The two universities inappropriately uses federal grants to advance “ideological priorities” promoting Islam and not highlighting “positive” imagery of Christianity and Judaism, according to the Trump administration, that is threatening to cut funding if they do not revise their joint Consortium for Middle Eastern Studies.
The consortium received $235,000 from the grant last year, according to Education Department data.
Assistant Secretary Robert King says the program lacks balance. It offers “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,” King writes.
The letter, published in the Federal Register, says that in materials for elementary and secondary students and teachers, “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.”This lack of balance of perspectives is troubling and strongly suggests that Duke-UNC CMES is not meeting (the) legal requirement” to provide a “full understanding” of the region, the letter states. King also accused the program of failing to adequately prioritize language instruction.
A statement from the UNC-Chapel Hill says the consortium “deeply values its partnership with the Department of Education” and is “committed to working with the department to provide more information about its programs.” Officials at Duke declined to comment. The Education Department declined to say if it’s examining similar programs at other schools.