Academia Bows to Islamic Terror

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, but not everyone shares in the cost.

Even fewer comprehend that the threat to our democracy is more likely to come from the internal erosion of our civic institutions than from external forces.

The most corrupting influence on our democracy is rooted in political correctness in our education system. Whereas there once was an emphasis on civic education as a means to imbue the citizenry with the values of the Constitution, that emphasis has long been diminished.

From elementary school through college, basic requirements in American history and civics have been replaced by political trendiness.

Consequently, it is not surprising that our educational system has produced generation after generation of college administrators who suffer from an embarrassing ignorance of the fundamental political values of the republic.

These present-day Gletkins (the character who embodied the ideology of Stalinism in Arthur Koestler’s classic, Darkness at Noon) have been suckled on a steady diet of political correctness, and so it follows that they are quick to trample basic liberty when it gets in the way of political expediency.

If any institution in our society should embrace the value of the free marketplace of ideas, it should be our colleges and universities. In 1964, students at the University of California, Berkeley launched “The Free Speech Movement” to protest campus restrictions on political speech.

Today, more than half a century later, students on the same campus mobilize to enforce the heckler’s veto or resort to violent confrontation to disrupt or prevent lectures from people who hold political positions with which they disagree.

No longer places for free inquiry or the challenge of dissonant ideas, colleges are now temples of intellectual conformity unworthy of our democracy.

No matter how long you have taught a subject or how solid your credentials, the modern-day Gletkins are waiting to ensnare you for the slightest manifestation of “mechanistic thinking” that threatens the prevailing dogma.

For some twenty-three years, Professor Nicholas Damask has been teaching a course about World Politics, with a section on Islamic terrorism, at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona.

Damask holds a doctorate based on a dissertation about terrorism. He is one of the few political scientists anywhere to have done so. 

Professor emeritus Abraham H. Miller was on his dissertation committee and found him to be a serious, talented, and insightful scholar.

For twenty-three years, no one complained about the course. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Professor Damask’s students said they would take a course from him again.

But this year, one student took exception to three quiz questions that related the terrorism of radical Islam to Islamic religious writings. 

The grievance was not in the manner of a formal complaint but rather as a posting on social media.

As if to prove that Islam is not the religion of peace, the posting drew death threats from some Muslims against Professor Damask and his family.

The irony was lost not only on them but also on Professor Damask’s superiors who, without the professor’s permission, issued a groveling apology in his name and proclaimed that he would be appendaged to some unnamed imam for reeducation on the true relationship between Islam and violence -- as if one universal explanation really existed.

All religions, including Judaism and Christianity, produce factions that vary in their interpretation of holy texts. Similarly, radical Islam finds in Islamic texts what it wants to see.

To note such relationships is a matter of fact, not a denigration of any religion. Indeed, it appears American Muslims understood this because the threats against Professor Damask largely came from overseas.

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education created to defend academic freedom, came to Professor Damask’s aid. “FIRE sent an urgent letter to SCC… outlining the college’s free speech and academic freedom missteps and demanding that it abandon any suggestion that it will investigate or suppress his teaching.”

Responsible heads prevailed. Dr. Steven R. Gonzales, interim chancellor of the county community college system, recognizing that Professor Damask’s First Amendment rights had been trampled in a rush to judgment, issued a public apology -- a rare and laudable event in the insular and self-righteous world of academia.

The imbroglio was, in part, unnecessary from inception. If Professor Damask’s superiors had a fundamental understanding of the First Amendment, this episode would not have occurred.

The negligence of such people makes the vigilance that preserves our liberty all the more expensive. The ensuing question is:  What price should they pay?

Paul Miller is president and executive director of the Haym Salomon Center. Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.

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