Tuesday, April 05, 2016

State Senate Decision to Slash Funding to CUNY Over Antisemitism Will Send Message to Other Universities

The head of a major Jewish organization praised the New York State Senate’s decision last week to slash funding to the City University of New York (CUNY), telling The Algemeiner that the move was necessary to motivate CUNY to properly address the antisemitism across its campuses, and ought to serve as a precedent for other states and universities.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), told The Algemeiner, “This case will send a message to legislators around the country, to force public universities that are ignoring the real fears of Jewish students and staff to finally take appropriate and serious actions.”

Klein criticized CUNY’s announcement late last month — as reported by The Algemeiner — that it had ordered an independent probe into allegations of widespread campus antisemitism, and would assemble a task force to make recommendations for improving the university’s policies and practices.

“Universities always want to ‘study’ the problem of antisemitism instead of acting immediately against it,” Klein said.

When it comes to other incidents of racism and bias, Klein noted, universities act very differently. “Administrators promptly and rightly condemn the acts themselves and their perpetrators, who are immediately disciplined. But here, when presented with a long list of antisemitic incidents dating back several years with clear and consistent perpetrators, all they do is order an investigation — even though they already know all the facts.”

Last month, as reported by The Algemeiner, ZOA sent a 14-page letter to CUNY documenting many incidents at four of its 23 campuses, attributing them and what it considered a pervading anti-Jewish atmosphere to local chapters of the national group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

“SJP is a racist, antisemitic group,” Klein said, “which has held despicable campus rallies promoting hatred and violence against Jews, among other incidents. CUNY ought to suspend the group immediately for violating CUNY’s own rules of conduct. Instead, they issue a bland statement condemning antisemitism in general. If CUNY were serious about the problem, its administrators would use their own First Amendment rights to denounce SJP’s monstrous acts and statements.”

The New York State Senate is doing exactly the right thing, Klein noted, cutting CUNY’s budget at least partly because of CUNY’s lackluster response to the problem. He mentioned State Senator Jack Martins, who last week argued that CUNY should suspend SJP while it conducts its investigation, as reported by PoliticoNewYork. An article posted on the ZOA website quoted Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Ken LaValle as saying, “I want to hear from the [CUNY] Chancellor or someone there that they really were outraged by this.”

“The power of the purse is perhaps the only thing that will move CUNY,” Klein said, praising the Senate budget cuts. “Over the past couple of years, we’ve had several meetings with CUNY, we’ve written letters, but nothing. We have tried all other measures and gotten no results. Senate leaders recognize that CUNY simply calling for an investigation is inadequate. Other institutions of higher education should take note.”

Klein had particularly sharp words for College of Staten Island Professor Sarah Schulman, who serves as faculty adviser to her campus SJP. “She has stated, among other things, that murdering Arabs is a Jewish value. This offensive statement reflects a grotesquely false allegation that Israelis are intentionally ‘murdering’ innocent Palestinians, and echoes the lies and talking points of Hamas.”

ZOA has sent a letter to State Senator Martins about Schulman as well, as reported by the Daily News. “In light of the current situation on CUNY campuses,” Klein wrote to Martins, “combined with Schulman’s hateful rhetoric, we find it entirely inappropriate for her to be serving as a faculty adviser to SJP.”

Klein added, “Again, if CUNY were serious about antisemitism, they would also explicitly condemn Schulman’s hateful rhetoric.”

As reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz, CUNY Chancellor James Milliken wrote to the New York State Senate last week after the budget cuts passed. “We take seriously our responsibility to promote and encourage tolerance and civility,” the letter said. But as a public university, it added, “CUNY cannot infringe the constitutional right of free speech and association of its students faculty and staff.”


Muslim school 'says UK culture is poisonous'

The Islamic Tarbiyah Academy in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, was accused of promoting an extreme form of Islam that ‘divides’ communities.

The privately-run madrasa, which teaches 140 primary age children in after-school classes and runs full-time programmes for over-16s, is now being investigated by the Government. Mufti Zubair Dudha, the centre’s founder and head, is a respected cleric from the orthodox Deobandi sect.

An investigation by Sky News found he had compiled a leaflet which quotes the Protocols of Zion, an anti-Semitic document that claims Jews are engaged in a global conspiracy.

The cleric claimed films, magazines and celebrities are part of the conspiracy to ‘poison the minds’ of young Muslims. Other leaflets said all mixed-sex institutions are evil, warned Muslims not to adopt British customs, banned watching TV and told women not to work.

In a section on jihad, he told Muslims they should be prepared to ‘expend ... even life’ to create a world organised by ‘Allah’s just order’, although in other leaflets he condemned terrorism.

Dewsbury has a history of ties to radicalisation. It was home to Britain’s youngest suicide bomber, who blew himself up in Iraq, its youngest convicted terrorist, and Mohammad Sidique Khan, ringleader of the 7/7 terror attacks.

Keith Vaz, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, told Sky News: ‘These kinds of leaflets serve no purpose but to divide in a poisonous and totally reckless way.’

But Mr Dudha told Sky News: ‘It saddens me greatly that certain extracts from our publications have been taken and misrepresented to link the Academy with extremism. We fully believe in the importance and need of integration whilst being able to practise our faith.’

It follows an announcement by the Government to crack down on madrasas, which have long operated with little or no scrutiny. Ofsted has uncovered 15 unregistered schools teaching a narrow Islamic curriculum in the last year.

The Department for Education said: ‘These serious allegations are under investigation. While it would be inappropriate to comment on the specific investigations, we are clear that extremism has no place in our society and we are determined to protect children from it.’

Mr Dudha did not respond to requests for a further comment.


Oxford theology students won't have to study Christianity throughout their degree after complaints about 'lack of diversity'

Students reading theology at Oxford University have managed to overturn the 800-year-old tradition that they have to study Christianity throughout their course.

Changes are being made to the three-year undergraduate degree to keep up with the changing face of Britain.

Students will study Christianity in their first year but from second year onwards will have the option of a broader choice of areas to study.

These modules are thought to include one called 'feminist approaches to religion and theology'.

The move, which was initially reported in the Times Higher Education magazine was instigated by both students and lecturers who challenged the lack of diversity in the curriculum.

They said that the way religion is seen and practised in the UK had changed dramatically over recent years. 

However, Oxford University's theology faculty’s board chairman Johannes Zachhuber said he doubted many students would chose not to study Christianity at all.

The driving force behind the move away from the study of Christianity entirely, was 'the dramatic change in the way religion is seen and practised in the UK,' Professor Zachhuber said.

'The dominance of the Church of England has been receding but at the same time religion hasn't disappeared.

'We want to offer to potential students what is interesting for them and that has changed a lot in the last 30 years.

'We recognise that the people who come to study at Oxford come from a variety of different backgrounds and have legitimately different interests. 'They come from the respected communities of Britain.'

He added that if a university has a rigid curriculum, there would be a growing gap between what lecturers are researching and what they're teaching.

A spokesman for Oxford Unviersity said: 'Christianity is still compulsory in the first year of the course – in fact there are two compulsory papers on it. So all students on the course will study Christianity.

'Christianity is still a major part of the course in second and third year, and it’s very unlikely that a student would choose options that do not cover Christianity in these years.'


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