Admin Threatens To Pull Funds From University Program Deemed Too Focused On Islam

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks during the fifth meeting of the Federal Commission on School Safety on August 16, 2018. (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Trump administration has threatened to pull funding from a Middle East studies program offered by Duke University and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, which the administration deems to be too biased in favor of Islam.

The Department of Education published its letter to the two universities this week regarding the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies (Duke/UNC CMES), informing university officials that the program may not qualify for Title VI funding.

According to the department, Duke/UNC CMES does not adequately “promote foreign language learning and advance the national security interests and economic stability of the United States.”

Assistant Secretary of Education Robert King laid out the department’s grievances in the letter sent on August 29, including complaints that the Middle East studies program is disproportionately balanced in favor of Islam.

“The Duke-UNC CMES appears to lack balance as it offers very few, if any, programs focused on the historic discrimination faced by, and current circumstances of, religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Yadizis, Kurds, Druze, and others,” King wrote.

He also criticized the program for putting “considerable emphasis” on the “positive aspects of Islam” without “similar focus” on the positive aspects of “Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East.”

“This lack of balance is troubling,” the assistant secretary wrote.

The letter demanded that Duke and UNC provide a revised listing of the program’s activities in order to continue to receive federal funding.

The Department of Education did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.

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  1. This one should prove to be very interesting to unpack. Who did this evaluation? Let’s see the reports. Who are the scholars at these universities and what do they have to say about this? This is a teachable moment.

  2. Some of the Bush 43 advisors advocating the invasion of Iraq were asked if they knew the difference between Sunni and Shia. They said they did not and didn’t care. A fundamental ignorance of that as well as many other things about the politics and culture of the Middle East led to a debacle that has gone on for far too many years. Now, the same type of folks want to limit the still misunderstood tenets of Islam. I call that stupid and contrary to the national interest as well as peace in the world. Remember the adage about forgetting the lessons of history???

  3. Do any of these little Eichmanns think there really is never going to be any blowback on this? I know they’re counting on collective amnesia and will say “I was just following orders!” but they’re never really going to escape that peculiar stench they are adorning themselves as perfume.

  4. This is bullshit. It’s a Middle East studies program, not a Religion Studies or Comparison of World Religions program. Islam is the #1 religion in the Middle East, I think.

    Next up: No federal funding for your science programs because they put too much emphasis on, you know, “science” and don’t give sufficient time to discuss creationism and climate change skepticism as being totally valid. No funding for sex education because you don’t discuss the possibility of storks delivering babies.

  5. “The Trump administration has threatened to pull funding from a Middle East studies program offered by Duke University and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, which the administration deems to be too biased in favor of Islam.”

    So they’re gonna shut down the Algebra program?

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