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Education and Communication

Full text of the list of demands submitted by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt to Qatar

Full text of the list of demands submitted by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt to Qatar

ISR comment: Four Arab States want Qatar to close down Aljazeera, a sign that the current crisis is in fact a reaction to and fear of the protest movements popularly known as the Arab Spring. It was on the pages of ISR that the role of Aljazeera in galvanizing social change in the Arab world was thoroughly explained and it was on the pages of ISR that the first prediction that the Gulf States will implode from the inside as a result of the change initiated by the protest movement that overthrew Ben Ali (now living in Saudi Arabia) and Mubarak (now back from prison after Sisi regained power).
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A summary of the demands submitted by the Saudis, Bahrainis, Emiratis, and Egyptians to Qatar through Kuwait:
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1. Reduce diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard from Qatar and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. and international sanctions will be permitted.


2. Shutting down the Turkish military base in Qatar and stop any military agreements with Turkey inside Qatar


3. Announce the cutting of ties to “terrorist organizations,” including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State, al-Qaida, and Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.


4. Stop providing financial support to entities and individuals list on the list previously provided by the four nations.


5. Handover all persons accused of terrorists and seize their property.


6. Shut down Al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.


7. Stop interfering in the affairs of neighboring states, stop offering citizens to persons from neighboring states, and provide a list of citizens of neighboring states who were offered Qatar citizenship.


8. Pay for all damages caused by Qatar policy and practices in neighboring states.


9. Assure full compliance with Arab decision and agree to honor the Riyadh agreements with Gulf nations of 2013 and 2014.


10. Submit a list of documents by and about opposition figures supported by Qatar.


11. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly (i.e., Arabi21, Rassd, al-Araby Al-Jadeed, and Middle East Eye).


12. Agree to all these terms within 10 days or it will be considered void.


13. the agreement shall consist of clear mechanism of compliance, including monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year, and annually for ten years thereafter.

Academic Integrity and the Problem of Profiting from Slavery and Racism

Academic Integrity and the Problem of Profiting from Slavery and Racism

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Abstract: Teaching future generations is indeed a costly endeavor, especially when governments allocate little or no money to higher education. Universities’ administrators are always under extreme pressure to keep their institutions afloat. However, as learning and training institutions, universities instill values and norms that guide future citizens and professionals towards a better future. Therefore, the source of money is just as important as the amounts of money for universities and for the people they serve. It has been revealed that Georgetown University would not have survived if it did not profit from selling hundreds of human beings and participate in the cruel slave trade. Ostensibly, Georgetown is unable to totally break from its legacy of profiting from slavery and racism. Its dependence on money provided by Muslim individuals and/or Islamic regimes with a history of human rights abuses, sectarian, and racist practices raises questions about its ability to overcome and dispose of both Catholic and Islamic legacies of depravity and decadence.
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About 200 years ago, to save Georgetown College, priests sold human beings thus fully endorsing and profiting from the brutal, dehumanizing institution of slavery. To date, we’ve learned of the existence of records documenting at least 272 human beings, like Mr. Frank Campbell, who were sold so that that college would survive to become the institution we now call Georgetown University.  Evidently, for these priests, the survival of an educational institution outweighed the abuse of the dignity of hundreds of human beings. Today, to gain prominence as an elite university, Georgetown has established financial ties to individuals and governments with social and ideological affinity to racism, sectarianism, and absolutism. Georgetown’s connections to Wahhabism and individuals who are interested in whitewashing that sect adds to the University’s legacy of exploitation in pursuit of elitism and financial advantages. Recently, Georgetown’s dark history with slavery was brought to the forefront once again when one of its faculty members used dubious logic and absolutist interpretation of ancient texts to argue that slavery is morally justified in Islam, a position that conforms to that held by groups like ISIL and al-Qaeda.

In an audio recording, the director of Georgetown’s Alwaleed Ibn Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Jonathan Brown, is heard equivocating: “The Prophet of God had slaves… There’s no denying that. Are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God? No you’re not.”  The implication is that, since, reportedly, Prophet Muhammad had slaves 1400 years ago, it is morally right to own slaves and it is morally right to continue to own slaves today. While Georgetown sanctified the university and relativized slavery in the 1830’s, today, one of its faculty sanctifies Muhammad and relativized slavery the same way ISIL sanctifies the “Islamic State” and relativized slavery, rape, and religious and sectarian cleansing.

Parents sending their children to learn from faculty members who use this kind of logic and embrace a morality rooted in absolutist reading of contested texts should be concerned. Muslims who seek guidance from a scholar associated with an endowed chair funded by the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, demonstrably known for its abuse of human dignity, should be wary about the recasting of Wahhabism as Sunni Islam. Besides the conflict of interest and the methodological absurdity, Brown’s assertions are flawed for many factual and logical reasons.
 
First, there is no absolute evidence that Prophet Muhammad owned slaves. Those who contend that Muhammad had slaves rely on oral reports (written down three centuries removed from the time of Prophet Muhammad) invoked, preserved, and transmitted by figures who owned and even abused slaves themselves. Therefore, to emphatically assert that there is no “denying that Prophet Muhammad had slaves” amounts to suggesting the existence of a fact beyond any reasonable doubt. There is doubt beyond reasonable levels about events that took place more than 1400 years ago, especially when all the textual evidence is derived from only one school of thought: Salafism.  Indeed, leaders and wealthy individuals gave Prophet Muhammad slaves as “gifts” but he emancipated them: the women became his wives and the men became his mawāli (i.e. mu`taq [freed], as was the case with Zaid (given to him by the wealthy Khadijah, who married him later). However, many of the aristocracy of Arabia, who were absorbed into the newly established Islamic state, continued to own slaves. Considering that it was this aristocracy that monopolized most leadership positions after the death of Prophet Muhammad, it is easy to figure out why the institution was kept alive and by whom.
 

Second, while the Quran did not explicitly abolish slavery as a matter of law, the text and tone of the Quran left no doubt that enslaving human beings was morally wrong and that emancipating slaves was morally right. Moreover, the Quranic text consistently avoided the use of the word “slaves” [`abīd]. It referred to persons already in servitude as “what your right hands previously possessed” [mā malakat aymānukum] instead. Importantly, this wording, with the verb “possess” or “own” conjugated in the past tense, indicate that such a state of being lacks permanence. In other words, those who were enslaved before the start of Islam will continue to be so, but no new ownership of slaves shall be initiated moving forward. With that being the case, whether Prophet Muhammad had slaves or whether he was “more morally mature” becomes immaterial. The text of the Quran explicitly determined that slavery is immoral and it established a path (atonement and substitute for religious obligations with valid reason) to making it illegal. In fact, most proscribed acts were first judged morally contemptuous before they were explicitly prohibited in the Quran. The gradual prohibition of wine [khamr] is a good illustrative case in point.

Third, perhaps members of Brown’s audience were not “more morally mature than the Prophet of God.” However, inspired by the Quranic teachings, the same Prophet of God whom he is using to justify slavery made it abundantly clear that,

a. All human beings are equal in dignity,
b. Freeing slaves is moral,
c. Enslaving humans is immoral,
d. True belief in God is possible only when a person is free,
e.  The natural state of being for humans is to be free, and
e. Freeing slaves allowed a person to atone for unintentional homicide, breaking the oath, breaking the fast during Ramadan, and other “sins” and criminal offenses.

To override these established norms that became part and parcel of the Quranic and jurisprudential norms in favor of an analogy based on the chance that Prophet Muhammad may have had slaves is absurd. Because even if we were to assume that Prophet Muhammad had slaves, Prophet Muhammad had also determined that slavery is abhorrent. It follows, then, that it is immoral independent of him having had slaves or not. 

Fourth, the Quranic discourse is known for its graduate proscription of entrenched practices and social behavior not through abrupt prohibition. Subsequently, even if Prophet Muhammad may have had slaves in the early days of his life and the life of his disciples, it is likely that that practice would have been proscribed with time given the repugnancy of the institution and dehumanizing implications.

Fifth, considering the entirety of Quranic sanctions, it is certain that the dignity and sanctity of human beings cannot be overruled by the mere practice or temperament of the Prophet. After all, the Quran is dotted with passages admonishing Prophet Muhammad for some of his practices. In a plethora of passages in the Quran, Prophet Muhammad was reproached for his poor judgement concerning his actions relevant to certain war booty [fay’], forms of taxes, treatment of persons with disability, and other matters. Most Sunni Muslim scholars hold that Muhammad, like all other Prophets, is fallible in matters not related to purely religious matters. Therefore, he might have erred in economic, military, social, and administrative matters—including owning slaves if it were to be proven that he did own salves after being characterized in the Quran as immoral.

Sixth, most Sunni Muslim scholars believe in the principle of abrogation, which essentially contextualizes legal edicts and justifies temporary or permanent revocation of social and legal practices. Per Sunni exegeses, passages of the Quran were abrogated by later passages of the Quran and so were units of Hadith. Subsequently, the existence of a passage in the Quran or a tradition from the Sunna does not necessarily mean that laws that might be derived from it are still in effect.

Seventh, like many other Traditionist Muslims, Brown privileges reports found in Sunni collections of Hadith and Tafsīr. He ignores, or is unaware of the rich body of religious, legal, and political texts produced and preserved by Ibadi and Shia Muslims, which provided fuller narratives and contexts especially regarding the most divisive and controversial events and ideas. The logic Brown employs is common among many Traditionist Muslims (ahl al-ḥadīth), too. For them, it would suffice to point to an event or an act purported to be from the formative period of Islam where lived the Predecessors (salaf) for such an act to be applicable to all human beings and in all times. Their reasoning is simple: If something was practiced or said by the Prophet, his Disciples [ṣaḥāba), or the Predecessors in general, then it is binding—part of the canon. Traditionism, the method of deriving ethical and legal judgments, was foreign to Muslim scholars of the first three centuries of Islam, who were primarily Reasonists (ahl al-ra’y].

The methodological and logical flaws in Brown’s reasoning are further weakened by historical and substantive facts. With the rise of Islam and before the death of Prophet Muhammad, and because of the restrictions and measures that encouraged the emancipation of slaves, a person can end up in servitude only through two paths:
1. During war: members of the defeated armies who were not part of a prisoners’ exchange deal or whose ransom is not paid will be “owned” by the victorious army as spoils of war. Since there were no facilities at that time to house them, captives were distributed among fighters who took part in the campaign.

2. By birth: children of two slave parents continued to be considered slaves and remained under the ownership and responsibility of the person who had owned their parents until they are freed or sold. Once a slave is freed, even in jest, they are permanently freed and the pronouncement of their freedom cannot be withdrawn or revoked.

The legal rule that prohibits re-enslaving persons who were freed, the religious edict commanding believers to free slaves to atone for a variety of sins and offenses, the restrictions of entry paths into slavery, and the ruling that determined emancipation of slaves being praiseworthy, with time, all such factors would have necessarily led to slave-free Islamic societies. That point was in fact anticipated in Islamic law, when an alternative (feeding the poor) to emancipating slaves for atonement or substitute for obligations purposes was made available. Indeed, Islamic regimes that continued to rely on slaves for their economic prosperity resorted to raiding distant communities and kidnapping peoples who would be forced into servitude, as did a number of rulers from the Umayyad,  Abbasid and Ottoman dynasties.

Brown spent most of the ninety-minute-long talk highlighting the cruelty associated with the treatment of slaves in other civilizations. However, given the cruelty practiced by ISIS in the name of Islam and the abuses unleashed by the Saudi ruling family, also in the name of Islam, and given that he holds academic chair established by members of the Saudi ruling family, most of the time should have been spent speaking against the atrocities committed by some Muslims against other Muslims and non-Muslims. Instead, Brown glossed over the practices committed by many Muslim rulers throughout Islamic history, giving credence to the racist narrative championed supremacists (non-Muslims and Muslims), like Turkey’s Erdogan, who refused to take responsibility for Ottoman crimes by arguing that “Muslims do not commit crimes of genocide.” The same argument was made by an Australian legislator when his country debated the ratification of the convention proscribing the crime of genocide: “It [genocide convention] deals with a crime of which no Anglo-Saxon nation could be guilty… None of the crimes that are enumerated in it could ever be committed by the Anglo-Saxon race.” Indeed, as is the case with any dominating empire, Muslims who headed some of these powerful governments have committed crimes and many Muslims remained silent, when heads of governments, in their name and on their behalf, committed genocides, crimes against humanity, and failed to abolish slavery. Enslaving human beings was wrong then despite its rootedness in society and it is abhorrent now that there is no socioeconomic argument to justify it. There should be no equivocation, no qualification of who treated slaves better, and no hesitation in characterizing it as a crime against humanity. 

The crucial step for achieving Islamic societies free of slavery is for the holders of chairs of Islamic studies to speak forcefully about the nature of the struggles that defined Islam as a social movement before it was hijacked by theologians who were interested in sanctifying institutions, concepts, and persons while abusing the dignity of human beings. To that end, Muslim scholars must emphasize the place of critical and truth-centered interpretation of key events in Islamic societies during the formative period. Many of Islam’s ethical and legal norms were authored or transmitted by the generation of leaders who came after Prophet Muhammad. But that generation is also responsible for much bloodshed and abuses. The Umayyad rulers, who the Saudi rulers emulate today and from whom they draw legitimacy, carried out some of the most genocidal wars against Muslims who opposed their rule and challenged their practices. The Ottoman Sultans, too, committed genocides and oppressed indigenous communities. That, and many other important facts, ought to be revisited so that a credible leadership can stop the bloodshed, end the carnage, and break the cycle of abuse in modern Islamic societies.
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

Association representing Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies scholars join efforts to legally challenge the Muslim Ban

Association representing Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies scholars join efforts to legally challenge the Muslim Ban

Civil rights and refugee groups today asked a federal court in Maryland to block the Trump administration’s revised executive order, arguing that it would cause irreparable harm for their plaintiffs. The order, which still maintains the suspension of refugee resettlement along with banning entry of nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, was issued on March 6.

The groups that brought the case include the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Maryland, and the National Immigration Law Center on behalf of the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, HIAS, and the Middle East Studies Association, along with individuals, including U.S. citizens, affected by the ban.

Representatives from each group gave the following statements:

Beth Baron, President, Middle East Studies Association

“The Middle East Studies Association joined this case because the new executive order cuts at the very core of our mission as a scholarly association — to facilitate the free exchange of ideas. The order directly harms our student and faculty members by preventing travel, disrupting research, and impeding careers. The order hurts us as an association intellectually and financially. It is incumbent upon us to support the interests of our members and stand up for the peoples of the region we study and our colleagues.”

Becca Heller, Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center

“The exemption of Iraq from the (Muslim and refugee) ban is nothing but a weak attempt at righting one of the many egregious wrongs of the original order. The majority of Iraqis who have worked with the U.S. in Iraq arrive via the refugee resettlement program, which the new order attacks just as viciously. By suspending the program for 120 days and slashing the resettlement slots by 60,000, more than 50,000 Iraqis will still be affected, many of whom have worked for the U.S. or have family in the U.S.”

Karen Tumlin, Legal Director of the National Immigration Law Center

“A repackaged Muslim and refugee ban is still a Muslim and refugee ban. This version may be tweaked to work its way around the courts, but the intent remains the same. Trump has a clear and well-documented record of animus and discrimination directed at immigrants, refugees and Muslims, either from his tweets, stump speeches, or statements made to the media. There’s just no way to work around that fact. The courts have overwhelmingly rebuked the administration’s attempt to legalize bigotry and religious discrimination, and we are confident they will do so again.”

Mark Hetfield, CEO and President of HIAS

“As with the first executive order, President Trump has once again ignored the Constitution in order to fulfill his campaign promise of a Muslim ban. We are asking the court to intervene in order to protect thousands of refugees’ lives. HIAS is a Jewish organization that has worked since 1881 to protect and resettle refugees based on the Torah’s command to welcome the stranger. We cannot be bystanders as our own government turns away and discriminates against tens of thousands of refugees who have played by our rules and already subjected themselves to ‘extreme vetting.’”

Omar Jadwat, Director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project

“Putting a new coat of paint on the Muslim ban doesn’t solve its fundamental problem, which is that the Constitution and our laws prohibit religious discrimination. The further President Trump goes down this path, the clearer it is that he is violating that basic rule.”
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CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, NILC, 213-375-3149, media@nilc.org
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, 212-284-7347, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org
Henrike Dessaules, IRAP, 646-459-3081, hdessaules@refugeerights.org
Gabe Cahn, HIAS, 212-613-1312, gabe.cahn@hias.org
Geoffrey Knox, MESA, 917-414-1749, gknox@geoffreyknox.com

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41 Directors, Chairs, and Executive Officers at University of Illinois -UC call for the reinstatement of Steven Salaita

41 Directors, Chairs, and Executive Officers at University of Illinois -UC call for the reinstatement of Steven Salaita

Dear President Killeen and Acting Chancellor Wilson,

We the forty-one undersigned Executive Officers and campus leaders from departments and academic units across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign urge you to help end the crisis that has plagued our university for more than a year. It has increasingly become clear that the decision to rescind Dr. Steven Salaita’s appointment as an associate professor with indefinite tenure in the American Indian Studies Program violated the principles of shared faculty governance and may also be legally liable. The decision has also inflicted harm upon the reputation and standing of our university.

The AAUP has censured the Urbana-Champaign campus for the violation of academic freedom. An ongoing academic boycott against our campus continues to adversely affect an important dimension of our intellectual livelihood. More than 5,000 scholars around the world, many of them prominent intellectuals, refuse to participate in talks or conferences at the University of Illinois. Such events are part of the exchange of ideas for which our campus has always been known, and their cancellation impoverishes the conversation on campus to the detriment of students and faculty alike. Over the long term, it threatens our competitiveness in bringing in external funding and recruiting distinguished scholars.

We are therefore

asking you to use the authority of your offices to recommend to the Board of Trustees that they reverse their previous decision and reinstate Dr. Salaita at the next board meeting in September. We firmly believe that this step will help put the university on track toward ending AAUP censure and regaining its place among the most respected public institutions of higher education in the country. The decision to reinstate Dr. Salaita will also make it easier to resolve pending litigation and save the university community and state taxpayers from the high costs of defending a wrong decision in the court of law.

We ask for a meeting to discuss our request to restore the rightful stature of the University of Illinois.

Sincerely,
James Anderson, Head, Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership
Matthew Ando, Chair, Department of Mathematics
Antoinette Burton, Interim Director, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities
C.L. Cole, Head, Department of Media and Cinema Studies
David Cooper, Director, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center
Clare Crowston, Chair, Department of History
Jerry Dávila, Director, Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies
Anna Maria Escobar, Director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Michael Finke, Head, Slavic Languages and Literatures
Stephanie Foote, Chair, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies
Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Interim Director, Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Greg Girolami, Head, Department of Chemistry
Waïl Hassan, Director, Center for Translation Studies
Stephanie Hilger, Head, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
Valerie Hoffman, Head, Department of Religion
Valerie Hotchkiss, Director, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Jonathan X. Inda, Head, Department of Latina/Latino Studies
Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, Head, Department of Theatre
Lilya Kaganovsky, Director, Program in Comparative and World Literature
Brett Kaplan, Director, Program in Jewish and Culture and Society
Marcus Keller, Head, Department of French and Italian
Edward Kolodziej, Director, Center for Global Studies
Susan Koshy, Director, Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory
Soo Ah Kwon, Head, Department of Asian American Studies
Jean-Philippe Mathy, Director, School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics
David O’Brien, Chair, Art History Program
Robert B. Olshansky, Head, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Andrew Orta, Head, Department of Anthropology
Jesse Ribot, Director, Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy Program
Michael Rothberg, Head, Department of English
Kirk Sanders, Chair, Department of Philosophy
Spencer Schaffner, Director, Center for Writing Studies
Douglas Simpson, Chair, Department of Statistics
Anna W. Stenport, Director, European Union Center
Eleonora Stoppino, Director, Program in Medieval Studies
Andrew Suarez, Head, Department of Animal Biology
William Sullivan, Head, Department of Landscape Architecture
Jonathan V. Sweedler, Director, School of Chemical Sciences
Ariana Traill, Head, Department of the Classics
Robert Warrior, Director, Program in American Indian Studies
Assata Zerai, Director, Center for African Studies

On the need to balance endowments and academic integrity

On the need to balance endowments and academic integrity


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
The article in The Atlantic, The Emir of NYU (MAR 13, 2013), touched on a very important issue: academic integrity. It came on the heels of the no-confidence vote NYU’s faculty in the College of Arts and Science delivered against the president, John Sexton. Sexton is renowned for creating satellite research and teaching centers around the world through a strategy he called The Global Network University. Specifically, the article pointed to the full degree-granting campus in Abu Dhabi and to faculty’s concerns “about academic freedom, diluting NYU’s brand, human rights violations in Abu Dhabi, and discrimination against gay and Israeli students.”

The article did not address the critically important issue of striking a balance between the need for funding higher education and preserving academic and scientific integrity. This problem is not new. Research scholars and institutions in some STEM (exact/hard) sciences faced similar ethical and legal issues since they first took money from pharmaceuticals, agricultural companies involved in GMOs, defense industries, and government security and intelligence agencies.

The current economic conditions are forcing universities to cut programs and/or raise money. These trends are likely to have an immediate and disproportionate impact on liberal arts and humanities programs–hence the vote from NYU’s College of Arts and Science faculty. Moreover, creating liberal arts and social sciences programs in places like the Persian Gulf States requires more scrutiny. The limitations on freedoms, the lack of transparency and shared governance, and the treatment of minorities in those countries are addressed through disciplines within liberal arts and social sciences. For this reason alone, establishing campuses or taking money from governments and private individuals from that region ought to be done with extreme prudence.

GCC countries do not operate according to the same rules enjoyed in American institutions (See the statement about banning a scholar from entering UAE). For instance, early this year, the editor of prominent magazine from one of the GCC States asked if I could write a short essay predicting that the Arab Spring will reach the GCCcountries. Presumably, another scholar was asked to argue the other point of view. Aware of the restrictions on freedom of expression in that country, I insisted that my article not be edited. With that understanding in place, I wrote what was, in my opinion, a restrained 250-word piece (see article below). A day later, the editor wrote back saying, “thanks very much for your honest and well-written article. However, because of legal constraints […], we can’t publish anything that criticizes the ruling royal family.”

If a government is threatened by a staged prediction written by a professor more than 6,000 miles away, can this same regime (and the regimes like it) allow a center of critical scholarship to thrive within its territory and in contact with its population? I doubt it. The same concern might apply to endowed chairs in many American universities. Can a researcher, whose position is funded by a prince from Saudi Arabia or the government of Bahrain, for example, provide critical and unbiased research about social and religious issues in one or all those countries or relating to Islam in general? I doubt that, too. 

Some of the most apologetic works about Wahhabism came out from institutions and by researchers who received considerable money from donors from GCC countries. Even if one were to assume that the holders of endowed chairs funded by princes from GCC countries have the integrity to tell scientific truths, their email signature and titles will always function as an implicit endorsement that polishes the names of the donors. Every time they introduce themselves to an audience they become engaged in gratuitous character rehabilitation and/or public relations endeavor on behalf of regimes and individual donors.

Islamic studies endowments created by ostensibly Muslim individuals and governments are even more suspect from the point of view of Islamic law and cultures. According to Islamic ethical practices, charity and gifts, including endowments, are supposed to be given discretely to the extent that when “it is given by the right hand, the left hand would not notice.” In Islamic cultures, advertising the name of donors nullifies its rewards. 

Endowments are given with a purpose and some time that purpose conflicts with the stated aims and mission of educational institutions. During the past decade alone, enough dubious endowments have been discovered to give administrators and faculty members pause. For instance, after the fall of the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, a formal inquiry uncovered that the London School of Economics had accepted at least £1.5m donation from Saif al-Islam. If receiving money from the son of a dictator was not marring enough, the origin of such money should be: the investigation uncovered that the donations “may have been money paid to the dictator’s son as bribes.”

Harvard, the institution that produces the ruling elite in the United States, unashamedly collected money from individuals and governments from GCC States, too. In 2004, the Boston Globe reported that Harvard returned $2.5 million from the ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The university returned the money because the donor had ties to “an Arab League think tank with alleged anti-American” views. Apparently, Harvard, which shared with Georgetown University more than $40 million donation from a Saudi Prince in the last decade alone, refused money from a person who might have connections to an organization that might criticize U.S. foreign policies. But Harvard leaders see no harm in taking money from members of the ruling families of some of the GCC states, who are known for their wanton abuse of foreign workers, minorities, and women. 

Another Ivy League school needed to address its ties to donors who were on the wrong side of history, Brown. The University is now attempting to polish its own image after it had become known that it had ties to slave traders. It was revealed recently that “some of the University’s early benefactors were involved in the slave trade.” Specifically, a reportproduced by a commission established by the University confirmed that “slave labor was used to construct the oldest building on campus and said many of the university’s early benefactors were slave owners.”

The conflict between supporting education and polishing donors’ image is not new. However, now, the need for a new paradigm that could encourage people to give to education without risking academic integrity is paramount. For long, private universities have enjoyed limited restrictions on their efforts to raise money from private donors. Many state universities are now forced to adapt and administrators are aggressively seeking alternative sources of funding. Research grants and private endowments are two attractive streams of revenues. However, endowments do come with strings attached–some strings are obvious and others are subtle. Balancing the need to raise money and preserve academic integrity is a difficult challenge but it can be overcome if administrators and faculty members work together on drawing up sound policies.
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.
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Are the Gulf countries in danger of facing an Arab Spring?

Will the GCC countries face an Arab Spring? The answer is simple: Yes. In fact, the Spring has already bloomed in the Gulf region. When powerful Emirs are threatened by poets, multi-billion dollar military is mobilized to crush peaceful protesters, and official muftis find it necessary to issue fatwas prohibiting protest at home while their governments are involved in arming opposition groups elsewhere, I would say the Spring is already in the Gulf.
In the past, the Gulf States’ rulers shielded themselves from change by seeking shelter behind world superpowers, and by amassing sophisticated weaponry. At that time, they feared the specter of foreigners invading their lands.
Today, they face a threat that cannot be defeated by international alliances, exclusion walls, arbitrary borders, and Patriot missiles. Some groups of their people are already calling upon them from within to end clan privilege, cruel sectarian and ethnic supremacism, boorish double standards, demeaning gender discrimination, and flagrant disregard to common decency, because these attitudes are an affront to dignity.
The first and second rounds of protest in Tunisia and Egypt tell us—in no uncertain terms—that the Arab Spring is not about economics, democracy, or ideology. It is about reclaiming human dignity and ending fear. It is not about who governs; it is about how they govern. These continued struggles tell us that no context can excuse the abuse of human dignity. Therefore, I am as sure that the people will rise up for dignity in the Gulf region as I am sure that the sun will rise from the east tomorrow.

Turkey’s lost and future opportunities in Syria

Turkey’s lost and future opportunities in Syria

by Foti Benlisoy and Annalena Di Giovanni

Turkey

A few months ago, in January 2013, an accident in a steel factory of Gaziantep, a bordering town in southwest Turkey, claimed the lives of seven workers. Under normal circumstances such news would have passed unobserved and eventually forgotten; Turkey is after all a country in which workplace accidents in factories are a daily, albeit silent, occurrence. But this time two among the seven workers were Syrians. And like most Syrians, they were unregistered, insecure, and deprived of any protective measures while on duty.


Syrian refugees, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, are the new source of manpower in southern factories. Employed outside any state regulation, they are desperate enough to accept work for any pay and condition. In a word, they are cheaper than local labour and Kurdish seasonal workers. Another very telling episode is that of a factory in Adıyaman where employees on strike are voicing concerns that they face the sack and replacement by cheaper and more submissive Syrian refugees. In a war of poor against poorer, local workers already uneasy with aid and facilities provided by the government to the refugee camps are now afraid to lose their jobs, while traders and merchants lament their plummeting revenues from exports and tourism in Syria. For the population of southern Turkey, the struggle against Bashar Al-Assad is simply a catastrophe. And for this catastrophe they are blaming the Erdoğan government, and his support to the Syrian opposition. 

But while Erdoğan’s on-going endorsement of the Syrian opposition is more than obvious, it is also clear that toppling the status quo was not previously a pressing necessity for the Turkish leadership. Since the opening of trade with Syria in the early 2000s, exports towards Syria tripled in the space of 7 years to more than two billion USD and – right before the uprising started – they were forecast to double again by the end of 2015. Now exports in Syria dropped by 66.5% in 2012, with peaks of 100% losses in cities like Hatay and Gaziantep. If trade was skyrocketing, direct investment was just about to start, as well as ties between the business elites supporting both governments. Although the liberalizing reforms of Bashar had so far attracted a mere figure of 18 private firms opening their business in Syria – mainly in pastry manufacture, cement production, and hospitality – by 2011 the stakes had been raised. 

One example was the massive Taj Halab project, a giant mall of a 150,000 square meters area directly outside Aleppo. This would have been a 180 million USD joint venture between the Syrian Sham Holding, and the Turkish Rönesans İnşaat – a construction company active in countries like Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Libya and Russia. Major contracts for the water system too had just been awarded to Turkish companies. Needless to say, all plans and construction have stopped. The issue now is how to salvage the business interests they represent.

When discussing a Turkish role in post-conflict Syria, it is important to keep in mind that it is not a ‘neo-Ottoman’ ideology or ‘imperial’ nostalgia guiding Turkey’s foreign policy; nor will mere Islamist solidarity be driving what we can expect to be Turkey’s consistent role in war-battered areas.

Simplified media narratives tend to borrow the argument that the AKP’s Islamist roots inevitably sustain a dream to revive the Ottoman Empire and, eventually, support its Arab Sunni brothers. But behind Davutoglu’s assertive regional strategy, there is a wealth of Turkish capitalists who are increasingly investing abroad and looking for new opportunities to expand Turkish capital. This is because of the very nature of the AKP, a party that emerged as a winner in the late nineties after a decade of short-term governments and political instability. It was the AKP that solved the crisis of power for a new capitalist class without political representation by securing new investors who needed new policies suitable to their business interests. And one has to look at these years of economic integration and the promotion of a Turkish cultural image to consolidate a material base abroad as measures on behalf of the business class. 

Turkish soap operas, Fetullah Gülen’s schools teaching African or Central Asian kids Turkish language and culture, even the Turkish Language Olympics; the rising profile of Turkey simply means that Turkish investments abroad can eventually entrust their expansion on a receptive, Turkish-educated local business class. However, it was the issue of marketing a cultural image in conjunction with the needs of the Turkish political class that was missing. This changed with Erdoğan. It is with very pragmatic eyes that we must evaluate his role as the rising Turkish star among the Arab masses buying into the aesthetics and values he promotes.

From the 1990s it seems that Turkey decided that with respect to the Balkans, the Caucasus region, and its Arab neighbours, it was going to engage in a policy of investment to enable Turkey to leverage its crucial geostrategic location at the crossroads of the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. Turkey also has pursued a very aggressive set of policies of investment in both Africa and Central Asia. So, reengagement with Syria and the Arab world was one piece of a much larger project, one which should not be mistaken for any kind of reinvention of the Ottoman Empire. Rather it allows Turkish government to expand on what it had already been doing domestically: a neoliberal economic strategy of investment as a basis for growth, the development of constituencies, and foreign relations.

Whatever Erdoğan and Davutoğlu had in mind when they started pushing Assad for reforms, they would not have expected this to take so long – and at such costs. This is the irony of Turkey: they were trying to transform Syria into a safe market haven, but it is now just a lost market. Of course, Turkish capital will recover, and that business class so at ease with AKP policies will benefit from whatever will come out of the current crisis. But while they are right in expecting that they will eventually have the lion’s share in the upcoming Syrian reconstruction, the AKP might in fact find itself paying a high price for its regional policies. Because beyond bigger business interests, there are the smaller entrepreneurs who have lost trade, there are the seasonal labourers and the factory workers who have lost work. They are the larger electoral basin of Southern Turkey. And they will hardly forget the catastrophe that hit them, the day Erdoğan decided to take sides on the Syrian issue. And they might remember it when it is time to vote.

MESA protests UAE “Blacklisting” of Dr. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

MESA protests UAE “Blacklisting” of Dr. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

*His Excellency Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Minister of Foreign Affairs

United Arab Emirates
via fax +971 02 444 7766
Your Excellency,

I write to you on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) to register shock and deep dismay at the denial of entry into the United Arab Emirates of Dr. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen. Dr. Coates Ulrichsen is Co-Director of the Kuwait Research Programme at the London School of Economics (LSE) and an internationally recognized scholar of Gulf Arab politics. On February 22, he was on his way to a scholarly conference at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) that was jointly organized with the Middle East Centre at the LSE. The theme of the meeting was “The New Middle East: Transition in the Arab World.” His paper was entitled “Bahrain’s Uprising: Domestic Implications and Regional International Perspectives.” Immigration officials at the Dubai Airport detained him for forty-five minutes while they scrutinized his passport in detail. He was then informed that he was “blacklisted.” A representative of Emirates Air told him that he was denied entry and being sent back to London.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

On February 25, the official news agency of the UAE confirmed that Dr. Coates Ulrichsen had been denied entry because of views he has espoused in the course of his scholarly and educational work. An official statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quoted which acknowledged that Dr. Coates Ulrichsen was denied entry because he had “consistently propagated views de-legitimizing the Bahraini monarchy.” Further, the Ministry explained, “The UAE took the view that at this extremely sensitive juncture in Bahrain’s national dialogue it would be unhelpful to allow non-constructive views on the situation in Bahrain to be expressed from within another GCC state.”

Subsequently, on February 26, the police chief of Dubai, Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, told the al-Riyadh newspaper: “Kristian is not welcome here. We blocked him from entering the country to protect its security and stability from his evil ideas.” With comments such as these, the United Arab Emirates is on record as condoning the flagrant violation of basic principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression.

The provost of the AUS informed the LSE on February 21 that he had received orders from the ruler’s office that no discussion of Bahrain was permissible at the upcoming meeting. The LSE issued a statement on February 22 that announced it was calling off its participation in the meeting that it helped to organize due to “restrictions imposed on the intellectual content of the event that threatened academic freedom.” Many of the participants, including Dr. Coates Ulrichsen, were already in transit as the academic conference collapsed.

The implications of this incident are serious and far-reaching. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “This decision [to bar the scholar’s entry] in no way reflects the strong ties with both the AUS and LSE and their academic excellence.” Academic freedom is integral to—indeed, inseparable from—academic excellence. State intervention to silence scholarly interchange is anathema to academic freedom and, in the long run, corrosive of the overall environment for education at universities.

We ask that Dr. Coates Ulrichsen be removed from the “black list” and for assurances that he will be able to travel to the UAE free from restrictions based on the content of his scholarship. We request that you disavow the incendiary remarks of the Dubai police chief as well as the defamatory comments that are being repeated in numerous state-run outlets. We further call upon you to allow all academic conferences to proceed unhindered, whatever their topic or theme. Finally, we encourage you to pledge that no further state interference in scholarly discussion and debate will be tolerated at any university in the United Arab Emirates. These steps are necessary to quell the growing doubts in the international scholarly community about the integrity of the UAE’s numerous partnerships with foreign academic institutions to promote higher education in the Gulf.

Sincerely,

Peter Sluglett

MESA President
Visiting Research Professor, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore


cc:

His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister, and Co-Chair of the Higher National Security Council (fax +971 04 353 1974)

His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research (fax +971 02 631 3778-Abu Dhabi; +971 04 299 4535-Dubai)

His Excellency Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior (fax +971 04 398 1119)

His Excellency Humaid Mohammed Obeid al Qattami, Minister of Education (fax +971 03 7611198)

His Excellency Abdulrahman Ghanem Almutaiwee, Ambassador of the UAE to the UK (Fax +44 207 581 9616)

Ambassador Dominic Jermey, Ambassador of the UK to the UAE (fax in Dubai Consul +971 4 309 4301; phone in Abu Dhabi Embassy +971 2 610 100)

Dr. Peter Heath, Chancellor, American University of Sharjah (pheath@aus.edu)

Dr. Mark Rush, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, American University of Sharjah (mrush@aus.edu)

Dr. Craig Calhoun, Director, London School of Economics (c.calhoun@lse.ac.uk)

Dr. George Gaskell, Pro-Director, Resources and Planning, London School of Economics (g.gaskell@lse.ac.uk)

Dr. Fawaz Gerges, Director Middle East Center, London School of Economics (f.gerges@lse.ac.uk)

His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bahrain (phone +973 1722 7555)

Ursula Lindsey, Middle East Correspondent, Chronicle of Higher Education (ulindsey@mac.com)
____________
*The following letter was issued by the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA).

An education in occupation

An education in occupation

Cost of War comments: 
Iraq has a history rich in contributions to various academic fields, and its universities were the envy of the Middle East thirty years ago. In the early years of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the education system in Iraq was well resourced, globally connected, secular and open to women.  University education was free and literacy levels rose from 52 percent in 1977 to 80 percent in 1987.  The near collapse of Iraq’s education system was the culmination of a process of decline that gathered pace with the international sanctions regime of the 1990s, culminating in the war of 2003 and its aftermath.  Iraqi universities were stripped clean not only of cultural artifacts like books but also of the basic infrastructural items that enabled them to function at all. Due to international sanctions following the 1991 Gulf War, foreign bureaucrats blocked requests for education materials and resources. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, museums and university libraries were looted and many of their cultural artifacts and documents destroyed, despite earlier pleas from the Pentagon’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance to protect cultural heritage sites in Iraq. Jerry Bremer’s DeBaathification process, initiated in 2003, led to the removal of half the intellectual leadership in academia regardless of whether or not they truly believed in the Baath party.

Many professors were kidnapped and assassinated during the violence that followed the US invasion.   While the exact number of academics killed is difficult to determine, estimates by journalists range between 160 and 380 by 2006.  Female students have meanwhile become targets of threats and intimidation by fundamentalist militia groups. In just three decades, Iraq’s universities, reputedly the best in the Islamic world, were effectively destroyed. 

In 2004, John Agresto, the US Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Education, assessed the rebuilding needs of devastated Iraqi universities.  He requested from Congress $1.2 billion even though the UN and World Bank had estimated it would take almost $2 billion to “ensure minimal quality standards of teaching and learning.” Nonetheless, Agresto received  $8 million, less than 1 percent of what he had asked for.

Far from the battlefield, American universities have paid a less visible price during the post-9/11 wars. The university system places greater emphasis on military research than it did prior to 9/11 and, as a result, diverts students from careers and researchers from other pressing projects they might pursue. Instead of tackling considerable public health problems such as diabetes and heart disease that kill large numbers of Americans, resources have been skewed towards a preoccupation with bioterrorism (which has killed five Americans since 9/11).

The war in Iraq harmed the Iraqi and American systems in different ways, resulting in the complete degradation of the Iraqi education system and a reallocation of research labor away from important health and other social problems in the United States.

*****
As the last American soldiers left Iraq in December, so, too, did many of the journalists who had covered the war, leaving little in the way of media coverage of post-war Iraq. While there were some notable exceptions — including two fine articles by MIT’s John Tirman that asked how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the US invasion — overall the American press published few articles on the effects of the occupation, especially the consequences for Iraqis.

An Academic’s work provides some insight into the state of Iraqi universities. 

Hugh Gusterson, an anthropologist, is a professor of anthropology and sociology at George Mason University. His expertise is in nuclear culture, international security, and the anthropology of science. He has conducted considerable fieldwork in the United States and Russia, where he studied the culture of nuclear weapon scientists and antinuclear activists. Two of his books encapsulate this work–Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War (University of California Press, 1996) and People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex (University of Minnesota Press, 2004). He also coedited Why America’s Top Pundits Are Wrong (University of California Press, 2005) and the sequel, The Insecure American (University of California Press, 2009). Previously, he taught in MIT’s Program on Science, Technology, and Society.

  

What Happens when a Leftist Philosopher Discovers God?

What Happens when a Leftist Philosopher Discovers God?

by PETER BERGER

Society is the social science journal superbly edited by Jonathan Imber. In its fall issue it carries an article by Philippe Portier (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris), entitled “Religion and Democracy in the Thought of Juergen Habermas”. Coincidentally, in a recent issue of the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Habermas is on a list of German celebrity intellectuals who pop up continuously in the media. (The list includes Margot Kaessmann, the Protestant bishop who resigned after being caught driving under the influence. Curiously, she only became a celebrity after this unfortunate incident.) Habermas has been a public intellectual (a more polite term for celebrity) for a very long time. I have never been terribly interested in Habermas, but the coincidence made me think about him. Portier’s article does tell an intriguing story. It might be called a man-bites-dog story.
… read Article
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