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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September 19, 2019 4:53 pm
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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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