Torturing the Truth at Duke Divinity

Should we automatically accept -- at face value -- Duke University's first Muslim chaplain, Abdullah Antepli, as part of an emerging loyal, moderate American Islam, simply because he insists that we do so?

Perhaps not, when all his words and associations are taken into account.  He seems eager to join hands with others -- Muslim, Christian, and secular -- who express animosity toward this country and Western societies in general.  And at one recent event, he attacked the citizens of his adopted country for their failure to blindly assume Muslim immigrants mean them well.

"Being a Muslim in the United States is another form of torture, a psychological torture, an emotional torture, and it's just getting worse," he declared at the "Toward a Moral Consensus against Torture" conference at Duke University on March 25-26.  The conference attracted approximately 100 left-wing academics, theologians, and members of the local activist community for some old-fashioned America-bashing.

Antepli revealed that this so-called "torture" is not the result of overt acts directed at him, but comes from his perception that many Americans are antagonistic to Muslims and expect Muslims "to prove our loyalty to this land."  Such demands to "prove that we belong" stem from a "great level of arrogance," he added.

Antepli's condemnation of America did not stop there.  He claimed that our government's use of torture (if that is what we have indeed been doing) is merely a "symptom of a larger pathological issue."  American society, he contended, has been suffering from a "psychological, spiritual, moral disease."

No mention was made about how Islamic societies compare in this regard.  If America is a "sick" society -- and Islamic societies are healthy -- then why are Muslims flocking to our shores in large numbers?

Antepli was joined at the torture conference by keynote speaker Ingrid Mattson.  She is the director and dominant figure in Islamic Studies at Hartford Seminary, where Antepli received his master's degree (and where he continues to be a doctoral candidate).  Given the small size of the faculty in that program, her prominence, and their common interests, it is hard to imagine that she had no influence on him.

If so, what an influence she would be, for she has gained national notoriety as a defender of some of Islam's unsavory aspects. She was recently dubbed by the New York Times as "perhaps the most noticed figure among American Muslim women."  She is the former president of the Islamic Society of North America, which was named by the U.S. Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in a case involving a charity that funneled money to Hamas.  Many sources say the ISNA is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, the wellspring of terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Al Qaeda.

At Duke, Mattson focused on the immorality of U.S. interrogation techniques.  Many of her charges rested on fallacies.  For instance, she equated unauthorized crimes committed by a few rogue soldiers in Afghanistan who killed and mutilated civilians for sport -- for which they will be severely punished by the U.S. military -- with government-approved interrogation that leaves no permanent damage. 

Such inaccuracies seem to be deliberate subterfuge: since the U.S. interrogation techniques do not stir revulsion by themselves, she tied the gruesome acts of a few soldiers who illegally went beyond the pale of civilized warfare to sophisticated, by-the-book interrogation efforts. 

Yet, her comments were standard fare at "Toward a Moral Consensus against Torture."  Participation in such events raises flags about where loyalties lie for everybody, not just Muslims.  Speakers cited a predictable litany of supposed abuses committed by the U.S. in the War on Terror and elsewhere.

This was hardly the first time Antepli approvingly shared the podium with questionable company at Duke.  Two years ago, he was one of the main contributors to an Israel-bashing "teach-in," at which he appeared to be complicit with two of his fellow speakers who denied the legitimacy of Israel's existence and justified terrorist acts aimed at Israel.

If Antepli truly is a loyal American, perhaps he should forgo associations with the radical left and with academics such as Mattson who are strongly identified with radical Islam.  Otherwise, as a man of faith, he should be able to forgive us our suspicions.

Jay Schalin is Senior Writer at the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.  He wrote this article for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
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