Showing posts with label Education and Communication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Education and Communication. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Fātima Al-Fihri the founder of the oldest university in the world that is still operating without interruption

    Tuesday, July 25, 2023   No comments

The Guinness World Records classifies Al-Qarawiyyin University in Fez, Morocco, as the oldest university in the world that is still operating without interruption, despite the scientific controversy that makes it compete with al-Zaytouna Mosque and University of Tunisia (which began its lessons since 737 AD / 120 AH) for the title of the oldest university in the world.

The merit of the establishment of the "Al-Qarawiyyin" is attributed to Fātima Al-Fihri, who founded the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque in the mid-ninth century AD / mid-third century AH, but the accounts of historians who witnessed the era of Al-Qarawiyyin University after the era of Fatima, such as Ibn Khaldun and Abi Al-Hassan Ali bin Abi Zar' Al-Fassi, do not suggest that it was established as a university, but rather as a mosque built by Fatima with her money from stone and mud after she bought the land that was allocated to the mosque and the university later from her great inheritance.

The mosque and the university

The Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque was considered the oldest university because it did not go through the stumbling stages experienced by the institutes of Al-Zaytouna, Al-Azhar and Al-Mustansiriya Scientific School, and the "Qarawiyyin" remained far from the events of the capitals of the East and their great transformations, which preserved for it the continuity of its system and traditions, and dispensed with its endowments and spacious lands from the support of the authorities and the countries that passed through it.

The answer to the question of the time of the beginning of teaching in the villagers does not seem easy, but it certainly resembles the study of the many histories of mosques that combined the function of worship and prayer with being a center for education and teaching.

And the historian of the 14th century AD, Ali Al-Jaznai, believes in his book “Reaping the Flower of Myrtle in Building the City of Fez,” that the beginning of the villagers’ transformation into a university came with the scholars who established the villagers’ qiblah, and it was known about the poet Bakr Al-Tahrti and Imam Yahya the Fourth that they held scientific councils in the villagers.

Looking at the founding dates of European universities (Italian Bologna in the mid-12th century, and the Sorbonne at the beginning of the 13th century), Al-Qarawiyyin already appears to be the oldest university in the world, and the story of its founding is similar to the story of the Sorbonne, Bologna and Oxford universities, which also began teaching theology by monks before gradually developing into ancient universities, according to Moroccan historian Abd al-Hadi al-Tazi, author of the book "The Mosque of Al-Qarawiyyin".

Fatima Al-Fihri, the mother of the children

There are only limited sources about the life and story of tima Al-Fihri, including what was written by the historian Ibn Abi Zar’, who lived in the 14th century AD, in his book “Rawdat Al-Qirtas”, and described the land that tima bought and built the mosque on.

Ibn Abi Zaraa narrates the journey of the Tunisian villagers’ delegation to the Idrisid king, Yahya I, and their settlement around the slope of the villagers, including the “blessed woman tima,” the daughter of the Tunisian Arab man, Muhammad bin Abdullah Al-Fihri. Fatima was with her sister Mary, and inherited a huge fortune that she spent on charitable work and building the mosque.

And Ibn Khaldun mentions in the 14th century on the authority of Fatima after he transmits what Ibn Abi Zaraa narrated, referring to the transfer of the Friday sermon to the Al-Qarawiyyin mosque and the crowding of the surrounding area, and Ibn Khaldun follows, "as if the kings' intentions were alerted afterwards."

The historian Abd al-Hadi al-Tazi saw in his study, which was originally a doctoral thesis on the al-Qarawiyyin mosque, that the construction of the mosque began during the reign of Sultan Daoud bin Idris based on a historical document dating back to the Idrisid period that was found during modern restoration work.

Although he does not know much about tima's life from ancient sources, Ibn Abi Zaraa and Ibn Khaldun narrated the story briefly, and the first explained the story of building the mosque from mud, gravel and yellow sand, and narrated the digging of the well in the courtyard of the mosque and Fatima's abundant spending on construction so that it would be a continuous good deed that would be rewarded in the afterlife.

After her departure, the Almoravid, Almohad, and Marinid states took care of the mosque, expanded it, and renovated its construction.

Transfer to university

This care taken by the rulers to win a moral status by supporting science and scholars contributed to the prosperity of the university and the formalization of its ancient educational systems, and in this way the mosque gave birth to a university.

Reference began to be made to the unique scientific status of the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque since the 12th century AD, and its library gradually grew through books, donations, endowments, and the efforts of princes to increase its holdings, and Al-Qarawiyyin preserved its value as a center of religious and scientific knowledge in the Islamic world.

Although it is difficult to find an exact date for the mosque’s transformation into a university, some historians believe that the beginning of the transformation was in the Almoravid era (1056-1147 AD), coinciding with the change in the shape of the villagers during the era of the Almoravid state from its previous form, as they built a new platform for the mosque decorated with verses of the Qur’an, while others believe that the real transformation came during the era of the Marinid state, which sought to reform the mosque and build schools around it and enhance their presence, in preparation for the intervention in appointing preachers for the mosque that the notables supervised. manage it.

Al-Qarawiyyin University knew the system of scientific chairs, and endowments were allocated to spend on it. The scientific chair is considered a high-established degree that can be compared to modern academic positions.

The university attracted many scholars and philosophers, including Ibn Baja (d.: 533 AH / 1138 CE according to one of the sayings), Al-Sharif Al-Idrisi (559 AH / 1166 CE), Ibn Rushd (d.: 595 AH / 1198 CE), Musa bin Maimon (d.: 603 AH / 1205 CE), Ibn Khaldun (d.: 808 AH / 1406 CE), as well as the Pope of the Vatican. The French "Sylvester II (940-1003) who studied science in Arabic and is believed to have transferred Arabic numerals to Europe.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Fake images in #IranProtests: Iran's karate woman and the boy who's still alive, Bahrain protesters in Tehran, etc

    Thursday, January 04, 2018   No comments

Since December 28, 2017, a wave of protests has swept Iran. Citizens have broadcast dozens of videos online showing the demonstrations and the resulting police crackdown. As ever in these kinds of situations, there have also been many fake photos and videos circulating, not only on social media but also mistakenly shared by journalists and in mainstream media across the world. The FRANCE 24 Observers team has done a round-up of some of the most widely shared fake images around the Iranian uprising.

    Original article >>

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Google Academics Inc., financial support for academics and policy experts to influence public opinion in favor of Google

    Thursday, July 13, 2017   No comments
Campaign for Accountability (CfA) released a new report, Google Academics Inc., revealing Google’s extensive financial support for academics and policy experts.  CfA identified 329 research papers published between 2005 and 2017 on public policy matters of interest to Google that were in some way funded by the company.

CfA Executive Director, Daniel Stevens, said, “Google uses its immense wealth and power to attempt to influence policy makers at every level. At a minimum, regulators should be aware that the allegedly independent legal and academic work on which they rely has been brought to them by Google.”

Google Academics Inc. examines the contours of Google’s academic influence machine.  For instance, the report reveals that the number of Google-funded studies spiked during periods when its business model was under threat from regulators and when opportunities arose to push for new regulations on its competitors.

Google-funded studies are published by a wide variety of sources, and often blur the line between academic research and paid advocacy.  Reports funded by the company have been authored by academics and economists hailing from some of the nation’s leading law schools and universities, including Stanford, Harvard and MIT, as well as some of the most prestigious universities in Europe, including Oxford, Edinburgh, and the Berlin School of Economics.

Read the report here.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Are European countries planning to censor media outlets they don't like?

    Monday, November 28, 2016   No comments
Underscoring the importance of media outlets, the EU parliament approved a non-legislative resolution aimed at countering what they called hostile state and non-state actors. The resolution ended up equating Russian media with ISIL's. The EU statement on this matter states:
Hostile propaganda against the EU and its member states seeks to distort the truth, provoke doubt, divide the EU and its North American partners, paralyse the decision-making process, discredit the EU institutions and incite fear and uncertainty among EU citizens, says the text.
This is alarming development when considering the many channels of propaganda and disinformation originate in Western countries. It raises the stakes. It proves the importance of media and media literacy in general. But given that some European countries acted to virtually shut down some Russian and Iranian media outlets, Russia Today and PressNews, thos who believe in the freedom of the press should be worried.

Below is the official EU statement:

MEPs sound alarm on anti-EU propaganda from Russia and Islamist terrorist groups

Propaganda pressure on the EU from Russia and Islamist terrorist groups is growing, MEPs warn in a resolution voted on Wednesday. It seeks to distort the truth, incite fear, provoke doubt and divide the EU. To counteract anti-EU campaigns, MEPs suggest reinforcing the EU’s tiny “strategic communication” task force and investing more in awareness raising, education, online and local media, investigative journalism and information literacy.

“I was given the task of describing the propaganda of both state and non-state actors. We have seen many transformations of it. As regards the Russian Federation, the situation is now clear. After its annexation of Crimea and aggression in the eastern part of Ukraine, many countries are fully aware of its disinformation and manipulation“, said rapporteur Anna Fotyga (ECR, PL). “This report, in the course of its preparation, was also a target of hostile propaganda”, she added.

The resolution stresses that the EU needs to counter disinformation campaigns and propaganda from countries, such as Russia, and non-state actors, like Daesh, Al-Qaeda and other violent jihadi terrorist groups.

Hostile propaganda against the EU and its member states seeks to distort the truth, provoke doubt, divide the EU and its North American partners, paralyse the decision-making process, discredit the EU institutions and incite fear and uncertainty among EU citizens, says the text.

Russia seeks to divide

MEPs warn that the Kremlin has stepped up its propaganda against EU since annexing Crimea and waging hybrid war in the Donbass. They note that ”the Russian government is employing a wide range of tools and instruments, such as think tanks [...], multilingual TV stations (e.g. Russia Today), pseudo-news agencies and multimedia services (e.g. Sputnik) [...], social media and internet trolls, to challenge democratic values, divide Europe, gather domestic support and create the perception of failed states in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood”.

The resolution stresses that the “Kremlin is funding political parties and other organisations within the EU” and deplores “Russian backing of anti-EU forces” such as extreme-right parties and populist forces.

Daesh targets the EU

As the EU and its citizens are major targets of Daesh, MEPs call on EU member states to work more closely to protect society from its recruitment drives and enhance resilience against radicalisation. They also suggest developing a narrative to counter Daesh, “including through the empowerment and increased visibility of mainstream Muslim scholars who have the credibility to delegitimise Daesh propaganda.”

Information literacy

To counteract anti-EU campaigns, MEPs suggest investing in awareness raising, education, online and local media, investigative journalism and information literacy, which would empower citizens to analyse media content critically.  It is equally important to adapt communication to specific regions, including access to information in local languages, says the text.

The resolution also suggests deepening EU and NATO cooperation on strategic communication, reinforcing the EU’s 9-strong strategic communication task force and providing more support to boost media resilience in EU neighbourhood countries.

The resolution was approved by 304 votes to 179, with 208 abstentions.

Procedure:  Non-legislative resolution

Saturday, April 02, 2016

While Obama calls Erdogan's treatment of journalists 'very troubling', his body guards attacked journalists calling one "PKK whore"

    Saturday, April 02, 2016   No comments
  Obama: Erdogan treatment of journalists 'very troubling'
President Obama on Friday called out Turkish President Recep Erdogan, saying his policies toward journalists have been "troubling."

During a press conference following the Nuclear Security Summit, Obama was asked if he believed Erdogan is an authoritarian.

“I have expressed this to him directly so it’s no secret, that there are some trends within Turkey that I have been troubled with,” Obama said.

“I am a strong believer in freedom of the press. I’m a strong believer in freedom of religion. I’m a strong believer in rule of law and democracy," he continued. "There is no doubt that President Erdogan has been repeatedly elected through a democratic process, but I think the approach that they’ve been taking towards the press is one that could lead Turkey down a path that would be very troubling.”

On Thursday, a policy discussion featuring the Turkish president at the Brookings Institute was overshadowed by clashes between his security detail and protesters. His bodyguards also reportedly kicked out a Turkish journalist who has been critical of him.  source

The absence of a presidential meeting on Erdogan's trip to the US capital had been glaring. Although there was a statement that the two leaders met, still the lack of media coverage of such meeting and Obama's refusal to schedule a meeting ahead of time spoke loudly about how troubled Obama is with Erdogan's behavior. 

Erdogan's violence against journalists and and regression of the media was on display in DC as well. Erdogan's body guard "aimed a chest-high kick at an American reporter attempting to film the harassment of a Turkish opposition reporter, and another called a female foreign policy scholar a "PKK whore."  Source

Monday, January 18, 2016

Why Al Jazeera America Was Destined to Fail

    Monday, January 18, 2016   No comments
Al Jazeera America never had a chance. Having struggled in vain to attract an audience since it launched in 2013, the cable news channel announced Wednesday that it would shut down come April. “The decision is driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in an increasingly digital world, and because of the current global financial challenges,” CEO Al Anstey said in a staff memo, thereby glossing over all of the operation's actual failures.

Maybe you liked Al Jazeera America's news coverage. More likely, you never watched it. After spending $500 million to buy Al Gore's Current TV and put itself in about 40 million homes, the channel reached a piddly 28,000 prime-time viewers in 2015. CNN, by comparison, reaches around 700,000. That is not the sort of gap you can simply ascribe to a secular decline in cable audiences as people spend more time online. Some of the trouble undoubtedly boiled down to its name. Many Americans were never going to watch a channel created by Al Jazeera, the media network owned by the Qatari government with a reputation (fair or not) for being a smidgen hostile to the U.S.

But if Al Jazeera America's brand was a handicap, its philosophy was a death sentence. The channel was founded on the utterly ill-conceived idea that Americans were starving for sober, “unbiased” hard news coverage. In other words, it made the mistake of offering viewers the programming they claimed to want, instead of the programming that all available evidence suggests they actually enjoy. Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2013, the channel's first CEO, Ehab Al Shihabi, said market research suggested that there were 40 million or 50 million Americans yearning for deep, old-school reportage.  “If we do the kind of reporting that is considered ‘back to the future’—the hard-core journalistic reporting, not biased, not for entertainment, but fact-based—do we have a place? All the research indicates yes,” Al Shihabi later told the Nation. source

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Erdoğan to 1,128 academics: You are not enlightened persons, you are dark

    Tuesday, January 12, 2016   No comments
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has strongly reacted to a petition signed by more than 1,000 local and international academics calling on the Turkish government to end the security operations being committed in southeastern Anatolia and to return to table for talks to resolve the Kurdish issue, describing the signatories as “ignorant.” After an urgent meeting on Jan. 12, the Supreme Education Board (YÖK) announced that legal action would be taken over local academics who have signed the petition. 

Some 1,128 academics from 89 different universities - including foreign scholars like Noam Chomsky, David Harway and Immanuel Wallerstein - signed the petition titled “We won’t be a part of this crime,” which called on Ankara to end the “massacre and slaughter.”

Erdoğan, in an address to Turkish ambassadors gathered for an annual conference, lashed out at the signatories and said human rights violations in the southeast were being committed by terrorists, not by the state.

“Despite all of these facts, this crowd, which calls itself academics, accuses the state through a statement. Not only this, they also invite foreigners to monitor developments. This is the mentality of colonialism,” he said. Likening today’s situation with the Turkish War of Independence, Erdoğan said the country was again facing “treason” from “so-called intellectuals.”

“Hey, you so-called intellectuals! You are not enlightened persons, you are dark. You are nothing like intellectuals. You are ignorant and dark, not even knowing about the east or the southeast. We know these places just like we know our home addresses,” he said, reiterating his position that Turkey’s problem is “not a Kurdish one, but one of terror.” 


Monday, January 11, 2016

Fake Images of Crisis in Syria’s Madaya politically motivated

    Monday, January 11, 2016   No comments
A flurry of new stories surrounding mass starvation in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, once a popular resort destination, have included some shocking images of starving children, and reports of people surviving on grass and tree leaves.
Even the editors here at were briefly taken in, posting a story from the normally dependable al-Jazeera which used photographic “evidence” which turned out to be recycled photos from previous incidents.
Al-Jazeera’s top image of a starving child in that story, for instance, is the same child from a YouTube video in Derna, Syria, way back in May, months before the Madaya siege even began.
His isn’t the only image falsely attributed to the current crisis, with el-Akhbar identifying many of the other most high-profile pictures as having previous origins, one as far back as a 2009 picture of a refugee arriving in Europe, and a photo of a starving infant “in Madaya” dating from early 2014, and the infant shown is trapped in the ISIS-occupied Palestinian refugee camp or Yarmouk.

The shocking nature of the images makes for great press, and many are trying to parlay that into a chance to condemn the Syrian government, their Russian allies, and Hezbollah. While there are crises all over Syria and well-documented suffering that has produced millions of refugees, one would think there would not be a need to manufacture phony stories surrounding recycled pictures. For those looking to hype the crisis-du-jour, however, it seems that asking for real photos of the real situation is just too inconvenient, and it’s easier to just re-brand the first starving child you see.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Judge Permits Professor Steven Salaita's Free Speech Case Against University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to Proceed

    Friday, August 07, 2015   No comments
University’s Attempt to Dismiss Salaita Suit Over “Uncivil” Tweets Rejected by Court                    

August 6, 2015, Chicago, a federal judge rejected efforts to throw out a lawsuit against the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for firing Professor Steven Salaita from a tenured position based on his personal tweets criticizing Israel’s military assault on Gaza last summer.  The university has admitted that it based its decision on Salaita’s tweets, calling them “uncivil.”   The court firmly rejected the university’s claim that it did not have a contract with Professor Salaita, stating, “If the Court accepted the University’s argument, the entire American academic hiring process as it now operates would cease to exist.” The court further rejected the university’s attempt to dismiss Professor Salaita’s First Amendment claims, finding that his tweets “implicate every ‘central concern’ of the First Amendment.”

“Given the serious ramifications of my termination from a tenured professorship to a wide range of people, I am happy to move forward with this suit in the hope that restrictions on academic freedom, free speech, and shared governance will not become further entrenched because of UIUC's behavior,” said Steven Salaita.

The lawsuit, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Loevy & Loevy on Prof. Salaita’s behalf, argues that UIUC violated Salaita’s rights to free speech and due process and breached its employment contract with him. It seeks Professor Salaita’s reinstatement and monetary relief, including compensation for the economic hardship and reputational damage he suffered as a result of the university’s actions. Shortly before the lawsuit was filed, UIUC rejected a recommendation from the university’s own Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) that the university reconsider its decision.

“The court’s ruling clears the way for Professor Salaita to seek redress for the wrongs done by the university, including violating his right to speak freely on issues of public concern without being fired,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood. “The university must finally face the facts of what it has done to Professor Salaita and principles of academic freedom.”  

Today’s ruling comes on the heels of an Illinois state court’s decision in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on June 12 ordering university officials to turn over emails related to Professor Salaita’s firing that they had refused to divulge, as well as a vote by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to censure the university on June 13. The AAUP issued a report in April that concluded UIUC had violated academic freedom and due process.

The university’s leadership has faced increasing nationwide criticism over Salaita’s firing, particularly within the academic community.  Sixteen academic departments of the university have voted no confidence in the UIUC administration, and prominent academic organizations, including the American Historical Association, the Modern Language Association and the Society of American Law Teachers, have publicly condemned the university’s actions. More than 5,000 academics from around the country, including Dr. Cornel West and Angela Davis, have pledged to boycott UIUC, resulting in the cancellation of more than three dozen scheduled talks and conferences at the school. Last September, UIUC students staged a silent walk-out to protest what they said was the university’s silencing of Salaita.

“In its effort to have Professor Salaita’s lawsuit thrown out before discovery into the reasons for its decision, the university’s administration took a number of positions that showed contempt for its constitutional obligations, and raise serious doubts about the university’s commitment to academic freedom and its willingness to honor contractual commitments to its scholars,” said Anand Swaminathan of Loevy & Loevy. “We are extremely pleased that the court has rejected the university’s dubious arguments.”

After a rigorous year-long national search and interview process, the American Indian Studies program at UIUC offered Professor Salaita a tenured faculty position in Fall 2013, which he promptly accepted. Relying on UIUC’s contractual promise, Professor Salaita resigned from his tenured faculty position at Virginia Tech and prepared to move to Champaign. In August 2014, just two weeks before he was due to begin teaching, UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Vice President Christophe Pierre informed Professor Salaita that it had terminated his appointment. He was not given an opportunity to object or be heard.

Read the Ruling; learn more about the Salaita v. Kennedy, et al.

Source: CCR Press release

Thursday, July 16, 2015

WikiLeaks Cables Show a Saudi Obsession With Iran and interference in business of academic institutions around the world

    Thursday, July 16, 2015   No comments
Saudis wanted to fire university president
For decades, Saudi Arabia has poured billions of its oil dollars into sympathetic Islamic organizations around the world, quietly practicing checkbook diplomacy to advance its agenda.

But a trove of thousands of Saudi documents recently released by WikiLeaks reveals in surprising detail how the government’s goal in recent years was not just to spread its strict version of Sunni Islam — though that was a priority — but also to undermine its primary adversary: Shiite Iran.

The documents from Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry illustrate a near obsession with Iran, with diplomats in Africa, Asia and Europe monitoring Iranian activities in minute detail and top government agencies plotting moves to limit the spread of Shiite Islam.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ancient Sea Rise Tale Told Accurately for 10,000 Years

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015   No comments
Aboriginal stories of lost islands match up with underwater finds in Australia

Melbourne, the southernmost state capital of the Australian mainland, was established by Europeans a couple hundred years ago at the juncture of a great river and a wind-whipped bay. Port Phillip Bay sprawls over 750 square miles, providing feeding grounds for whales and sheltering coastlines for brine-scented beach towns. But it’s an exceptionally shallow waterway, less than 30 feet in most places. It’s so shallow that 10,000 years ago, when ice sheets and glaciers held far more of the planet’s water than is the case today, most of the bay floor was high and dry and grazed upon by kangaroos.

To most of us, the rush of the oceans that followed the last ice age seems like a prehistoric epoch. But the historic occasion was dutifully recorded—coast to coast—by the original inhabitants of the land Down Under.

Without using written languages, Australian tribes passed memories of life before, and during, post-glacial shoreline inundations through hundreds of generations as high-fidelity oral history. Some tribes can still point to islands that no longer exist—and provide their original names.

That’s the conclusion of linguists and a geographer, who have together identified 18 Aboriginal stories—many of which were transcribed by early settlers before the tribes that told them succumbed to murderous and disease-spreading immigrants from afar—that they say accurately described geographical features that predated the last post-ice age rising of the seas.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Professor fired for Israel criticism urges University of Illinois to reinstate him

    Wednesday, September 10, 2014   No comments
Steven Salaita, a university professor whose appointment at the University of Illinois was withdrawn last month after he was critical of Israel on Twitter, spoke publicly for the first time on Tuesday, saying he should be reinstated on the grounds of academic freedom.
“I am a passionate advocate for equality, a fair and open-minded instructor, and highly collegial. No legitimate evidence exists for any claims or insinuations to the contrary, which have severely damaged any reputation and my prospects for future employment,” he said.
Salaita, a former tenured professor of English at Virginia Tech, accepted a faculty appointment at the University of Illinois in October 2013 to teach in the American Indian Studies program starting January 2014. But his appointment was revoked in early August, after Salaita posted to Twitter several messages criticising Israel.

“Only Israel can murder around 300 children in the span of a few weeks and insist that it is the victim,” said one. “If Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised,” asked another.
In explaining his dismissal, university officials described his comments as uncivil, saying they represented “disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice”.
Since then, some academics have mounted a boycott of the university, saying it is not the institute’s place to dictate civil discourse. They also claim the university has become too beholden to wealthy donors who they say are informally dictating decisions involving hiring and tenure. Internal emails surfaced last week that suggested the university’s decision to drop Salaita was motivated by threats from wealthy donors.
“‘Civility’ is the new banner of what is expected on college campuses and it’s a frightening reality for those of us who have to figure out what it is to teach under that banner flying over our campuses,” said Robert Warrior, chairman of the American Indian Studies program, who is fighting to get Salaita reinstated.
Late last month, university trustees released a statement saying that Salaita was rejected for the inflammatory nature of his Twitter posts, not his views. “There can be no place for that in our democracy, and therefore, there will be no place for it in our university,” chairman Christopher Kennedy wrote.
However, emails published on Wednesday by the News-Gazette in Champaign-Urbana showed donors threatened to withdraw their financial support if Salaita’s hiring was approved. 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Out of a Job: Gaza war and academic freedom

    Wednesday, August 06, 2014   No comments
By Scott Jaschik
Many faculty job offers (which are well-vetted by college officials before they go out) contain language stating that the offer is pending approval by the institution's board of trustees. It's just a formality, since many college bylaws require such approval.

Not so with a job offer made to Steven G. Salaita, who was to have joined the American Indian studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this month. The appointment was made public, and Salaita resigned from his position as associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. But he was recently informed by Chancellor Phyllis Wise that the appointment would not go to the university's board, and that he did not have a job to come to in Illinois, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

The university declined to confirm the blocked appointment, but would not respond to questions about whether Salaita was going to be teaching there. (And as recently as two weeks ago, the university confirmed to reporters that he was coming.) The university also declined to answer questions about how rare it is for such appointments to fall through at this stage.

Salaita did not respond to numerous calls and emails.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Israel's military censor wanted prior review of the New York Times' article on Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, a missing Israeli officer now believed dead

    Sunday, August 03, 2014   No comments
In the New York Times' August 1 article, "Gaza Fighting Intensifies as Cease-Fire Falls Apart," the newspaper revealed that it was the first time "in more than six years" Israel wanted prior review.

The Times said it didn't fully comply with the order. Instead of sending "a draft of this article," they just "summarized" the section of its article about Goldin in a phone call. The Times's report reads, as of August 2:

"Israel’s military censor informed The New York Times that material related to the missing officer had to be submitted for review, the first such notification in more than six years. International journalists must agree in writing to the censorship system in order to work in Israel. The Times did not send the censor a draft of this article before publication, but summarized over the phone its biographical references to Lieutenant Goldin."

Interestingly, the Huffington Post noted that the Times didn't include that paragraph about the censor until "nearly six hours" after publication, pointing to News Diffs' record of changes to the article. That may have been because the prior review request came after publication for future reports.


Friday, August 01, 2014

American media's new pro-Israel bias: the same party line at the wrong time Evolving conversations on the ground demand probing questions on-air; So why does TV news look like a Netanyahu ad?

    Friday, August 01, 2014   No comments
Here are a few questions you won’t hear asked of the parade of Israeli officials crossing US television screens during the current crisis in Gaza:
  • What would you do if a foreign country was occupying your land?
  • What does it mean that Israeli cabinet ministers deny Palestine’s right to exist?
  • What should we make of a prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who as opposition leader in the 1990s addressed a rally under a banner reading “Death to Arafat” a year after the Palestinian leader signed a peace accord with Israel?
These are contentious questions, to be sure, and with complicated answers. But they are relevant to understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today. They also parallel the issues routinely raised by American journalists with Palestinian officials, pressing to consider how the US would react if it were under rocket fire from Mexico, to explain why Hamas won’t recognise Israel and to repudiate Palestinian anti-Semitism.
But it’s a feature of much mainstream journalism in the US, not just an issue of coverage during the last three weeks of the Gaza crisis, that while one set of questions gets asked all the time, the other is heard hardly at all.
In years of reporting from and about Israel, I’ve followed the frequently robust debate in its press about whether Netanyahu really wants a peace deal, about the growing power of right-wing members inside the Israeli cabinet opposed to a Palestinian state, about the creeping air of permanence to the occupation.
So it has been all the more striking to discover a far narrower discourse in Washington and the notoriously pro-Israel mainstream media in the US at a time when difficult questions are more important than ever. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and a crop of foreign leaders have ratcheted up warnings that the door for the two-state solution is closing, in no small part because of Israel’s actions. But still the difficult questions go unasked.
Take Netanyahu’s appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. The host, Bob Schieffer, permitted the Israeli leader to make a lengthy case for the his military’s ground attack, guiding him along with one sympathetic question after another. Finally, after describing Netanyahu’s position as “very understandable”, Schieffer asked about dead Palestinian civilians – but only to wonder if they presented a public relations problem in “the battle for world opinion”.


Saturday, March 01, 2014

Jeff Bezos and the Imperial Paper; Washington Post’s prestige based on proximity to power

    Saturday, March 01, 2014   No comments
If the United States derived its might primarily from its economic power, the Washington Post would enjoy the same degree of international influence as, say, the Xinhua newspaper of Beijing. The two countries have roughly comparable outputs, with China’s GDP being about 80 percent the size of the US economy when adjusted for purchasing power, according to the IMF.
But a large part of what makes the United States a unique superpower is its role as the world’s military hegemon, reflected in part by its roughly 1,000 overseas bases. (China has none.)
It is this added power emanating from the Pentagon that helps confer an outsize authority to the opinion pages of the capital’s major paper. The Post’s status as a weathervane for the political winds of official Washington makes its views—unlike those of any other paper serving a city of a mere 630,000—virtually required reading for much of the world.

Billionaire Internet mogul Jeff Bezos seemed to understand this when he made his first foray into the industry by acquiring the Post, the go-to newspaper for Beltway policymakers, and not, for example, the Los Angeles Times, which boasts greater daily circulation.
And therein lies one underacknowledged key to understanding the Washington Post editorial board’s foreign-policy stances: As beneficiaries of the prestige and reach that come with worldwide US dominance, board members would just as soon advocate for policies that run counter to US power as they would trade places with their counterparts at, say, the Denver Post.
And yet this bipartisan support for Washington’s supremacy, which the Post mirrors, runs counter to the public will. A Washington Post blog post titled “Team America No Longer Wants to Be the World’s Police” (9/13/13) highlighted two polls showing that by a 2-to-1 margin, the US public disapproves of its government taking “the leading role among all other countries in the world in trying to solve international conflicts,” and disagrees that the US “should be ready and willing to use military force around the world.”


Monday, February 24, 2014

The ‘Islam is different’ argument

    Monday, February 24, 2014   No comments

[This is my last post serializing my just-published article, Religious Law (Especially Islamic Law) in American Courts, 66 Okla. L. Rev. 431 (2014); you can see the posts so far here.]

I have argued that many (though not all) of the things that are condemned as intrusions of Islamic law into American law are actually the applications of traditional American legal principles. Those who believe in equal treatment without regard to religion, I have argued, should extend to Muslims the benefits of those principles just as Christians, Jews and others can take advantage of those principles.
Some, however, have argued that Islam should not be treated the same as those other religions. One line of argument goes so far as to say (in the words of noted televangelist and political figure Pat Robertson) that “Islam is not a religion. It is a political system bent on world domination.”[111]

It’s hard to figure out exactly what the first part of this means. What constitutes a religion for legal purposes can be fuzzy around the edges,[112] but surely Islam — a prominent system of beliefs about God and God’s supposed commands to mankind — must qualify.[113] The argument, I assume, must be that Islam, though it is a religion, is not simply a religion but is also a political ideology and therefore loses its status as a religion for, say, religious accommodation purposes.
But that can’t be right. Many religions, especially many strands of Christianity, are “political system[s]” in the sense that they create an agenda for political action. The conservative Christian political program of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others is one example.[114] The “liberation theology” followed by some liberal Catholics is another.[115]

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Nicholas Kristof gets wrong about public intellectuals

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014   No comments
In the not so distant past, Politico reporter Dylan Byers engaged into a rather public spat with The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates’ contention that Melissa Harris-Perry is “America’s most foremost public intellectual.” Byers offered a list of intellectuals to counter Coates’ claim made up entirely of white men and a singular (deceased) white woman, provoking yet another proper sonning from the Twitterverse. It was telling that Byers couldn’t imagine or embrace the idea that an African-American woman could be a public intellectual. His default model returned to white and male.

A similar myopia resurfaced this past Sunday in a NYT column penned by Nicholas Kristof bemoaning the “absence” of academics in the public square.


Monday, February 17, 2014

The role of academics and public debates

    Monday, February 17, 2014   No comments
By As'ad AbuKhalil

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrote an article for the New York Times in which he implored academics to play a bigger role in public life and debates. Kristof is right about that although I disagree with all his other diagnoses and prescriptions. It is remarkable that academics in the US have no connection or interactions with the public at large. In fact, academics are increasingly trained and socialized to disdain communication and interaction with the masses. Academics pride themselves on perfecting academic jargon to such a degree that style and form become more important than substance. There are social science fields that are more guilty than others: political science maybe the worst as the the field becomes more and more quantitative and the illusion of “science” in politics (something that Hannah Arendt frowned upon) has led to borrowing theories and paradigms from economics to attain more academic respectability.

Academia is now more detached and conservative than ever. Academics in previous decades were able to speak to one another and also to the public at large. C.Wright Mills wrote for the academic field in which he was a part of at Columbia while being able to provide the public with powerful tools to understand the American political system away from the assumptions and presuppositions of the government and its extensions in the various establishments of public life. One can’t think of another example like Herbert Marcuse when his book, One Dimensional Man, electrified youths around the world. Today, academics rise in their ability to speak to the government and to appease the government. Academics who argued that George W. Bush was doing a great job in Iraq all along—like Fouad Ajami and Kenaan Makiyya (although the latter is not an academic despite being rewarded with an academic chair for his political stances that were in synch with American Zionists)—received wide platforms to speak to the public at large but not to challenge or stimulate. They spoke to the public to serve the propaganda cause of a sitting president. Similarly, Robert Putnam (with his Bowling Alone—the article than the book) received tremendous attention and receptivity in government circles.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How Iowa Flattened Literature: With CIA help, writers were enlisted to battle both Communism and eggheaded abstraction. The damage to writing lingers

    Wednesday, February 12, 2014   No comments
By Eric Bennett
Did the CIA fund creative writing in America? The idea seems like the invention of a creative writer. Yet once upon a time (1967, to be exact), Paul Engle, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, received money from the Farfield Foundation to support international writing at the University of Iowa. The Farfield Foundation was not really a foundation; it was a CIA front that supported cultural operations, mostly in Europe, through an organization called the Congress for Cultural Freedom.

Seven years earlier, Engle had approached the Rockefeller Foundation with big fears and grand plans. "I trust you have seen the recent announcement that the Soviet Union is founding a University at Moscow for students coming from outside the country," he wrote. This could mean only that "thousands of young people of intelligence, many of whom could never get University training in their own countries, will receive education … along with the expected ideological indoctrination." Engle denounced rounding up students in "one easily supervised place" as a "typical Soviet tactic." He believed that the United States must "compete with that, hard and by long time planning"—by, well, rounding up foreign students in an easily supervised place called Iowa City. Through the University of Iowa, Engle received $10,000 to travel in Asia and Europe to recruit young writers—left-leaning intellectuals—to send to the United States on fellowship.

The Iowa Writers’ Workshop emerged in the 1930s and powerfully influenced the creative-writing programs that followed. More than half of the second-wave programs, about 50 of which appeared by 1970, were founded by Iowa graduates. Third- and fourth- and fifth-wave programs, also Iowa scions, have kept coming ever since. So the conventional wisdom that Iowa kicked off the boom in M.F.A. programs is true enough.

But it’s also an accepted part of the story that creative-writing programs arose spontaneously: Creative writing was an idea whose time had come. Writers wanted jobs, and students wanted fun classes. In the 1960s, with Soviet satellites orbiting, American baby boomers matriculating, and federal dollars flooding into higher education, colleges and universities marveled at Iowa’s success and followed its lead. To judge by the bellwether, creative-writing programs worked. Iowa looked great: Famous writers taught there, graduated from there, gave readings there, and drank, philandered, and enriched themselves and others there.

Yet what drew writers to Iowa was not the innate splendor of a spontaneously good idea. What drew writers to Iowa is what draws writers anywhere: money and hype, which tend to be less spontaneous than ideas.

So where did the money and the hype come from?



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