Criticizing Islam taboo in academia: ex-Yale expert says

Charles A. Small

MONTREAL — Academics who study Islamic antisemitism are risking career advancement and younger scholars are shying away from the subject as a result, said Montreal native Charles A. Small, who headed a Yale University program in antisemitism until it was shut down last year amid controversy.

The Oxford-educated Small is currently the Koret Distinguished Scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in California and director of the New York-based Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, which he founded.

While in Montreal to visit family for the holidays, Small gave a talk at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. The title summed up the dire situation that Small believes faces Israel, the Jewish community and anyone concerned with the preservation of democracy and human rights: “Incitement to Genocidal Antisemitism: Radical Islam and the Acquiescence of the Western Intellectuals and Policy Makers.”

“If you are critical of a reactionary social movement, somehow you are a racist, a neo-con fascist,” said Small. “The academy in the West is permeated [with this attitude.]”

Regrettably, he added, that view is also found among some Jewish intellectuals.

“Those scholars who have the courage to deal with this issue fear that they will not get jobs, or get promoted, or get published in the right journals… If you go against the grain, you’re out.”

Small blamed a prevailing “liberal, post-colonial” mindset among those running universities, and in some cases, because of funding from Muslim countries, such as the Gulf States.

Small portrayed himself as one of the few western intellectuals today who are saying clearly and publicly that radical Islam – and he includes the Muslim Brotherhood in that term – espouses an antisemitism that ultimately seeks to kill Jews.

“Pernicious antisemitism is at the core of radical Islam… It’s fueling the movement… whether its Sunni or Shiite,” he said. “The Iranian regime is theologically obligated to destroy Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood wants to obliterate Israel.”

The hatred is not only directed at a state – calls for the death of Jews can be heard in the mosques, he added.

Small believes that it was his outspokenness that cost him his post last year as director of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism, which he founded five years earlier.

He recalled an associate provost at Yale telling him “we have to engage with Islam,” and appearing offended when Small replied that scholars must “scientifically and dispassionately” study any social movement and describe it as they find it.

Small deplored that U.S. President Barack Obama would meet with the new Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, and that the Obama administration has been supporting them in Egypt on the grounds that it is moderate.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as far as Small is concerned. Not only is the movement antisemitic, but it’s “diametrically” opposed to democratic principles, such as equality.

“The Obama administration invited and aided the Muslim Brotherhood to take power in Egypt,” he said. “If you are going to support such a movement, at least draw a red line [on what’s acceptable.]”

Small also lamented the inaction by Jewish leaders on the threat of radical Islam. “We are asleep. We have to educate our students, our community, speak to our governments, march in the streets like we did for Soviet Jewry.”