From the Editor
—Lewis R. Gordon
Lewis Gordon, Editor
During the last week of September 2007, the faculty in the Department of Religion and several colleagues in the College of Liberal Arts were looking forward to a reception that was organized in celebration of the endowed chair that was to be named in honor of Professor Ismail al-Faruqi.
Dr. al-Faruqi, who studied at Harvard University and Indiana University, was a Palestinian-American philosopher and internationally recognized specialist in the study of Islam, ethics, and comparative religious studies. His more than 100 articles and 25 books include Islam (1985) and Christian Ethics: A Systematic and Historical Analysis of Its Dominant Ideas (1968).
Professor Ismail al-Faruqi
Professor al-Faruqi had taught at several universities in North America, including McGill University, before joining the Department of Religion at Temple, where he founded the Islamic Studies program. He and his wife were murdered in their home in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, in 1986.
Professor Emeritus of Religion at Temple
Professor Mahmoud Ayoub, who taught in the Department of Religion at Temple, was instrumental in persuading the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) to donate 1.5 million dollars for the chair. Professor Ayoub retired in January of this year and wished to honor Professor al-Faruqi by assuring that the position in Islamic thought bears his name.
Richard J. Fox, Trustee
The scheduled celebration for establishing the endowed chair was, however, canceled four days before it was to take place and the acceptance of the IIIT funds put on hold by President Anne Weaver Hart. Richard Fox, an influential member of the Board of Trustees, protested against the chair by appealing to accusations of IIIT supposedly having ties with terrorist organizations.
What followed was a series of turns and maneuvers that have attracted international attention to what transpired. The Department of Religion responded by pointing out that the main support for the accusations were from the website Discoverthenetwork.org. That website was created by David Horowitz, who has spearheaded the Academic Bill of Rights initiative and who has been the main spokesperson of, among many efforts of provocation, “Islamofascism Week.”
David Horowitz at the Academic Freedom Hearings at Temple, January 9–10, 2006
On that website, Mr. Horowitz warns his readers of a Left Wing Conspiracy that includes, among his list of supposedly nefarious organizations, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Frustrated by the failure of the university to give a definite response of accepting or rejecting the donation, IIIT withdrew its offer in December. Although IIIT, along with many Islamic organizations in the United States, had been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, no charges were brought against it.
The University’s administration was, however, waiting at first for an assessment from the Anti-Defamation League and a committee of university advisors.
After the IIIT withdrew its offer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Jewish Exponent, and The Temple News offered accounts of what unfolded. The Temple Association of University Professionals (TAUP), the faculty union, initiated an investigation of what transpired.
President Hart, in a meeting with the Faculty Senate on January 24, 2008, stated that she withheld accepting the grant because she was awaiting a conclusion on the charges of IIIT’s alleged links with and support of terrorist organizations but not because of its Muslim identity. For example, an open-rank position for the study of Islam was approved by the administration.
Joyce Lindorff, Vice-President of the TAUP
and Associate Professor,
Boyer College of Music and Dance
In her queries with President Hart, the Vice-President of the TAUP, Dr. Joyce Lindorff (Esther Boyer College of Music and Department of Dance), stressed the importance of academics making decisions over academic matters and that President Hart and other members of the administration may not have been aware of Richard Fox and other board members’ ties to David Horowitz and conspiratorial hate websites such as FrontPage, Discoverthenetwork, and Campus Watch, each of which has been fomenting witch hunts against professors on American campuses.
President Hart was distressed to learn that Richard Fox sits on the Board of Governors of the Middle East Forum, which runs Campus Watch. That group regards blocking the donation as one of its victories. Here is what Campus Watch posted regarding the withdrawal of the funds for the chair:
Had Mahmoud Ayoub been allowed to head a newly endowed Islamic studies program at Temple University it would have represented an opportunity for the IIIT to place a trojan horse spreading Islamism inside a respected educational institution. This level of cunning and duplicity epitomizes the essence of stealth jihadism.
In “How the West Could Lose,” Middle East historian Dr. Daniel Pipes notes, "Should Islamists get smart and avoid mass destruction, but instead stick to the lawful, political, non-violent route, and should their movement remain vital, it is difficult to see what will stop them."
Temple University deserves recognition and is to be commended for doing the due diligence in this matter and then making the politically courageous decision to reject IIIT’s tainted offer.
However, to bring Temple’s initial effort to a satisfactory conclusion, we suggest that they immediately launch a probe into professor Ayoub’s background, associations and ties, including his connection to the American Muslims for Constructive Engagement and the IIIT, as we believe there is a very good reason why the Islamists were willing to spend over a million dollars placing him at the head of this now scuttled program.
In addition to waging an attack on the study of Islam at Temple University (and apparently any American university), the Middle East Forum/Campus Watch now sees it fit to launch “a probe into Professor Ayoub’s background, associations and ties….”
President Hart affirmed her commitment to academic freedom and informed the TAUP representatives and the Faculty Senate that she will be bringing this matter to the Board of Trustees.
The Temple Faculty Herald also sent out a request for editorials from the faculty on this and related instances of non-academics applying pressure against support for academic projects and appointments at Temple.
It is not clear how many instances of efforts to support faculty research, faculty lines, or endow centers may have been thwarted by organizations such as the Middle East Forum and FrontPage or any other zealous and politically powerful groups such as The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), founded by Senator Joseph Lieberman and Dr. Lynne Cheney, wife of the Vice President of the United States. What is clear is that such activity and other kinds of harassment of university professionals are happening nationwide (see the list of URL’s to consult below).
The proverbial book is not closed on what has become known at Temple University as “the Islamic Chair issue.” The Temple Faculty Herald encourages faculty to continue voicing their opinions by sending in editorials on many sides of the spectrum on this and related matter for future issues of the paper.
Relevant links for more on this issue and related stories: