by Robert Cofresi, Mountain Finch Staff
Mountain Finch Post posted an article by Stephen Schwartz from American Thinker: “Don’t Believe the Hype about Zaytuna College’.
We received a comment from Rahma Karima sisterrahma35@ gmail.com on 4/30/2015. After reading the comment I decided that a reply was necessary.
A few corrections: Zaytuna is not an Islamist college but Muslim college. Islamism concerns religion as political ideology. Muslim is an adjective referring to believers in the religion of Islam.
Response: Thanks for informing the reader about how these terms apply. So Zayuna is a college for believers in the religion of Islam. Unless you believe in Islam you will not be admitted. Fine. Private college. Zayuna can set their own rules. But this correction is to denigrate Schwartz, the author of the American Thinker article, as being ignorant.
Zaytuna has 4 full-time faculty and 13 part-time faculty including its founders and senior administrators. It is not a university (and never claimed to be–it has no graduate programs) but it is an undergraduate college with one bachelor’s degree program quite similar to Thomas Aquinas College in CA which still has one bachelor’s degree program though it was founded in the early 1970s. Thomas Aquinas is also a liberal arts college of the Great Books Tradition while Zaytuna is a hybrid classical liberal arts college which combines the Great Books approach with the trivium and quadrivium incorporating ideas found in Mark Van Doren’s Liberal Education and it also requires service in the local or national community. Zaytuna students do service projects, for example, with Habitat for Humanity and the United States Department of Forestry.
Response: Let’s start with trivium and quadrivium. I admit I had to go to my dictionary to figure out what these refer to. Trivium is from the Middle Ages and refers to the lower division of the liberal arts: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Quadrivium is also from the middle ages and refers to the upper division of the liberal arts: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. The use of these archaic words is a lofty and pompous attempt to bestow legitimacy on the coursework at Zaytuna. Another pompous attempt for legitimacy is to link Zaytuna College with Thomas Aquinas College. That is a stretch!
Accreditation means that the College substantially met 39 WASC criteria organized under 4 overarching standards. Zaytuna has scrupulously avoided the use of the word “fully” with “accredited” because as the WASC literature states, there is nothing called partial accreditation. You are either accredited or you are not.Unfortunately, reporters do not understand this and bandy about the term “fully accredited.” Accreditation is optional but Zaytuna chose to pursue accreditation from the first so that its degree is recognized when its graduates apply for employment or for graduate degree programs.
Response: Exactly what is accreditation of Zaytuna in reality worth?
In fact, all of its nine graduates from 2014 have been accepted into accredited graduate programs and all graduated without a penny of debt.
Response: Which graduate programs? There are plenty of weak degrees out there that describe themselves as ‘graduate programs’. But this statement is misleading. Karima has linked accredited graduate programs with being debt free. Disjointed arguments such as this always have a purpose. In this case it appears from the text below that ‘debt free’ equals American Muslim donors.
Zaytuna can keep its costs down because it is careful, even frugal, when it comes to spending donor money. Zaytuna has never intended to participate in federal or state funding or loan programs. The statement in its last catalogue was required. it had to state that it was not accredited and therefore could not participate in federal student loan programs. That is information which prospective students need to know and understand.. Many religious schools do not participate in federal and student loan programs. Zaytuna is not unique in that respect. Zaytuna’s funding has come from thousands of American Muslim donors. It is not funded by any foreign government and has very few donors abroad. It seeks to be an American Muslim college
Response: When you accept money from the government, either Federal or State, the money comes with strings, with requirements. By staying private Zaytuna can teach what they wish. Note that their donors are American Muslims. Karima stays silent on the purpose of Zaytuna not accepting government money. By the way, who are the foreign donors to Zaytuna? They are few according to Karima, so list the foreign donors.
In its Freshman Seminar students read a variety of genres of literature and among the poets read are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens. We can gladly add Wordsworth! As with most colleges, Freshman Seminar does not specify which authors to allow faculty latitude in choice of authors and texts. As with most colleges, faculty teach a variety of courses and often do not teach the same course twice. The courses offered are listed on the website. The author should be silent: ” Arabic is a world language and not an Islamic subject per se (Arab Christians speak Arabic) and students take four years of Arabic or eight courses in addition to the one year of Arabic they must enter the College with. The author missed a few of the liberal arts courses taken at Zaytuna: In addition to Arabic grammar (8 courses in which they solidify their knowledge of English grammar as well), logic (3 courses of which one is done in Arabic) and rhetoric (2 courses–1 English and 1 Arabic) mathematics, and astronomy , students also study economics, politics, US History, The Rise and Fall of Civilizations, history of science, philosophy, ethics, Freshman Seminar. Thus, in fact, Zaytuna students are very well versed in the humanities and exit with a broad knowledge of the liberal arts.
Response: OK, but courses taught from a religious perspective are openly biased. The focus on Arabic (Arab Christians speaking Arabic is misdirection) is so students will read the Quran in Arabic, a requirement of ‘true’ Islam and the view of Islamists, so Schwartz is correct in his article.
Zaytuna’s founders are scholars and hold western graduate degrees in addition to traditional Islamic qualifications despite the obvious attempts to denigrate them. However, it was not sustainable!
In reality, the faculty of Zaytuna hold doctorates from Yale University, Stanford, Notre Dame, UC Berkeley, University of Exeter, and other prestigious universities. Other faculty are finishing doctorates at accredited American graduate schools.
Response: Note that the Zaytuna’s founders have “traditional Islamist qualifications”. This is also an attempt at credibility. To list American Universities linked with the phrase ‘other prestigious universities’ is like linking a high school science project with Albert Einstein, all an attempt to be credible.
The article relies on de-contextualized partial statements concerning the founders to create a false impression. The decontextualized half truth is always the most insidious tool of ideologues such as Schwartz. There is no masquerade other than Schwartz’s efforts to fool his ideologically challenged audience.
Response: Sorry Karima. You can’t have it both ways. You just said the founders were Islamists and that makes Schwartz correct. The final sentence insults the audience whomever that might be. The audience is not stupid as you imply. You call the audience ‘ideologically challenged’ but ignore the Islamist origins of the school’s founder and his partners.
After considering Karima’s response and rereading Schwartz’s article, I conclude that Zaytuna is a college formed by Muslims to milk American Muslims for a place where their children can study the Quran in Arabic and can become steeped in political Islam. Zatuna is an Islamist college and should never receive direct or indirect support from any government.