Moral and intellectual confusion has become the norm at our
universities, with the most recent example coming from the University of
In order to equip incoming freshmen with a better understanding
of the Islamic terror attack of 9-11, the chancellor of the university has
assigned as required summer reading a book containing the early revelations
of Muhammad. "Approaching the Qur'an" contains those chapters (suras) of the
Koran, assembled, translated and commented on by Haverford College professor
of religion Michael Sells.
The amount of intellectual and moral confusion in this policy
has eluded nearly all those who have commented on it. Defenders of the UNC
policy say that it is vital that in order to understand Islamic terror,
Americans must become acquainted with Islam, and how better to begin than by
reading the Koran?
Let's deal with the confusion step by step:
1. On September 11, 2001, deeply religious Muslims from the Arab
world, in the name of their religion, tried to murder tens of thousands of
Americans, and did murder more than 3,000 completely innocent men, women and
children, on airplanes, on the ground and in office buildings. Tens of
millions of Muslims, largely in the Arab world, either denied that Muslims
committed the acts, either attributing them to Israel and the CIA, or simply
rejoicing over them.
2. There are one billion Muslims in the world, but not one
authoritative Muslim organization anywhere has condemned Islamic terror
generally (some have condemned 9-11 specifically). All have come out in
favor Palestinian terror against Jews, and none has condemned the cult of
death developed among Palestinian Muslims in which God is depicted as
supplying 72 virgin women to any teenage Muslim boy who blows himself up
while murdering Jews and Americans.
3. There are almost no Muslim democracies in the world; in the
Arab world, there are no Muslim democracies.
4. Wherever Islamists take power, a totalitarian regime is set
up, and the most primitive denials of basic human rights follow. One or more
of the Islamic regimes -- Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya --
have either engaged in genocide or supported Islamic regimes that have, have
forbidden all other religious expressions, have exported terror, and have
relegated women to a status well beneath that of a woman in 10th century
Europe. They are, with the exception of North Korea, the cruelest places on
Now, exactly how will reading "Approaching the Qur'an," with its
selected lovely suras from the Koran, explain any of the above?
It won't. Such readings are in fact irrelevant to any of the
above, including understanding 9-11.
So, the intent of the University of North Carolina assigned
summer reading is not at all what it purports to be.
It was not
chosen to help students understand 9-11; it was chosen to help students not
to understand 9-11 by deflecting their attention from the
contemporary Arab Islamic reality and onto selected ancient Islamic texts
that bear no connection to that reality.
It would be as if after Hitler and Nazism rose to power and
began subjugating countries and slaughtering Jews, some American university
assigned readings from Goethe and required listening to Bach so that their
students could better understand Nazi Germany. To understand Nazi terror,
you study the hate-filled texts of Nazism, not the beautiful novels of
German writers or Bach's cello suites. To understand Islamic terror, you
study the hate-filled texts that are published daily throughout the Arab
world; you assign the hate-filled sermons that are preached every week in
the Muslim mosques in the Middle East and Iran.
But none of that will be noted, let alone assigned, at the
University of North Carolina or any other major American university one year
after 9-11. Our universities are not really interested in having their
students understand America's enemies. They are, incredibly, more interested
in having their students sympathize with them.