The Education Department: Bigotry and discrimination?

The Education Department of the United States has raised concerns about the federal funding made available to Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Department expressed worries on the inadequate curriculum of the universities to address the situations of other religions aside from Islam.

The federal funding under Title VI covers cultural and language programs. The Education Department asserts that all religions must be included in the study to understand the Middle East region adequately.

The Education Department’s concerns

This observation by the Education Department was made as the university consortium in the Middle East discussed more on the positive aspects of Islam without mentioning other religions practiced in the Middle East. The Department also said that the curriculum of the two universities fails to prioritize language instruction adequately.

A section of the Department’s letter, from the Assistant Secretary Robert Kingletter to Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reads:

Few, if any, programs focused on the historic discrimination faced by, and current circumstances of, religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Yadizis, Kurds, Druze, and others. There is a considerable emphasis placed on … understanding the positive aspects of Islam, while there is an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East.

ACLU versus the Education Department

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has called the Education Department notice to the universities bigotry accusations. ACLU’s letter to the Education Department demanded that the claim by the Department be called off. Specifically:

The ACLU strongly urges the Department to respond to this letter confirming that the Department has ended its investigation of the Consortium’s programming and will refrain from launching future investigations of Title VI funding recipients motivated not by any governing statute but rather by the Administration’s ideological standards.

However, in response to the letter by ACLU, the Education Department’s secretary, Angela Morabito described bigotry as the action of the two universities in ignoring the existence of other minority religions in the Middle East. The Education Department secretary holds the opinion that all religions are equally important in gaining an understanding of the region.

Anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination history

ACLU perceives the letter of the Education Department as a personal one motivated by the Department’s displeasure with the direction of the university curriculum. The ACLU further commented that it is not the criteria of the Title VI funding program to instruct recipients of the fund to de-emphasize the positive aspects of Islam. The group indeed advised the Department against injecting their anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination history into the Title VI funding process. An extract of ACLU letter to the Education Department reads:

The administration’s overzealous censorship efforts undermine academic freedom and have no factual or legal basis,” she said in a statement. “The administration should be focused on rooting out the deep-seated anti-Muslim bigotry within its ranks rather than trampling on the academic freedom of our colleges and universities.