The apparent reason for my disinvitation from that Australian school many years ago

The apparent reason for my disinvitation from that Australian school many years ago July 2, 2020


Joke Arabic computer bag
My wife bought me this bag for Father’s Day, but it arrived only a few days ago. The writing on it reads, in my translation, roughly as follows: “There is no goal for this text except spreading terror in the souls of those who fear the Arabic language.” I love it.


In case you don’t already have sufficient reason to suspect that the current Chinese regime is evil, here’s one for you.  If you’re really determined, you can perhaps even try to fit it into your Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File, but I doubt that it will fit very well:


“China Forces Birth Control on Uighurs to Suppress Population”




Some have asked me to tell more about my having been disinvited from speaking at an Australian university quite a number of years ago.  (I briefly alluded to the experience in a prior blog entry that was entitled “From a ridiculous obnoxious arrogant lunatic.”)


Truth be told, alas, I don’t recall many of the details.  I don’t even recall which university it was or in which Australian city it was located.  It happened during the lead-up to a trip to Australia — I’ve made four or five such trips to lecture, and this was not the most recent nor even the second most recent of them — during which I was going to be lecturing at a number of schools there.  I was still in the United States at the time.  Suddenly, though, I was not welcome.


I was given some of the background of my disinvitation by whomever it was locally that had been setting up the lecture.  It seems that somebody at the school discovered that I appeared on a list of “Recommended Professors” at Campus Watch, something affiliated with the Middle East Forum or MEF.  I had not previously been aware of that fact.  As Campus Watch itself notes of its list of recommended professors, “Individuals listed here are done so at Campus Watch’s initiative; they have neither asked to be included, nor have we asked for their authorization.”  Now, the MEF was founded by Daniel Pipes, a very controversial scholar of the Middle East (originally a medievalist) whom I do not recall ever having met.  Apparently, my association with Dr. Pipes — such as it was! — was enough to convince some quick-thinking administrator or other at that Australian school that I was likely to be a fire-breathing, offensive, and divisive anti-Muslim bigot.


It’s unfortunate that he or she hadn’t instead run across an article like one that was published in the Christian Science Monitor on 1 November 2018.  That date was far too late, I know, but it was hardly the first such piece to have appeared and it had the advantage of actually quoting me:


“The conservative Christian college where Muslims feel welcome: Being a tiny minority in a community can amplify differences. But at BYU, a common history of being the “other” leads to a learning atmosphere of empathy.”


Heck, even this 13 March 1999 New York Times piece by Gustav Niebuhr –who also quotes me — might have helped:


“Religion Journal; A Professor in Nanjing Takes Up Jewish Studies”


Snap judgments are, it seems, often wrong.  But who could ever have guessed that?



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