May 11, 2020 – AIFD Review of Facts on Scottsdale Community College handling of student quiz complaint and Islamist viral mob
Scottsdale Community College Teaches the World how Cowardice in the Face of Islamist Mobs Actually Radicalizes Muslims
By AIFD Research Staff
Posted May 11, 2020 (this will be updated regularly as the story evolves with additions and dates at the end of the piece)
The American Islamic Forum for Democracy is based in Phoenix, AZ. Our founder and president, M Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., lives in Scottsdale and has been a frequent speaker at the Scottsdale Community College (SCC) campus for a number of classes and events. For example, only a few months ago, he spoke there for Turning Point USA on the topic “Taking on the Islamist Establishment” and in addition back in 2010 he had a pivotal debate with the lead imam in Arizona from the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, Ahmed Shqeirat, on “Does Islam Need Reform? And if so, how?”.
With that background, a number of friends of our forum contacted us last weekend, May 2, 2020, in order to let us know about recent developments at SCC. They, including supporters as well as other faculty at SCC, were all very concerned about the following:
- The unprofessional and incompetent conduct of the school’s top administration in its handling of a very simple student informal, but rather public, complaint about three questions on a quiz.
- The safety of a professor who, within 48 hours of information regarding one of his quiz’s being made public, was receiving death threats from across the planet, while the school’s administration responses only added fuel to the fire.
- The overall impact this rapidly evolving case would have on academic freedom across the campus and even wider.
- Should the Muslim community be treated like adults or infantilized and coddled after every one of their tantrums? What’s the impact of that bigotry of low expectations upon general radicalization?
Dr. Jasser spoke to the professor last week and broke the story on his May 4, 2020 Episode 68 of his podcast, “Reform This!”. This investigative report in the following will remain a collection of the actual facts in this case apparently lost or of no concern to most Islamist keyboard activists, the school’s administration, and traditional media.
Who is Professor Nicholas Damask, Ph.D.?
Dr. Damask as been a professor at Scottsdale Community College for over 24 years. He hails from Dayton, Ohio, and received a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati in political science and an M.A. in international relations from American University. His dissertation was on terrorism and its funding in the mid-90’s. He has been teaching this ever since and is a leading expert in this field in Arizona. A quick review of his public teaching scores from his students reveals impressive ratings. While AIFD had not had direct contact with Dr. Damask previously, he had come to a number of our presentations and events at SCC and is very supportive of our counter-terrorism and counter-islamism work.
In Dr. Jasser’s conversations this week with Dr. Damask, it is imminently clear that he is not someone who approaches Islam with prejudgment, bias or any hate whatsoever. His course is on political science and its history in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Only 15 percent of the curricula of the course in question, POS102, is related to terrorism and a part of that to Islamist terrorism. This is someone simply trying to teach his students what the root causes and underpinnings are for the Islamic militants. That is it. His is not a course in theology at all, but simply political movements.
Apparently all it takes for an anonymous student to take-down a professor and have his administration repudiate him reflexively while also diminishing the reputation of the entire College is a few publicly released snapshots of quiz questions with no other inquiries?
It is breathtakingly malicious and incompetent to conclude that he is a bigot based upon three questions out of context in a quiz. Let’s look at how this kerfuffle evolved?
Timeline of social media instigated cultural terrorism
- January 2020: Course opens and students can at their own pace work through the course curricula including lectures and study guides and then complete the quiz at each section. They have until May 1 to complete the entire course. The quiz questions can be reviewed later and the correct answers are provided for each section for the student to review. In this case the student finished the quiz for the section on Islamic terrorism on April 29th, 2020. This section was approximately 15% of the total curricula and the quiz in question was 25 questions total. Dr. Damask tells us that while he has a number of questions that he rotates through the course over the past many years these questions are not new. Dr. Damask also confirms that there is a honor code involved where other students taking the course online are assumed not to share snapshots and answers of the quizzes provided by those who finished them earlier.
- Wednesday, April 30th, 2020: the anonymous student took his quiz on Tuesday, April 29, 2020 then emailed the professor the next day (April 30) with a generic email saying that “you have insulted my religion” and “I am sick to my stomach”.
a. With no initial specifics, Dr. Damask responded kindly, saying, it certainly was not his intent, and he appreciated the students feelings and wanted the student to know that he was only trying to teach about international politics and in no way meant to insult him or his faith. Damask then later that day received a second email in which the student provided the screenshots of the three quiz questions that offended him out of the 25 total questions. He added that they “were distasteful to Islam.”
b. Damask then responded again that his course is not a commentary on religion and only about the ideas of the Islamic terrorists. He did note that the timeline of the emails makes it obvious that the student had obviously already sent the questions to the entire planet by sharing them on social media prior to his emails.
c. The student shared them apparently with an online comedian, prankster and general social media bully @g_dulla_mulla. He posted the following (post 1), apparently now a deleted post: “One of my followers sent me this. Look what schools are teaching now. SMH (shake my head) absolutely disgusting!!”. He has 239k followers. His YouTube channel is full of childish, if not thuggish pranks, some where he proudly accosts customers at Walmart and brags about getting kicked out of four Walmart’s So this is what appears to be the primary source (patient zero) of the viral spread of the three quiz questions.
He then posts another question (post 2) from the quiz, stating, “Wow, SMH! This class needs to be shutdown! Please don’t forget to report this disgusting school. I can’t believe what they are teaching those students”
His final post (post 3) was “This is the school. Please let’s all report this nasty ass school to the chancellor for racism! Let’s put them on blast.” Put them on blast is a rough translation for an Arabic colloquialism regarding loud, continuous protest and focus. Needless to say the comments under it were a clinic in Islamist radicalization, bullying and misinformation regarding the school, the professor, his course and the quiz. He identified the school to his followers and directed them to SCC.
3. May 1, 2020: If that wasn’t enough, the school likely began receiving a flurry of social media mentions and contacts through various channels. So what could be better than giving this Islamist mob a place to post their radicalism on the school’s Facebook and Instagram page under a groveling letter from the school’s head? Then, in barely 12-24 hours from the first viral posting, the school’s PR team led by Eric Sells had their Interim President, Chris Hines, post the following on both Facebook and Instagram. Thousands of comments later, the professor would be forced into hiding.
And then thousands of comments followed. Here are a few poignant examples the school has left up for over a week. The tenor of these comments speak to the incompetence of the school in giving platform to social media bullies and a student who bypassed professional avenues of complaint through his department and school.
There are thousands of comments like this now on the SCC social media.
The “comedian” @G_dulla_mulla that lit the fuse to this mess has since deleted his initial post but the next surrogate is also a comedian, Abdullah Jasim. He posts it with a video that essentially includes the next stage of radicalization—as is typical for Islamist agitprop—he invokes American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as morally equivalent “terrorism” to Al Qaeda, ISIS, HAMAS and other radical Islamist movements. He does this with a backdrop of SCC’s Instagram page and sarcastic, caustic commentary on the three quiz questions to another 125k followers who then proceed to make this “story”—a fuse lit from three quiz questions—go viral.
The facts about Dr. Damask’s course on “Political Science POS102” and the quiz
A section (about 15 percent) of Dr. Damask’s course is on terrorism. He shared a slide deck of his curricula with us and it is well referenced and rather balanced. He teaches about other examples of faith-based radicals from Jewish zealots to the Hindu thuggies. He also discusses what he describes as left and right wing terrorism and goes on to talk about how the constructs of faith can be used by militants in the abstract to drive terrorism.
He has taught this course for 24 years and has intermittently changed the questions and used similar ones, never having a complaint about his perspective regarding Muslims and terrorism. A couple quiz questions are not a barometer for evaluating anything let alone a conviction on bigotry.
Let’s look at the quiz questions:
And then the questions broadcast by the student?
Had the professor known his questions were going to be broadcast across the planet, to folks who hadn’t taken his course nor seen the other questions, Dr. Damask may have added more clarifying lines prior to the questions. Perhaps a phrase like, “For the terrorists…” or “the interpretation of Islam by the terrorists is…”. But that does not then mean that the questions were poorly worded or bigoted let alone the professor or the school being bigoted.
Clearly the context of the questions is related to the thought process of Islamist militants. As I’ve written about extensively in my book, “A Battle for the Soul of Islam”, and as we discuss almost daily at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, the great debate that needs to happen within the House of Islam is, “which Islam, whose Islam?” Dr. Damask’s course is not a theological discourse but rather this section of his course was about the root causes of terrorism and the underlying mindset of major global movements like Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, Nasrallah’s Hezbollah or Al-Baghdadi’s ISIS, or Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas. To release the above questions to the world as a measure of every Muslim’s Islam requires a breathtaking amount of dishonesty, deception and misinformation. This all sadly mattered little to any of the commenters who were too busy enacting a form of asymmetric cultural warfare – basically the same immoral construct as terrorism where the ends justifies the means. Like a bully, intimidation is not about the facts of a case but striking fear into the hearts of any and all that may question the Islam of theocrats like the massive global Islamist movements.
An appropriate question has to be, did the student even read the rest of the curriculum from the course? Did he even review the PowerPoint? See (link) The hundreds of thousands or more that were offended by the questions certainly did not. Dr. Damask talks about the radical’s own theo-political justification for terrorism?
This course is not about all Islam or all Muslims. Part of it was about terrorism and terrorists. It is not about the mosque down the street or the Muslims in his class or that we may know. In fact the penchant of grievance based Islamist organizations like the Council on American Islamic Relations to use manufactured incidents like this to condition (radicalize) Muslims that schools, professors, and Americans are anti-Muslim bigots.
Islamists laugh at how easy a mark SCC was
Nothing rewards a mob of Islamist bullies for their libel of a teacher, his school and Americans, more than an immediate response from the university president with a public apology. The Islamists from across the world were like sharks who saw meat in the water. The posts on the school’s Facebook page demonstrated how unleashed they all felt after the school’s top leadership posted a groveling apology with no due process. The power clearly lied with the Islamist grievance machine. Here are a few poignant examples:
Students should always be empowered to question teachers and schools. However that conversation does not begin with radical Islamists across the planet virally exploiting a couple of quiz questions. A social media mob and intimidation is not about academic freedom and it is far from supportive of freedom of speech.
Students should protest. Question. Raise their hands. But not start with a global mob of intimidation and their CAIR radicalizers. Sure enough. In this case, 10 days after it began, CAIR waltzes in to “take the student’s case”. Apparently their standards of operation have no problems with the fruit of this poisoned tree that went viral after a few comedians and pranksters took on the case first? The ambulance chasers of anti-Muslim bigotry will take any case that feeds their victimization narrative.
These legal “experts” at CAIR, like the top-level SCC administration, seemed to care little to nothing about due process or any facts in the case. They only cared about exacting punishment and retribution against anyone who ventures into teaching or discussing the connection between Islamism and Islamist terrorism.
Why shouldn’t the Islamists from CAIR or any group look at SCC and laugh at how easy a mark they were? Facts don’t matter. By the way, question #1 is there an honor code where you do things on line but you’re not supposed to distribute proprietary info?
Here’s the response again from the SCC President Chris Hines as crafted with Eric Sells, SCC’s PR lead. We remind you it was posted within 24 hours of the student’s very public mockery of the school and within 48 hours after he took the actual quiz:
Earlier this week, a student at Scottsdale Community College took a quiz as part of the class coursework. The student expressed concern over the wording of three questions related to Islam on the quiz. SCC senior leadership has reviewed the quiz questions and agrees with the student that the content was inaccurate, inappropriate, and not reflective of the inclusive nature of our college. SCC deeply apologizes to the student and to anyone in the broader community who was offended by the material. SCC Administration has addressed with the instructor the offensive nature of the quiz questions and their contradiction to the college’s values. The instructor will be apologizing to the student shortly, and the student will receive credit for the three questions. The questions will be permanently removed from any future tests. We applaud the student for bringing this to our attention – and encourage any student or employee to speak out. SCC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in our programs or activities. We value inclusiveness because we all benefit by embracing a diversity of voices, viewpoints, and experiences. SCC cultivates success when individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds are respected and empowered to contribute. — Chris Haines, Interim President. Scottsdale Community College.
This letter, its verbiage, its hurried dismissal of any due process, its weakness, appeasement and general tenor should offend any sensible American. This letter seems to address a heinous hate crime that never happened but President Hines wanted to believe the global Islamist bullies that it did.
President Haines promises an apology which Dr. Damask never agreed to. All he knew was that he was forwarded a letter of grotesque apologetics to fill in a couple blanks and sign his name. Here it is:
Nothing from the president on the student’s violation of process for complaints.
Nothing from the president on the student’s violation of honor codes by snap-shotting quiz questions for mass distribution.
Nothing from the president on the need to adjudicate this and have a hearing to hear both sides of the story.
She concluded the questions were “offensive”
She concluded the professor needed to apologize and more and in fact the student was lionized rather than taught.
Still as of May 10, 2020, there has been no formal complaint filed by the student. Nothing has been filed with the department chair.
On top of this disgusting letter from leadership, tossing their 24 year professor to the global Islamist wolves, Eric Sells, their public relations head asked the professor to fill out this apology letter above. In that letter, Dr. Damask is being coerced into signing a letter admitting that he wrote questions with “offensive material” and that he learned a new lesson in diversity and how to view his material. Never mind it is the leadership who let one monolithic movement of Islamist bullies speak for Muslims and threw away ideological diversity among Muslims with their obsequious apologetics.
This type of university action only radicalizes Muslims more
For the school to parrot the complaints of the student with no due process gives the Islamists the entire narrative. They have shaped what will be understood as the “facts in the case” others be damned.
Such a biased, one-sided approach to complaints about their faith representation from a Muslim (usually Islamists) implies that all Muslims should be coddled and given deference for any complaint with no need for due process or balance. In this month of Ramadan, the Islam we teach here at AIFD is not one of punishment and fear for those who may conflate militant Islam with our Islam, but rather one of humility, compassion and fairness.
This ‘bigotry of low expectations’ as an approach to any Muslim complaint actually radicalizes Muslims. It rewards their mob-like intimidation. Is that not what terrorism’s asynchronous warfare is all about? The cause of the university’s pathological response may be their cowardice, their inordinate fear of that Islamist mob. So in fact are they not then negotiating with cultural terrorists, bullies or a mob? So let’s review. A student gives three simple questions to a half-wit across the world to post and to unleash the global twitter mob. Now this professor is getting threats from around the world especially under the school’s cowardly post of an apology letter. In what planet does any of this make sense for an institution of any semblance of academic rigor, freedom and free speech?
The professor wasn’t even wrong. The questions’ intent is what matters. If you believe those questions are bigotry then you don’t understand anything of why there are 100’s of millions of followers of Islamist political groups all over the world. They are emulating their version of the Prophet Mohammed. They believe that their Islam is the only Islam. Their numbers are not insignificant and they dominate major theocratic regimes from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Islamist institutions in Egypt, Wahhabi ideology out of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and millions upon millions more.
Our work at AIFD is about reform against political Islam as a root cause of radicalism and its terrorism. The Unites States was formed on the defeat of theocracy. And in today’s America teachers that have the courage to teach that Islamic theocracies are currently normative Islam which many Muslims who are honest would tell you just like Christian theocracy was normative Christianity before the 17th and 18th Jeffersonian religious liberty and freedom were ideas that took centuries in the make and the same thing now with Islamic law. It has to go through the same reformation but simple questions about terrorism and responses like this are not offensive and anyone who thinks they are is either ignorant, in denial or flat out deceptive.
Legacy media pile on along with the global Islamist mob and cowardice of SCC Leadership
With little surprise, the local legacy media covered the kerfuffle and basically regurgitated the Islamist talking points and propaganda from CAIR. Here’s the breathtakingly one-sided headline: “Scottsdale Community College Apologizes after ‘inappropriate’ questions on Islam Surface on Quiz”. They included no other voices from academia or the Muslim community. Dr. Jasser addressed the Arizona Republic reporter here via twitter and the Gannett ‘diversity’ reporter, Lorraine Longhi, did reach out to him and did apologize for excluding our voice. A follow up report is promised after she interviewed him on May 10, 2020. She will hopefully also interview the professor. We will keep you abreast of further developments in this clinic on academic freedom, free speech, religious liberty, ideological diversity, Muslim reform, and the cowardice of the West in the face of global Islamist bullies—“cultural terrorists”.
May 12, 2020 UPDATE:
May 12, 2020 update, the College Fix reported on the impact of a legal warning from FIRE and the interim chancellor of SCC provides an impressively humble apology and defense of Dr. Damask. See their full report here titled: