"It was quiet in [Cooper Hall] 464 Thursday night, where [Sameeh] Hammoudeh’s 6 p.m. Arabic IV class was scheduled to meet. Two students who hadn’t heard of his arrest came to class, and a substitute was assigned to teach in Hammoudeh’s place."
Hammoudeh missed teaching his Arabic class last week due to a slight inconvenience: he had just been charged with racketeering and conspiracy to murder. In fact, he was one of eight men indicted at a U.S. District Court in Florida as "material supporters of a foreign terrorist organization," that organization being Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
It is striking that three of those eight are academic specialists on Middle Eastern and Islamic subjects. Their arrests reveal to what extent Middle East studies is a field that serves as an extension of the region’s radicalism.
The three instructors on Middle East topics all have establishment credentials.
Nafi is also associated with the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (which in 2000 published his analysis, The Rise and Decline of the Arab-Islamic Reform Movement). He has written for the Virginia-based Middle East Affairs Journal and a book of his appeared in Arabic in 1999, Imperialism and Zionism: The Palestinian Case. (He uses a pseudonym, Ahmad Sadiq, when writing for militant Islamic journals.)
All three alleged terrorists succeeded in talking the academic talk, fooling nearly everyone. The three passed for genuine scholars. Carrie Wickham, a specialist on Egyptian Islam at Emory University, said she "felt deceived" on learning who Shallah really was and expressed surprise that "a serious intellectual counterpart" like him could also be a terrorist.
That three accused terrorists passed without suspicion as genuine Middle East studies scholars points to the crisis in this academic discipline. Middle East studies is already criticized for providing refuge to what might be called intellectual terrorists-scholars known for their extremism, intolerance, and dishonesty. Now we learn it may also harbor the real thing.
Conclusion: This field must be scrutinized very closely, especially by the U.S. Congress that funds Middle East studies.