Now, Brooklyn College is showing its worst face once again. As The New York Jewish Week reports, incoming transfer students have been assigned a book to read that is meant to give them a common framework for discussion. As the newspaper informed its readers, “ ‘How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,’ by Moustafa Bayoumi , has been assigned to about 1500 incoming transfer students ‘in an effort to provide a common experience for this population of students,’ according to a letter from the school administration to Brooklyn College faculty members.”
The book was described by the trade publication Publisher’s Weekly as a “quintessentially American picture of 21st century citizens ‘absorbing and refracting all the ethnicities and histories surrounding [them].’ However, the testimonies from these young adults — summary seizures from their homes, harassment from strangers, being fired for having an Arab or Muslim name—have a weight and a sorrow that is ‘often invisible to the general public.”
It is clear that the book is a highly exaggerated view of how American citizens treat Muslims and Arabs. (The book carries a blurb by none other than Rashid Khalidi.) It is not being paired with any readings that challenge its biased thesis. But what is also upsetting many of Brooklyn’s residents, as well as CUNY faculty and students, is that its author, who is also an Associate Professor at the college, recently edited another book, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: the Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How it Changed the Course of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict. …
No one is asking that Professor Bayoumi’s book be censored. Unlike K.C. Johnson, whose leftist colleagues wanted him out because of his views, no one is demanding that the Professor be disciplined in any way, not to speak of being fired. In the United States, we believe in freedom of speech, which includes the right to publish one’s views and to present them for airing in the marketplace of ideas.
But that freedom does not include forcing the book in a compulsory fashion upon incoming students, without any other point of view being presented to them for comparison.
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