Friday, September 01, 2006

Daniel Pipes: CAIR's Twisted Stand on Academic Freedom

Daniel Pipes
September 1, 2006

Hark the ringing prose about academic freedom by Rima Kapitan, the volunteer attorney in CAIR’s Chicago office.

Another casualty in the war against civil liberties in this country since September 2001 is the right to academic freedom. Professors and students who diverge too much from the current political and economic orthodoxy are being silenced around the country. Among the most vulnerable have been adjunct professors, foreign professors and students, and professors and students who support Palestinian national rights or who oppose U.S. foreign policy decisions. …

CAIR-Chicago is joining other organizations and individuals in an effort to defend academic freedom. … CAIR-Chicago has also initiated the creation of an academic freedom coalition called the Free Campus Coalition, which will defend the academic freedom rights of students and professors as violations occur. The coalition will comprise of civil liberties organizations, professors and students.

Freedom on universities is especially important because of the formative role that universities play in the lives of students, and because of the essential role they play in their communities. Students should be exposed to a wide range of ideas, and learn to argue against ideas with which they do not agree.

The immediate beneficiary of this high-blown rhetoric, dated August 14, 2006, is one Douglas Giles of Roosevelt University, who lost his job supposedly for just mentioning Zionism in his “World Religions” class and for allowing students to speak about Zionism. According to Giles, a student in his course asked a question about Zionism, which he answered. Then, presto, he was fired by his department chair, Susan Weininger. The disagreement is scheduled for arbitration in September. Whatever the facts in this incident, CAIR’s Chicago office stands fully behind Giles.

But in Chicago’s other high-profile academic-freedom case concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict, and there, CAIR is exactly on the other side, seeking to have the instructor fired.

That would be the case of Thomas Klocek, a part-time adjunct professor since 1991 at DePaul University, the largest Catholic school in the United States. At a campus fair, Klocek expressed pro-Israel views, got into an altercation with two anti-Israel groups (Students for Justice in Palestine and United Muslims Moving Ahead), and, after they registered complaints against him, was suspended by the university. CAIR not only endorsed his suspension but, as articulated by Christina Abraham, CAIR-Chicago's civil rights coordinator (and a DePaul University law student), wanted him more severely punished.

Abraham gave a video interview in June 2006 concerning Klocek’s suspension, as revealed by John Ruberry, in the course of which she, speaking on behalf of CAIR explained the organization’s position on Klocek. About 1/8th of the way into the video, she says: “We were very concerned with the situation and we did request that he [Klocek] be terminated.” She confirmed this, later saying (about 1/6th of the way in) that CAIR-Chicago suggested to DePaul that “if the investigation were to have shown that he did make these statements that and he did act this way towards the students, yes, we did suggest that they should terminate him.”

Comments: (1) CAIR’s position on Klocek hardly fits the description of a group taking part in the Free Campus Coalition to defend “the academic freedom rights of students and professors as violations occur.”

(2) As Ruberry points out, CAIR fancies itself a civil rights organization, but is it the normal work of a civil rights organization to recommend that a private institution fire an employee, thereby depriving him of his livelihood (not to speak of the health insurance required for his serious kidney condition)? Some might conclude that CAIR is no civil rights organization; that would certainly fit with my own perception since 1999.

(3) The inconsistency documented here is par for the CAIR course; it routinely takes ostensibly principled positions that in fact adjust to its politics. (CAIR, for example, has jointly sponsored programs with United Muslims Moving Ahead.) For other examples of this pattern, see

· “CAIR’s Inconsistent Advice on Law Enforcement.”, 4 July 2004. CAIR’s advice: Help the police to protect you, but stiff them when they seek your help with counterterrorism.

· “Look Now Who’s Profiling – CAIR’s Staff Is.”, 1 August 2003. CAIR hates profiling, except when it does so itself.

· “Radical Islam’s Hypocrisy[: The Ehrgott & Okashah Cases].” The New York Sun, 18 January 2005. CAIR comes down hard on the foes of radical Islam but pleads for an understanding of Muslims in similar circumstances.

(4) More broadly, such behavior points to the unreliable quality of CAIR’s work, a theme that the reader can more fully explore at “Bibliography - My Writings on Not Trusting CAIR.”

Mr. Pipes ( is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).

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