The stakes couldn’t be higher, for as we’ve seen time and time again, the advice of “experts” on the Middle East, both via policymakers and the media, has thwarted the nation’s understanding in the region. Whether it be the mistaken belief that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has the capacity for moderation; that Israel is the root cause of instability in the region; that Iran and its proxy Hezbollahwill undertake honest negotiations;that Islamist Turkey and Tunisia are models of governance; that the rise of Islamism in the wake of the “Arab Spring” is negligible; or that “Islamophobia” is what’s ailing the Muslim world—all such misapprehensions can be traced back to the field of Middle East studies. And these are the people responsible for educating the next generation.
Despite this wealth of evidence, challenges remain in educating the public about the obvious and clear importance of Middle East studies to today’s world. Many either view it as an esoteric, difficult, and peculiar field or fail to understand the relationship between academe as an ideas generator whose bad advice is lapped up by the mainstream media, State Department, and other organs of government. Legacy media, largely hostile to critiques of higher education beyond complaints of rises in tuition rates, don’t appreciate critiques of their academic allies and often ignore the work of CW and most other reformist organizations or individuals.
Within academia itself, where career-tenured faculty rule, a generational shift must occur before longstanding reform can take place. On the occasion of CW’s fifth anniversary, Middle East Forum president and CW founder Daniel Pipes wrote the following:
It will take time, but there are grounds for optimism about Middle East studies, which underwent a seismic shift in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocities. That event led to a surge in enrollments and attracted a new sort of student to the field, one less marginal politically and more publicly ambitious. As this post-9/11 cohort wends its way through the system, expect to see significant improvements.
Campus Watch will be there to welcome them. With luck, its mission will be accomplished, and it can then close its doors.
Five years later, CW is still open for business, demonstrating that much work remains to be done, but also that Campus Watch is a force to be reckoned with.
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