the absence of a spokesperson of the U.S. government, who might have “done some simple reapportioning of blame.” (Where are America’s public diplomacy soldiers when you need them?)
This would be bad enough if the congress were the errant mischief of those Europeans. Alas, it was the initiative of America’s premier academic association for Middle Eastern studies. And there were plenty of Americans on the panels. Apparently, none came to their country’s defense, on foreign ground, on 9/11. Am I surprised?
Last night, the congress unanimously conferred the first “WOCMES Award for Outstanding Contributions to Middle Eastern Studies” on Edward Said. Give me the London extremists anytime. At least you know where you stand.