I am at Swarthmore. Spring is exploding like a young teenager overflowing with dreams.
I eat at the café and all the students seem, young and good-looking. I try not to think of a particular student (Tariq) who would have graduated in 2008, but try to focus on why I am here and that is to get acquainted with the Islamic studies program.
I attend a seminar on comparative religion: Jihad, terrorism, martyrdom and assassinations in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Today they are discussing Bernard Lewis’s book “The Assassins” He equates them with modern day terrorists in an attempt to state that Muslims have always been terrorists.
As it turns out that though Bernard Lewis churns out books on the Middle East and is also considered an expert in it for the State Department and other agencies, he has no credentials to be so. He has no degree except of an honorary fellowship from a British Institute. He has never lived, worked or studied in or about the Middle East of which he writes so prolifically as there seem to be no other books in English on the Middle East.
Apparently he was a British spy sent to Turkey when the Ottoman empire was breaking up and since then has not had any contact with that part of the world other than the fact that he is an avowed Zionist and makes no bones about it.
I enjoyed how the students analytically took the book apart and compared and contrasted it to other texts and threw in their own opinions. Professor el Jamil facilitated discussion never coming on heavily in favor of one or other but trying to make the students think for themselves as well as steering them back to the subject if they veered too far from it.
I personally grew up on a heavy dose of British history and thus everything was colored through their eyes. Thus this seminar was an eye opener for me in many ways. I learned that the Assassins were Ismailis and that they were devoutly attached to their Imam and he dictated their actions.
After listening to these mind expanding discussions from young smart American students I realized that Terrorism has no one ideology, every terrorist has his or her own ideology to which he or she subscribes and is willing to sacrifice himself at the altar of it.
Terrorism is a term used by powerful nations for disenfranchised or weaker groups of people who may not be organized along traditional western lines of nations and countries.
I learned a lot about the writings of this 98-year-old Princeton Professor (Bernard Lewis) who has shaped the image of the Middle East and Muslims in the west.
I learned how powerful is the written word in changing facts and history and how destructive someone can be if he has no faith, and does not feel responsible and accountable for his actions to a much more powerful Creator.
Most of all I realized how these quasi Professors in Ivy League schools can wreck havoc with the lives and thoughts of young people due to their own zealous pursuit of a destructive and racist ideology.
Thank God for smart students and the Professor of Islamic studies at Swarthmore and hopefully at other Ivy League colleges who do not swallow any thing unless they have examined it for the worms and rotten information it may contain.