Has there ever been another time in history when the powerful, moneyed, cosseted elites achieved and maintained that elite status by claiming to be despised, discriminated against and marginalized? The latest example of this fetishization of outcast status came from Yale University’s Council on Middle East Studies last Thursday, when it presented a discussion by associate professor Zareena Grewal on her book Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority.
“At the talk,” reported the Yale Daily News, “Grewal spoke about her first book — which will soon have a second edition — and her next book.” So it appears that Grewal has done quite well: she holds a professorship at Yale, her first book was successful enough to warrant a second edition, and to make her writing attractive enough to publishers that she was able to sign a contract for a second book.
Zareena Grewal has, in short, been successful and prosperous. Her work has received accolades. She got a plum job at an Ivy League university. But to hear her tell it, she lives a terrifying life cowering in fear of the racist, redneck yahoos who are bent on denying her and others like her their just rewards for their labors. Grewal complains that “the pandemic impacts us in such uneven ways reflective of structural racism and disenfranchisement.” On top of that, “we have the escalation of state violence against Black and indigenous people, the climate crisis, the fascist suppression of protestors and voters, a rise in white supremacist movements, the collapsing of institutions, and the very threat of a coup.”
Wait, which side was doing the coup again? Never mind. You’ll be happy to learn that Grewal has learned to cope with all the many, many ways in which she has been victimized: “In these dark times, I rely on what I learned about the nature of crises in writing that book over ten years ago to help me slow down and metabolize all the things we are hit with every day.” Yes, metabolize. That’s how academics these days talk, you unwashed rube.
Grewal is an experienced player of the victimhood game. “During the talk,” says the Yale Daily News, “Grewal emphasized that she wrote her first book in the context of how the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the Arab Spring Revolution affected Gen X Muslim youth.” The 9/11 attacks affected many people other than Muslims, but it has been commonplace for victimhood propagandists to claim that Muslims were the primary victims of the attacks. Several weeks ago, on the nineteenth anniversary of the attacks, the Los Angeles chapter Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a press release to complain of supposed bias against Muslims in the teaching about 9/11 in schools. CAIR-LA Civil Rights Managing Attorney Amr Shabaik wrote that those biases primarily involved conflating “the entire religion of Islam with the tragic events of 9/11.”
Never mind that the 9/11 hijackers and plotters repeatedly conflated their actions with the religion of Islam. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 plotters several years ago penned a lengthy Islamic defense for their actions, which included a closely reasoned explanation of why the 9/11 attacks were justified from the standpoint of Islamic doctrine and belief.
As far as Grewal, as well as CAIR is concerned, such material doesn’t exist. What we have instead is “the Trump Presidency, the possibility of a second term of the Trump Presidency, the transformation of a series of policies in the Middle East, the brutal suppression of those revolutionary movements that I am describing at the end of the book, and how has that impacted American Muslim communities.”
Associate Professor of Religious Studies Travis Zadeh, who hosted the event, highlighted the importance of Grewal’s work in light of efforts to police the borders and control who enters the United States. Zadeh noted that Grewal’s “writing on the containment and exclusion of Muslims takes on heightened meaning in the current context of ultranationalism. In this paramedic state of closed borders, the debate over who belongs where is all the more pressing.”
Who belongs where – that’s a good question. For all their talk of marginalization and exclusion, Zareena Grewal and Travis Zadeh are in the in-crowd, and their talk of how much they are victims is the ticket to success and adulation in today’s academic world and among the intelligentsia in general. In contrast, what about an academic who is not Marxist, anti-American, and obsessed with imagined racism and victimhood? Would such an academic get featured at Yale University’s Council on Middle East Studies? Would such an academic even get hired at Yale in the first place?
The answers are clear. And so in their most inmost of inner circles, Grewal, Zadeh and their ilk will continue whining about how they’re discriminated against, and will be rewarded with prestige, positions, money, fame, and influence for doing so, while genuine academics are genuinely excluded, and must hunt for jobs far outside the academic world. Today, if you can play the victim convincingly enough, how far can you advance? The sky’s the limit.
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