Following the launch of “Campus Watch”, a new Daniel Pipes project to monitor the views of Middle East Studies lecturers on campuses, EI’s Nigel Parry interviewed academic M. Shahid Alam about how he felt to be one of the professors on which a “dossier” had been opened.
On 29 September 2002, EI noticed that the “dossiers” appear to have been removed from the Campus Watch website, although the basic content and aims of the site remain unchanged.
Nigel Parry: Were you aware of this website prior to this message? If so, how?
M. Shahid Alam: No.
Nigel Parry: What are your initial feelings about the project?
M. Shahid Alam: I see it as a serious challenge, indeed, an affront, to academic freedom and freedom of speech in United States. By creating a dossier on professors who have written critically about Israel, they are inviting their colleagues and students to spy on them and perhaps harass them. What would happen to academic freedom if every group in this country did the same?
Nigel Parry: Have you noticed any monitoring on your campus?
M. Shahid Alam: Yes.
Nigel Parry: Have other faculty reported any such monitoring?
M. Shahid Alam: No.
Nigel Parry: Do you feel this will affect academic freedom on campus? How?
M. Shahid Alam: Yes. The list would be too long. For starters, students may enlist in your class to harass you. It could take more troubling forms.
Nigel Parry: Have you experienced pressure as a result of your views on the Middle East or any aspect of it? Has this come from the institution, faculty, students, or a mixture?
M. Shahid Alam: It has come from individual colleagues (very few so far), who have emailed my chair to complain about a public lecture I gave with references to Israel. In my entire career at Northeastern spanning 14 years, only once has a student complained to the chair about my comments on Israel. But I have been on sabbatical since 911, so I don’t know what happens now as I return to teaching.
Nigel Parry: What other trends to quash free debate about the Middle East have you noted in your institution, if any?
M. Shahid Alam: I am not aware of any.
Nigel Parry: What do you think is the best antidote to this kind of project by the pro-Israel lobby?
M. Shahid Alam: To give the greatest publicity to these attacks on liberties, on venerable American institutions; to bring it to the attention of NGOs that protect liberties; to find out if these activities violate any state or federal laws.
Nigel Parry: Other thoughts you feel are relevant.
M. Shahid Alam: Where will this stop?