DeVos Threatens to Cut Funding for Middle Eastern Studies Programs for ‘Portraying Islam Too Positively’

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Gage Skidmore / Flickr Betsy DeVos...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Sunday marked a deadline for the University of North Carolina and Duke University to submit information to the Trump administration about the two schools’ Consortium for Middle East Studies, after the Department of Education accused the joint program of biases against Christianity and Judaism.

The DOE called on the schools to provide a list of events it is supporting during the school year and a full list of courses it’s offering, claiming in a letter sent late last month that in the program, “there is a considerable emphasis placed on the understanding the positive aspects of Islam, while there is an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East.”

The program should emphasize “foreign language instruction and area studies advancing the security and economic stability of the United States,” wrote the department.

Critics denounced the demand by education secretary Betsy DeVos as part of President Donald Trump’s Islamophobic agenda.

The consortium teaches Middle Eastern languages, history, and geopolitics, and well as hosting community events focused on the majority-Muslim region’s culture.

DeVos opened an investigation into the program in June after it took part in a conference titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities,” to determine if Duke and UNC had “misused” any of the $235,000 it received in federal grants under the Title VI program, to promote “radical anti-Israel bias.”

“They really want to send the message that if you want to criticize Israel, then the federal government is going to look very closely at your entire program and micromanage it to death,” Zoha Khalili, staff lawyer at Palestinian rights group Palestine Legal, told the New York Times.

DeVos’s targeting of the consortium “sends a message to Middle Eastern studies programs that their continued existence depends on their willingness to toe the government line on Israel,” she said.

UNC acknowledged it had received the DOE’s letter and told the Times it is “committed to working with the department to provide more information about its programs.”

If the DOE decides that the program is insufficiently focused on Christianity and Judaism, it stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Title VI program.

The DOE’s request comes as many on the right, including the Trump administration, have condemned so-called attacks on free speech on college campuses.

“This is what a real threat to free speech on a college campus looks like,” David Perry wrote at CNN. “It looks like the federal government telling a university how and what to teach its students.”

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6 Comments on "DeVos Threatens to Cut Funding for Middle Eastern Studies Programs for ‘Portraying Islam Too Positively’"

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Mary
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Mary
It’s like a hoard of invertebrate insect pests have infiltrated the place where our Constitution is stored and they’re eating it away as we watch. Its time for RAID! RRRAAAAIIIDDDDDD! Yes, something powerfully politically that will kill these bugs in their progress to gutting our republic and leaving a dead dictatorship behind in its wake. Its long past time to impeach. We need to jail then entire criminal enterprise, Trump, his family, his entire cabinet, the Atty General, Moscow Mitch and every double-dealing Senator that conspired to continue this perpetration, Pence, and the judge appointed by these scumbags on ideological… Read more »
Robert Burnett
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Robert Burnett

I’m sick of being silenced by the damn media when they allow Trump to daily do and say what ever he wants. He hurts people, on purpose and loves it. We tell the truth and we get moderated. It’s time to treat the rest of us like they treat Trump.

David
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David

Trump can vilify people of any race, color, and creed at will, call them rapists, murderers, drug users, and drug pushers. No one stops him or censors him.
But, shockingly, under his watch, and his lackey DeVos, should a university teach about Islam “too positively,” whatever that means, that institution’s funding is blocked.

Inzane
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Inzane

What an idiot!

Dick Panico
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Dick Panico

..The department of education, has now become the department of (miseducation ) , by a
“uneducated fool . “ That’s why Trump hired her!
..The money has gone to her brain . Or her brain has gone to money . One must remember who’s she’s related to . The killer , ERIC THE DEAD !
…Either way , —she’s lost in space —or in
1984 , where she’s BIG SISTER .
Democracy is not a movement , it’s more an avalanche, where she and Trump, are standing in the way .
..“Howdee Duddy “, in drag !!

chris whitley
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chris whitley

Well I am busy trying to figure out when we moved to Russia. I know I am in the same house same yard and same town. But I see my government practicing censorship. What happened to freedom of religion. And if you are studying middle eastern religion there is very little Christian religion there. Get over it. It’s just a college course.