The Trump administration has threatened to disqualify a university-level Middle East studies programme from receiving federal funding for teaching the “positive aspects of Islam”.
The US Department of Education has ordered that the programme run by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University revise their course plans by 22 September or risk losing future funding.
The administration claims the course has “critical shortcomings and impermissible biases”, with “very little serious instruction” on national security and instead “considerable emphasis” on the “positive aspects of Islam”.
In a letter dated August 29 and sent to the programme’s directors, the Department says course topics including Iranian art and film offer “little to no relevance” under the funding guidelines, nor do they “support the development of foreign language and international expertise for the benefit of US national security and economic stability”. Instead, the course places “considerable emphasis on advancing ideological priorities”, the Department has claimed.
The programme “should not be funded or subsidised in any way by American taxpayers” unless the courses “clearly demonstrate that such programmes are secondary to more rigorous coursework helping American students to become fluent Farsi speakers and to prepare for work in areas of national need”, according to the letter.