I Have Just Disinherited My Alma Mater

by BRUCE KESLER August 28, 2010
I just updated my will and trust and, with heavy heart, cut out what was a significant bequest to my alma mater, Brooklyn College.
 
What caused the disinheritance is that all incoming freshmen and transfer students are given a copy of a book to read, and no other, to create their “common experience.” This same book is one of the readings in their required English course. The author is a radical pro-Palestinian professor there.
 
When I attended in the 1960s, Brooklyn College – then rated one of the tops in the country -- was, like most campuses, quite liberal. But there was no official policy to inculcate students with a political viewpoint. Now there is. That is unacceptable.
 
The book is How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America. It has interviews with seven Arab-Americans in their 20s about their experiences and difficulties in the US. There’s appreciation of freedoms in the US, and deep resentment at feeling or being discriminated against post-9/11.
 
The seven are not a representative sample. Six are Moslem and one Christian. According to the Arab American Institute, 63% of Arab-Americans are Christian, 24% Muslim. The author chose those interviewed and those included in the book.
 
The title of the book is drawn from communist WEB DuBois’ same question in 1903 in his treatise The Souls of Black Folk. The current book consciously draws a parallel, ridiculous on its face, between the horrible and pervasive discrimination and injustices that Blacks were subjected to a century ago and Arab-Americans today.
 
The author asserts “The core issue [of Middle East turbulence] remains the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” that the post-1967 history of the entire area is essentially that of “imperialism American-style,” and that the US government “limits the speech of Arab Americans in order to cement United States policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Again, preposterous.
 
The author is Moustafa Bayoumi. He is called an “Exalted Islamic Grievance Peddler” with the following summary of his background:
 
The second featured speaker at WCU's forum was Moustafa Bayoumi, an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College andco-editor of The Edward SaidReader. Bayoumicontendsthat in the aftermath of 9/11, armed INS officials, U.S. Marshals, and FBI agents routinely roused Muslims from their beds "in the middle of the night"—indiscriminately arresting, shackling, and investigating them for possible terrorist connections.
 
In September 2002, a year after 9/11, Bayoumi lamented that "an upswing in hate crimes [against American Muslims] has already begun." As proof, he cited statistics, which would be thoroughlydiscredited, put forth by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). He then pointed to CAIR's claim that "57 percent of American Muslims report that they have experienced bias or discrimination since Sept. 11," and that "48 percent of [Muslim] respondents believe their lives have changed for the worse since the attacks." "This is hardly surprising," Bayoumi reasoned. "For the past year, Muslims have endured a daily barrage of demagoguery, distortions and outright lies about their faith. Never well understood in this country, Islam is now routinely caricatured."
 
In March 2006, Bayoumi took up this theme again, asserting that "Muslim-bashing has become socially acceptable in the United States." In 2008 he wrote: "It's been seven years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and many young American Muslims are convinced that much of American society views them with growing hostility. They're right."
 
The theme of Muslim victimhood is by no means restricted solely to Bayoumi's view of the United States. Indeed, he depicts Palestinian suicide bombings as little more than desperate reactions to "a brutal [Israeli] military occupation that has been strangling the Palestinian people for decades."
 
Most recently, Bayoumi edited a book, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestinian Conflict, defending it and calling it Israel’s Selma, Alabama, the focal point for US civil rights struggles in the 1960s.
 
Online I found two professors who protested to the college president. One, retired from Brooklyn College, said: "This is wholly inappropriate.  It smacks of indoctrination. It will intimidate incoming students who have a different point of view (or have formed no point of view), sending the message that only one side will be approved on this College campus. It can certainly intimidate untenured faculty as well."
 
Another, currently on the faculty, said: "While our community of learning is committed to freedom of speech and expression, does that require that we must expose new students to the anti-American and anti-Israeli preachings of this professor? At the least, do not our students deserve a balanced presentation?"
 
Another retired professor living in Brooklyn, protested and received back from a Dean:
 
Each year professors in the English Department and I select a common reading for our entering students. We choose memoirs (a genre familiar to students) set in New York City, often reflecting an immigrant experience, and written by authors who are available to visit campus. Students in freshman composition respond to the common reading by writing about their own experiences, many of them published in ‘Telling Our Stories; Sharing our Lives’. This year we selected How Does It Feel to be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America by one of our own faculty members, Professor Moustafa Bayoumi, because it is a well-written collection of stories by and about young Arab Brooklynites whose experiences may be familiar to our students, their neighbors, or the students with whom they will study and work at Brooklyn College. We appreciate your concerns. Rest assured that Brooklyn College values tolerance, diversity, and respect for differing points of view in all that we do.
 
The professor tells us what happened next:
 
So I wrote to her again, and again, and then again once more, suggesting that she provide some balance to Bayoumi's book, that she provide additional authors and additional speakers. I even suggested another author, Paul Berman, also resident in Brooklyn, also writing on Arab themes, also willing (I would assume) to speak to her students. And what did Dean Wilson reply to these repeated suggestions of mine ? You guessed it, she did not deign to reply at all.
 
Another professor’s unpublished letter (which I verified with him; I've verified the others also) to the college president said: “Anyone who has taught at a university during the past quarter-century and more knows that the slogan of ‘diversity’ generally alludes to its opposite (i.e., imposed uniformity of thought camouflaged by diversity of physical appearance) and also foretells mischief.”
 
I will always appreciate the excellent liberal arts education I received at Brooklyn College, and the critical thinking that has caused me to disinherit it.
 
A Board member tells me the 55,000 Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is now considering its next move.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Bruce Kesler served in USMC Intelligence in Vietnam and was a researcher at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He worked as a financial and business operations exec for Fortune 100 and small companies, and for the past two decades as an independent certified health and benefits consultant and broker. His columns have appeared in many major newspapers.  He currently blogs at Maggie’s Farm.
 

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