"Duke University Chapel" by Bluedog423 / Public Domain

Academics criticize Department of Education probe of Middle East study program

Sep 27, 2019

By Yonat Shimron

Nineteen academic organizations, including the American Academy of Religion, have signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Education objecting to its investigation into a Middle East studies program run jointly by the University of North Carolina and Duke University.

Last month, the department ordered the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies to revise its offerings or risk losing future funding from a federal grant that’s awarded to dozens of universities to support foreign language instruction.

The department accused the consortium of “advancing ideological priorities” and promoting the “positive aspects of Islam,” but not of Christianity or Judaism. The accusations of the program were published in the Federal Register on Aug. 29.

The investigation into the Duke-UNC consortium was ordered by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos after North Carolina Rep. George Holding, a Republican, complained about a taxpayer-funded conference at UNC with “severe anti-Israeli bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

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