Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Money doesn't talk – it lectures

At JihadWatch today, Robert Spencer quotes an article by Paul Stenhouse in the Australian magazine Quadrant noting the establishment of a new “Chair of Islamic Studies and Interfaith Dialogue, within a Centre of Inter-Religious Dialogue at the Fitzroy campus of the Australian Catholic University, Melbourne” with a “thoroughgoing commitment to promoting a certain kind of Islam through a Catholic university, and filtering it through all the faculties to ‘future leaders.’ ” For Stenhouse, this brought to mind “a by-now virtually unobtainable book, Moslems in Europe and America by Ali al-Montasser al-Kattani, published in Iraq in 1976 by Dar Idris. It called for the establishment of chairs of Islamic Studies in universities in Europe, America, the West Indies and other countries, and the setting up of committees of Muslims to select other Muslims to occupy these chairs. At the same time it called for an end to any aid, moral or financial, that might already be being given to established chairs of Islamic Studies held by Christians or Jews.”

This prompts Spencer to wonder whether this could be “the smoking gun of MESA Nostra” (JihadWatch commentator Hugh Fitzgerald’s moniker for the Middle East Studies Association) – that is, the blueprint for the steady encroachment on Middle East Studies Departments by Muslims and their academic toadies. A similar idea was also propounded by London University Institute of Education instructor A.L.Tibawi (described in Robert Irwin’s “Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents,” pp. 319-22) in his “Second Critique of English-Speaking Orientalists and Their Approach to Islam and the Arabs” (London: The Islamic Cultural Centre, 1979). In “Appendix IV: Note on Arab Subventions to English universities, Tibawi wrote that:

“Arab financial assistance to Western universities is a very recent development that came in the wake of the accession of hitherto poor countries to considerable wealth as a result of the exploitation of oil resources. It is very difficult to discover when or how the process started or which universities were the first recipients of money from Arab or Muslim countries.”

After bewailing the scholarship of an unnamed professor at subvention recipient Cambridge University (probably William Montgomery Watt – see Irwin, pp. 267-8) who had the temerity to “publish views offensive to Muslim sentiments, namely that the Qur’an is not a divine revelation but Muhammad’s own composition” and discussing grants then being made to institutions in both the U.K. and the U.S., Tibawi proposed that:

“Since Arab financial assistance is likely to continue and may even increase, the situation calls for a simple suggestion to regularise it ... It would be appropriate to channel all financial assistance through a committee in London (and a similar one in Washington) composed of the ambassador of the country concerned, an Arab academic and the director of the Islamic Cultural Centre. This committee should have the power to review existing arrangements with a view toward confirming them, or recommending changes in the terms or termination. All future applications should be submitted through this committee, which, after due consideration, would refer to the government concerned with the appropriate recommendation. In due course the decision in every case should be communicated through the committee. It must be agreed to put an end to all personal patronage and backdoor approaches, especially by persons known to be unfriendly to Arabs and Islam, and to establish the principle of accountability of the recipients.”

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