Letter of Protest to Tom Paradise re: Phyllis Chesler

Barbara Joans, anthropologist, wrote the following letter to Thomas Paradise, the head of the “King Fahd Center for Middle Eastern Studies.” I post it here with her permission.

April 20, 2017

Thomas R. Paradise PhD, Director, University Professor
King Fahd Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Geosciences
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Dear Professor Paradise

It is with sadness that I write you about disinviting of Dr. Chesler to your conference on the subject of honor-killings. Since Dr. Chesler has long been one of the few scholars on this topic, it came as a surprise. Much is written about honor-killings but few writers take the time to read, study, research and analyze this cultural behavior. Dr. Chesler is one of the few scholars who actually reviews the material and she has been doing so for decades.

As we all know, describing an event, a cultural event from a culture, not our own, is not the same as evaluating nor critiquing the event. It is only when the cultural event is seen as horrendous within our own society, that just the description of it, can be seen as a put down, a criticism of the culture performing the behavior. This happens all too frequently. Dr. Chesler writes about those groups within Islamic Society who practice ritual murder, called honor-killings.

Dr. Chesler studies those societies who accept and participate in honor-killings as part of their culture. These ritual murders occur. She documents the behavior. The behaviors are not seen as innate nor inborn. There is nothing in the religion nor in the past sacred writings that prescribe such behavior. Other factors must be looked for. Cultural events arise for any number of reasons and Dr. Chesler looks for the factors that may have brought about the well documented occurrences.

What I do not understand is why you did not permit Skype to become a tool in your conference. With Skype, Dr. Chesler could have spoken as she wished and been free from the danger of students who did not understand that academia is suppose to take on and debate the hard questions. Another speaker, one who would take a different approach, perhaps an opposite one, could have Skyped into the conference and debated Dr. Chesler, without physical disruption nor confrontation. A fair exchange of views, researched and carefully considered, is what academic debate is all about. Why did you not permit this to happen? The outcome would have been seriously interesting and intellectually important.

As a legal anthropologist of fifty years, who both teaches and appears in court as an expert witness, I have a stake in such conferences. Though my academic and field work specialties are different, American Indians and urban US Sub-Cultures, a similar situation could easily arise. I remain perplexed about the dreadful way your conference played out. It was dishonorable.

Barbara Joans PhD, Director of the Merritt Museum of Anthropology
Past Chair of the Anthropology Department at Merritt College
Author and Invited Speaker.

Note that in the rich Arab countries like Saudi and Kuwait, rather than the more conventional methods of killing daughters, “modern” families drown them in their swimming pools. Not King Fahd, of course, he gives money to American universities to teach about the Middle East.

3 Responses to Letter of Protest to Tom Paradise re: Phyllis Chesler

  1. Typo towards end:
    “teachers” should be “teaches”

  2. Walter Sobchak says:

    King Fahd. He dead. May his name be blotted out.

  3. mgoldberg says:

    And university’s accepted and accept all these teaching centers, these Saudi initiatives, which devolve into centers that disallow all but Saudi and sunni prescribed interprestation of ‘Islam’.
    Further, the multicultural politically correct university’s and colleges allow only said correct views of the post colonial variety, with no variance, let alone discussion of any other views, political, theologic, ethical, nor historical.
    This resulted in the above cited confusion as to why even a skyped debate posture was verboten. It really doesn’t have anything to do with campus ‘safety’, but rather, the odious reality that all views that contradict the correct views of Islam, and also the view of the ‘progressives’ will no longer be tolerated but rather, uniformly seen as ‘hate speech’. In fact, anything that makes someone, say, students, claim they feel unsafe, or oppressed, by said views, will automatically be adjudged as such, ‘racist’, ‘hateful’, bigoted. And of course, it is entirely subjective as to how that is determined, with the only ‘objective’ standard allowed, is that of the battle of the ‘oppressed, versus the ‘oppressors’.
    It is that simple. So… if a legitimate scholar of a subject presents data contrary to the Sunni view of Islam, and anything connected to it, then there will be no allowance for presentation, and no apology for the non allowance.
    Until we overthrow this wretched tyranny, this intellectual tyranny, this march to fascism, this lie, this view that disallows contrary views, opinions and history, there will be only the march to the end of the republics lifeline thru it’s educational system. And we are getting too close for any comfort in merely noting this terrible decline in intellectual honesty and it’s replacement with ‘progressive’ and dishonest propagandizing via their friends in the Islamic world.

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