In various writings and interviews over the last two decades, I’ve mentioned (usually in passing) my experiences with academia, the government and media in terms of discussing Islam. Over the years I’ve seen opportunities to do so decrease, as the powers-that-be in those realms have increasingly opted for favoring, indeed protecting, the world’s second-largest religion and its adherents at the expense of intellectual and historical honesty. What follows is a compressed narrative of what I’ve encountered in this regard.
Some years ago, I interviewed at a large university in Georgia for a job as a full-time professor of Middle East history. I made the cut to the final three candidates—then got savaged. I was accused of being “too conservative.” Why? I had published articles that dealt with the history of Islam honestly. Such as one on beheading in that religion, which traced Islamic decapitation’s theological and historical roots going back to Muhammad. No one could question my research, which included examining the relevant Qur’anic texts in Arabic, as well as famous Muslim scholars’ views. No, simply discussing an inconvenient truth of Islam was deemed “conservative.” Of course, I didn’t get the job.
More recently, I was hired by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (CA) to teach seminars on my research specializations: “Jihad, Apocalypse and Terrorism.” I pulled in education (my dissertation topic was Islamic apocalyptic movements, using Arabic sources) and expertise (work at US Special Operations Command) to examine the relationship of these three topics across space and time. But after teaching the seminar twice, I was axed. Why? Muslim students complained that I was “too critical of Islam.” Despite knowing that the nexus between the concept of jihad, Islam’s End Times beliefs, and modern terrorist groups was the very point of the seminar.
Earlier this millennium I lectured regularly at two different government venues: Joint Special Operations University and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. The instructional blocs included history of terrorism, background on the Islamic world, and American foreign policy in the Middle East. After several years at JSOU and FLETC, I was disinvited. Why? The JSOU senior NCO informed me that Pakistani students, in particular, had complained that my history of terrorism bloc was—you guessed it—“too critical of Islam.” This despite it covering many others kinds, as well. FLETC officials blamed politics: they told me that the Obama Administration had directed the cessation of any instruction that mentioned “jihad” at all. It’s rather difficult to examine Islamic history when one of its central precepts is ruled off-limits.
The media, as is commonly known, overwhelmingly favors Islam. Journalists regularly present that religion and its adherents as perpetually victimized, and attack those who bring up jihad and Islam’s penchant for violence as “Islamophobes.” (While ignoring the actual persecution of Christians.) For many years, Fox News was an exception to that tendentious trend. For example, Catherine Herridge interviewed me about the Ft. Hood shooting jihad by Major Nidal Hassan. I appeared on several ISIS specials, such as 2014’s “Greta Investigates: ISIS” and 2016’s “War Stories: Fighting ISIS.” And even, to his credit, the late Alan Colmes’ radio show. The latter, however, demonstrated just what those of us who speak and write honestly about Islam are up against. Colmes wanted to discuss ISIS. But he spent the entire segment arguing with me. Every time I brought up some aspect of Islamic theology that ISIS adduced to support its violence, Colmes would reply “but what about the Crusades?” As if what French knights did 900 years ago was still an issue. More importantly, since 2016, neither I nor any other non-Muslim who can knowledgeably discuss Islam’s history of violence appears regularly on Fox News Channel. So the mindset of Shepard Smith’s producer (then still on FNC), who told me before appearing on that show that I was “not to bash Islam,” has won out there.
Academia, the military, the media: all have largely silenced any voices critical of Islam. But the original source of this stranglehold is higher education, whence come the Leftist edicts to defend Islam and Muslims as perennial victims of colonialism, white privilege, and the American military. And that has repercussions far beyond America’s colleges. This ahistorical mindset has helped empower our government to engage in the farce that “white supremacists,” not jihadists, are the greatest terrorist threat. Reality, it seems, is just a dream (or maybe a nightmare) to such people. And unfortunately this is no longer just an academic question. Even discussing Islam’s “bloody borders,” as the late political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote, is verboten in many venues. Not only does that make accurate analysis of what’s going on in Iran, Yemen, Nigeria and many other parts of the Islamic world practically impossible. It makes all of us, Muslims included, less safe by willfully ignoring the major cause of modern terrorism.