An alarming video posted by Americans for Peace and Tolerance on YouTube shows Muhammad Shahid Alam, a Northeastern University professor, boasting about violating free speech of pro-Israel students at the university. Toward the end of the video, Alam is recorded stating, “if there are one or two people who want to say it [pro-Israel comments], they don’t because they sense that they will get no support from the class.” Pleased to have stifled free speech in the classroom, he proudly states that the “young people know the truth” — or perhaps, are too intimidated to contradict his version of it.
Unsurprisingly, many Jewish students have reported feeling targeted and intimidated in his classroom, not feelings typically associated with an allegedly open academic environment. This is not the first time that a professor has silenced a pro-Israel student in campus. CAMERA’s past article, Anti-Israel Professors, delved into the significance of this serious problem that pro-Israel students are facing throughout the country. In fact, due to the increase in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attacks made by professors, the AMCHA Initiativewas created. The organization recently published a list of over 200 anti-Israel Middle East Studies Professors.
Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, wrote an article for Campus Watch in which he noted that Alam denies the continuity of Jewish history and, therefore, the Jewish association with the land of Israel, to justify the destruction of the Jewish state. In Alam’s book, Zionism: An Abnormal Nationalism, he wrote:
In the 1890s… a small but determined cabal of European Jews proposed a plan to abrogate the history of global Jewish communities extending over millennia. They were determined to accomplish what the worst anti-Semites had failed to do: to empty Europe and the Middle East of their Jewish population and transport them to Palestine, a land to which they had a spiritual connection — just as Muslims in Bangladesh, Bosnia, and Burkina Faso are connected to Mecca and Medina — but to which their racial or historical connections were nonexistent or tenuous at best.
Alam freely preaches his “truth,” a stance that not only one-dimensionally vilifies Israel, but also displays an overarching ignorance toward Jews and Judaism, painting the culture as merely a “tenuously connected” people. In fact, Alam was famously quoted saying, “if you are an academic or an activist, if they call you an anti-Semite, wear that as a sign of distinction. This proves that I’m working for the right side, for the just cause.”
In April 2014, NBC News reported that 66 percent of hate crimes in the US were perpetrated against Jews as anti-Semitic attacks. This number has only increased throughout the years, most significantly after Operation Protective Edge this past summer. Yet to Alam, the term “anti-Semite” is an affirmation of justice.
In addition, Alam silences non-Jewish students who disagree with his views of Israel. One non-Jewish student, who chose not to name himself, dropped Alam’s Contested Issues In The Global Economy class after the third lecture. He reported, “It starts as a typical free form lecture. Then, he makes certain points and just expects us to agree with them and move on. If someone does raise a counterpoint, he uses semantics to twist it around and try to tear whoever asked the question apart.” By the end of the third class session, Alam’s tactics of intimidation and resistance to healthy discussion become fairly obvious to students. Many have stated that they have essentially two choices — silence or the risk of public humiliation and potentially lowered grades. As almost all students choose to stay silent in fear of getting a poor grade, they endure, as one student calls it, “[Alam’s] attempts to completely discredit Jews living in Israel and their plight. He basically says that Jews are not a real religion or culture.”
Professors should not be instilling their personal prejudice and one-sided viewpoints toward their students, especially those they disagree with. This concept holds especially true in an institution like Northeastern University, that prides itself on diversity and international presence. Unfortunately, in Alam’s classroom, as well as many others across the nation, these standards do not apply.
Allison Moldoff is a CAMERA Fellow at Simmons College and currently serves as an active member of the Political Affairs Chair for Huskies for Israel, the pro-Israel student organization at Northeastern University. Allie Glushanok is a sophomore at Northeastern University and serves as the Social Media Chair of Huskies for Israel (HFI). She created and continues to lead the “Humans of HFI” campaign.