* Professor in the Islamic World Studies Program at DePaul University
Khaled Keshk is a professor in the Islamic World Studies Program (IWSP) at DePaul University, America’s largest Catholic college. Launched in September 2004, the IWSP offers both a major and minor in the subject of Islamic religion and culture. A catalog description of the program states, “[T]he core course work in Islam, language study, fieldwork, as well as opportunities for study abroad, and service learning would afford students an opportunity to develop an understanding of the Islamic world from local as well as international perspectives. This approach to the study of Islam is currently unmatched anywhere else in the United States and perhaps the world.” What the program’s boilerplate does not mention to prospective students is its overt pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel, anti-American slant.
According to the course syllabus, Keshk’s class “Religion and Politics in the Middle East” explores “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as they develop and interact in the Middle East.” One required reading for the class is the book Hezbollah, by Hala Jaber, which asks the question “Does Hezbollah deserve its reputation?” Describing the Lebanese terrorist organization as “passionate” and “devoted to furthering an Islamic way of life,” this book glorifies Hezbollah, a group that killed more than 200 U.S. Marines in their barracks in a 1983 suicide truck bombing in Beirut.
Keshk also assigns The Society of the Muslim Brothers, by Richard P. Mitchell, as another required reading for this class. This book details the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, the principal organization from which numerous modern terrorist groups, including Hamas, were established; and The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun who rationalizes and justifies Palestinian suicide bombings.
In his class “The Islamic Experience,” Keshk requires students to read two books by the Georgetown University professor and apologist for radical Islam, John Esposito. One of these books, titled What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, uses a question-and-answer format to address such questions as: “What is the significance of Mecca?”; “Why do Muslim women wear veils and long garments?”; and “Why are Muslims so violent?” In his answers to these questions, Esposito paints Islam in benevolent tones, minimizing the significance of its jihadist aspects. In answering the question, “Does Islam permit suicide bombers?” Esposito writes, “In Israel-Palestine, increased Israeli violence, brutality, and targeted assassinations reinforced the belief among many Palestinians and Muslims that so-called suicide bombers were not committing an act of suicide but one of self-sacrifice, engaged in resistance and retaliation against Israeli occupation and oppression.” Throughout the book, Esposito is blatantly critical of the U.S. and Israel and defends Islamic extremism.
The other Esposito book that Keshk assigns is titled Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam. This screed asks the questions, “Who are the Muslim extremists who perpetrate such deeds [as 9/11]?” and “Why do they hate us?” The book’s answer: because of “frustration and anger at U.S. policy.”
In yet another class, Keshk assigns the book Approaching the Qur’an, by Michael Sells. The aforementioned Karen Armstrong says of this book, “Michael Sells has performed an invaluable service in making the beauty, spiritual energy, and compelling power of the Qur’an accessible to a Western audience for the first time.” This is the same Karen Armstrong who has said that Palestinian suicide bombers are motivated by “absolute hopelessness,” not hatred; and that Palestinians resort to terrorism only because they “don’t have F-16s, and they don’t have tanks. They don’t have anything to match Israel’s arsenal. They only have their own bodies.”
Keshk believes that American universities should modernize their Middle East Studies curricula, which he says have been taught from a colonialist perspective. “Many Middle East centers teach about Lawrence of Arabia,” says Keshk (referring to the British officer who promoted the cause of Arab independence). “But we want to study the religious ramifications of what is happening.”
In the fall of 2004, Keshk criticized fellow DePaul professor Thomas E. Klocek for comments he had made during an acrimonious on-campus exchange with student members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and United Muslims Moving Ahead (UMMA). During what grew into a heated argument, Klocek allegedly stated that “not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.” For his “offensive” remark, Klocek was suspended for the remainder of the semester as well as for the ensuing winter session. Suzanne Dumbleton, Dean of DePaul’s School of New Learning wherein Klocek taught, apologized to the students on behalf of the faculty and staff, explaining that Klocek had been a very capable instructor for fifteen years – during which there had been no other student complaints about his behavior or words – who had merely made an error in judgment. Said Keshk (who is an UMMA advisor), “I appreciated the prompt reaction of the university [in suspending Klocek] . . . But in the ensuing conversation I was a little bit disappointed by the dean . . . when it [the conversation] was being shifted towards a defense or excuse of the professor’s behavior. It was not conveyed that this event was an abhorrence, but rather she started to ask the students to legitimize their reaction.”
Keshk’s research interests span the centuries; his specialties include the early Umayyid dynasty, and the role of religion in contemporary politics. He is also a contributor to the Arabic-language newspaper, Al Ayat.