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Racism

Separate and Unequal: Is State’s Support to Elite Universities a Human Rights Violation

Separate and Unequal: Is State’s Support to Elite Universities a Human Rights Violation

By Ahmed E Souaiaia*

Abstract: On May 11, 2019, the US federal government indicted 50 individuals, charging them with bribery and fraud in a widespread college admission scandal involving wealthy parents, coaches, administrators, and business executives, paying bribes to buy their children’s way into the nation’s elite schools. For weeks thereafter, the public discourse had become engaged primarily with the action of the individuals, secondarily with some schools’ administrators, but not with the role played by the State. I argue that the evidence unearthed for these cases point to a human rights violation because the State has actively participated in perpetuating inequality and economic disparity.

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First, for clarity purposes, I shall define key terms and concepts. I use the word “State” to refer to the modern nation-state governing power, as a legal person that is in social contract with society, which authorizes (through a public mandate, electoral or otherwise) it to assume legal monopoly on the use of violence and taxation and the judicious use thereof. I also define human rights as claims by members of society against the State when the State abuses its powers or fails to treat citizens equitably and fairly. As such, human rights claims are above and beyond criminal and civil claims. With these definitions in mind, let’s consider the facts related to the so-called elite schools’ admissions and to the scandal that ensued and draw appropriate conclusions. Continue reading

Jonathan Eig’s hit job on the character and legacy of Muhammad Ali

Jonathan Eig’s hit job on the character and legacy of Muhammad Ali

Dave Davies, guest-host of NPR’s Fresh Air, introduced his guest and subject this way: 

Muhammad Ali may be the most famous American athlete ever. His life is the subject of books, documentaries and feature films. But our guest, writer Jonathan Eig, says he was surprised to discover no one had ever done a complete, unauthorized biography. Eig spent four years researching Ali’s life, speaking with his three surviving wives, his managers and hundreds of others.

The author, Jonathan Eig, tried to build credibility for his work thus describing it:

Based on more than 500 interviews with almost all of Ali’s surviving associates, and enhanced by the author’s discovery of thousands of pages of FBI records and newly uncovered Ali interviews from the 1960s, this is the stunning portrait of a man who became a legend.

The conclusion of this “meticulous” research, according to Mr. Eig, reveals that Muhammad Ali was “a flawed rebel who loved attention.” 

Here are some basic facts that readers (and listeners) ought to remember. First, Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3rd 2016–just two ago. Second, the book “Ali: A Life” was published October 3, 2017. Third, the author claims that he spend four years researching his subject matter, Ali. This means that work on the book must have concluded sometime late 2016 or early 2017 to allow for the technical review and production of the manuscript. That would suggest that Mr. Eig was doing his research about Muhammad Ali when Ali was alive. But Ali’s perspectives are absent in this work because the author did not sit down with the subject of his book. The book is filled instead with psychoanalytical statements, hyperboles, assumptions, and baseless interpretations intended to smear a figure towering above even those who hated him. Mr. Eig could not have sat face to face with Ali because Mr. Eig is a coward who would like to profit from telling a fake life story about a giant with the courage and sacrifices that no one can dispute–
after his death.

Neither Ali nor those who loved Ali claimed that Ali was a saint. To write a book telling the readers just that is most telling about the character of the author and to some extent, NPR staff who gave such an opportunist fame seeker space to delegitimatize a symbol of Black Americans’ struggle for dignity and personhood.

Revisionist history is common. This work gives revisionist historians a bad name. It is especially common for members of the elite to destroy the image of leaders of marginalized racial groups. This work do so without shame and with total lack of sensitivity to the family of the deceased. 
Building negative narratives about Black Muslim Americans is swift. It is also callous. This hit job on the character and legacy of Muhammad Ali, taking place when the dirt of the earth in which Ali’s body is buried is still fresh and when most of the people who loved Ali are still mourning, is offensive and bigoted. This is just another building block in the long history of white elite Americans telling Black Americans who their real leaders ought to be and why the leaders that Black Americans chose are flawed.

 

 

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The Depravity of Racism is Rooted in its Selective Outrage

The Depravity of Racism is Rooted in its Selective Outrage

Reacting to news reports that an attack with chemical weapons took place in the city of Douma (Syria), president Trump tweeted the following:

Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!

 

 

Evidently, Trump’s statement was intended to express outrage: how could someone kill his own people! The outrage, then, justifies attacking Syria. This selective outrage is present in the minds and attitudes of all individuals who suffer from the pathology of supremacism, be it race-, ethnicity-,  religion-based supremacy.
They would like us to believe that not all human lives are equal and they would jump on every opportunity to qualify the loss of life, the cause of the loss of life, the method of taking away life, and the kind of person losing her life.

In this particular case, Trump thinks that when the head of a state kills his own people, that is worse than when the head of another state kills people of another state. It explains the joy he feels as he brags about unleashing a salvo of “nice, new, “smart!” weapons.” It does not matter if these “beautiful” weapons kill people, as long as they are killing people of other nations. It explains the lack of remorse of launching an illegal war on Iraq under false pretext in 2003, killing nearly a million people. It explains the peace of mind European leaders felt when they colonized African nations and killed millions of people.

What ought to make Americans of diverse backgrounds uneasy is this: when supremacists say “own people”, they don’t mean “own citizen.” They mean “own kind.” That means, killing Black people would not qualify as “killing one’s own people” therefore it should not elicit outrage. That means, killing Native American people would not qualify as “killing one’s own people”, therefore it should not provoke outrage. That means, killing Hispanic people would not qualify as “killing one’s own people”, therefore it should not prompt outrage. That means, killing Muslim-Americans would not qualify as “killing one’s own people”, therefore it should not educe outrage. That means, killing any non-White people would not qualify as “killing one’s own people”, therefore it should not cause outrage.

The Syrian people, who endured seven years of brutal war, lost hundreds of thousands of their family members, sustained mental and physical injury may not be so eager to live through another barrage of “nice, new, “smart!” weapons” that can only increase their suffering.

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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.

Mother to Trump: My daughter’s death will not be used to further this insane persecution of innocent people

Mother to Trump: My daughter’s death will not be used to further this insane persecution of innocent people

The mother of a slain British backpacker wrote a scathing letter to Trump after her daughter’s killing in Australia appeared on the White House’s list of 78 underreported terror attacks.

“My daughter’s death will not be used to further this insane persecution of innocent people,”  Rosie Ayliffe said.

This White House does not have a problem with terrorism if the perpetrators are not “radical Islamic extremists” Just as the administration was implementing its Muslim Ban, a mosque in Canada was attacked, killing seven people. The administration did not even comment on it, let alone condemn it.
The attack was ignored by the White House although the Canadian government classified it as an act of terror.

























Why the Muslim Ban cannot be justified by national security concerns?

Why the Muslim Ban cannot be justified by national security concerns?

The White House justified its ban on Muslims coming from seven countries by citing potential threat of terrorism and national security. The facts do not support that argument. 

First, it is a fact that none of the terrorists who actually carried out attacks in the United States since 2001 has had any connections to countries listed by the White House.  

White House officials could argue that the wars in Iraq and Syria  attracted and trained new terrorists and therefore the list reflects that new development. That logic, too, can be refuted by facts and figures. The majority of the fighters who joined al-Qaeda and its derivatives in Syria and Iraq came from countries other than the ones sanctioned by this White House.  


By cross-referencing the two sets of data, it becomes clear that more terrorists had come from Saudi Arabia than from any other country. Yet, Saudi Arabia is not mentioned by the White House on its list of countries with potential threat of terrorism. Moreover, and considering the passage of legislation by Congress (JASTA), which candidate Trump supported, allowing families of 9/11 victims to seek justice from Saudi Arabian citizens and officials for any possible complicity in terrorist attacks on Americans, the exclusion of Saudi Arabia is odd. Clearly, there is some bizarre logic at play in determining which country to target by this Muslim ban that splits families, endangers lives already at risk, and violate terms of treaties and conventions ratified by the United States.

The Ban on Muslims is motivated by prejudice, politics, and xenophobia, not by legitimate security concerns. Muslims from rich nations, such as Saudi Arabia, were excluded from the ban while Muslims from poor countries like Yemen are banned. This practice is consistent with this White House’s position that equates being “rich” to being “smart,” and developing oppressive policies guided by this new form of racism, where being wealthy is equated to being innately virtuous. The ban targets the most vulnerable and if it is allowed to stand, more dis-empowered social groups, at home and abroad, will be victims of discriminatory executive orders and arbitrary measures from an administration that, based on its actions thus far,  has little concern for due process, the rule of law, constitutional limits, and human rights.

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Links to statements made by leaders of major US universities in response to the January 28, 2017 Executive order barring Muslims from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entry to the United States:

Boston University 
Brandeis University
Brown University
California Institute of Technology
Carnegie Mellon University
Case Western Reserve University
Columbia University
Cornell University
Duke University
Emory University
Harvard University
Indiana University
Iowa State University
The Johns Hopkins University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michigan State University
New York University
Northwestern University
The Ohio State University
The Pennsylvania State University
Princeton University
Purdue University
Rice University
Rutgers University – New Brunswick
Stanford University
Stony Brook University – The State University of New York
Texas A&M University
Tulane University
The University of Arizona
University at Buffalo – The State University of New York
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Davis
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, San Diego
University of California President and Chancellors 
The University of Chicago
University of Colorado, Boulder
The University of Florida
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Kansas
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
University of Missouri
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Oregon
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
University of Rochester
University of Southern California
The University of Texas at Austin
University of Virginia
University of Washington
The University of Wisconsin-Madison
Vanderbilt University
Washington University in St. Louis
Yale University

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.

The Foundation of Supremacy: Racializing Human Acts

The Foundation of Supremacy: Racializing Human Acts

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

I vividly remember the day of the Oklahoma bombing. Not because of the news reports—I was too busy working and with school to watch the news. Consequently, I was not aware of what had happened that day until late in the afternoon. But as I walked into my workplace after a long day of school, I felt the stares and tension from almost all my co-workers. Many ignored me when I greeted them. While waiting for my shift to start, I entered the break room where a friend sat reading the newspaper. It took him a moment before awkwardly asking me what I thought of the “terror attack on the Murrah Building in Oklahoma.” I thought, “Terror? Murrah? Oklahoma?

As a new transplant who knew very little English at that time, none of those words made sense to me. I certainly did not understand the definition or meaning of “terror.” I definitely did not know the meaning of “Murrah” or what the “Murrah Building” was. And I did not know where or what is “Oklahoma.”


I remember a widely distributed line from one of the so-called “terrorism experts” in a local paper the next day. It read along these lines: “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it is probably a duck – this looks like Islamic terror.” Then, everything started to make sense. If a bomb explodes anywhere in the world, look around and check on the Ahmeds around you: if they did not do it, they should know something about it. The Ahmeds of the world are – at least in the eyes of my co-workers that day – terrorists, potential terrorists, or experts on terrorism. In all cases, being an Ahmed, in the eyes of my co-workers, I deserved the accusing looks and cold shoulders, if not a direct accusation.

Days later, when the actual bomber was identified and his associates were revealed, no one asked my friend Tim about it, though he is a Christian with hyper-critical views of the government and politicians who he thought were jeopardizing the true American values. In the end, it was very easy for the media to make Tim the Bomber unique and so unlike any other American Tim.

I revisited these thoughts and feelings the week another non-Muslim terrorist attacked in Norway. This time it was not because of the accusing looks and cold shoulders, but rather because some media outlets thought that I was an expert on terrorism and I should have something to say about the Norway bombing and shooting. As if being an academic with some research expertise on Islam and the Middle East qualified me to be an expert on terrorism. Those questions suggested that Islam and terror are one and the same.

American media and government agencies have contributed to this racialization of violence. People with no credentials except a minimum proficiency in Islamic studies and an ardent zeal for constructing a threatening image of Islam have suddenly become experts on terrorism. They are called upon by the Defense Department, the State Department, the media, and the public to explain the connections and workings of “Islamic terrorism.”

One example of a self-proclaimed expert is Robert Spencer, whose biography lists his connection to popular and official channels of power and influence. He publishes books and articles at the same rate I change my socks. His outline of Islam and its portrayal as a violent threat to the Western way of life inspired the brutal murders in Norway. The connection is not an assumption, but is based on the words of the confessed bomber/shooter. 

Importantly, the connection can be derived from Mr. Spencer’s own logic. In one of the Frequently Asked Questions on his website, Mr. Spencer states:
Q: Why should I believe what you say about Islam?
RS: Pick up any of my books, and you will see that they are made up largely of quotations from Islamic jihadists and the traditional Islamic sources to which they appeal to justify violence and terrorism.
In the Norwegian terrorist manifesto, Mr. Spencer was quoted 64 times. Using Mr. Spencer’s logic, it follows that since his writings are one of the main sources of the Norwegian terrorist, they served to justify violence. This is proof that in Mr. Spencer’s writings, violent haters, racists, and bigots find inspiration.

Mr. Spencer’s logic, the practices of Reverend Jones, the ideology of the British E.D.L, the legal war waged on Muslims by David Yerushalmi, and the agenda of David Horowitz runs a continuous line of hatred toward specific religious and/or ethnic groups. These individuals and institutions have found in the terror attacks of 9-11 the perfect cover to publicly unleash what would otherwise be recognizably bigoted views.

Mr. Spencer and his colleagues may argue that being quoted by a terrorist is not evidence of their guilt. It is not. But it is evidence of a direct connection between the audiences that they inspire and the ideology that they promote. It is evidence of where they belong in the spectrum of social and political discourses. They belong in the extreme. Mr. Spencer’s ideology mirrors the ideology of al-Qaeda’s ideologues. After all, those self-declared protectors of Islamic culture are saying the same thing, with minor adaptations: modern day crusaders (mirroring Jihadists in the anti-Muslim lexicon) are a threat to their way of life and must be fought on all fronts. 

While Mr. Spencer points to about 1% of Muslims living in any Western country as inassimilable aliens that are a threat to Western way of life, al-Qaeda ideologues point to the Western armies in Muslim countries as forward bases of the Christian and Zionist crusades. The two camps share the ideology of exclusion. They racialize victimhood the same way they racialize ethnic and religious supremacy. They are two sides of the same page, which catalogues the ideals of supremacism.

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