Meet the Radical Professor at the Center of the Controversy for Islamic Prayers at Duke University

AP Photo/Jonathan Drew
AP Photo/Jonathan Drew

It all started when a University alumnus made a $3 million dollar donation to fund the position of Director of Islamic Studies at Duke University. Bettye Martin Musham, who gifted the Islamic Studies Center with the vast sum of money, said that she was convinced that it was the right thing to do after hearing a lecture on the meaning of jihad. Musham said that she and her husband would later become “hooked with the importance of Islam.”

Dr. Omid Safi was appointed to run Islamic Studies at Duke University in July of 2014. He has been the point of contact for several media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Huffington Post, in response to Duke University reversing its decision to broadcast Muslim prayers from Duke Chapel. Following Duke’s retraction of allowing for Islamic prayer to be amplified from the school’s chapel, Safi took to Twitter to express his discontent. “Saddened that external threats on our community detracts us from celebrating Muslims & Christians living together, honoring each other,” Safi tweeted. Why Safi did not include Jews in his tweet remains unknown–especially considering the fact that Duke has a well-populated Jewish presence on campus. However, Safi’s past statements may shed light onto why he chose to forgo mentioning the religion.

The Duke Islamic leader has time and time again expressed radical ideals through his social media accounts, news articles, and television appearances. Dr. Safi has frequently described the worldwide Muslim community as one that is “oppressed” and “marginalized,” and excused the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre as victims of political grievances. He also excused Palestinian terror group Hamas of any wrongdoing, but has in the recent past described Israel as a “terror state” and decried the Israeli Prime Minister and U.S. President Barack Obama as war criminals.

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which was carried out by Muslim radicals, Safi wrote in a column on the tragedy that people should not jump to conclusion and make a moral judgement on either the victims or the jihadist perpetrators. He wrote: “I try to resist the urge to turn the victims into saintly beings, or the shooters into embodiments of evil.” Although the shooters yelled that they were “avenging the Prophet Muhammad,”  Safi implored readers, “In this case, as much as in the case of the 9/11 hijackers, it might be good to look more at the political grievances of the shooters than into the inspiration of some idealized model of Islam.”

“I question what it means when satire… is directed at marginalized and oppressed communities the way that Muslims in France unquestionably are today,” Safi said in a recent Al Jazeera appearance. He was then twice asked why other religious communities do not react as harshly to their religious leaders when mocked. On both occasions, he “took issue” with the premise of the question and refused to give an answer.

Dr. Safi’s faulty scholarship has been well documented. He has in the past written articles about a supposed Zionist massacre of an Arab village, while using a misleading photograph in the piece that in reality showed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Religion News Service eventually took down the article after they found that his piece did not meet its “editorial standards.” The Brandeis Center said in a statement at the time: “This misuse of this Holocaust image illustrates the concept of ‘Holocaust inversion,’ which is used to describe the practice of Jews, Zionists, or Israelis of behaving like Nazis or having culpability for Holocaust-like crimes.”

Several of Dr. Safi’s Facebook posts have revealed him as an anti-Israel radical and an apologist for the Palestinian Hamas terror group. He has in the recent past described Israel as a terror state and has also pleaded with his followers to support the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions) movement.

In a September post, Safi angrily described Henry Kissinger as someone who needs a “refresher course” in world history. Safi said that Kissinger describing Iran as a bigger threat than ISIS was “fear-mongering” and “war-mongering.”

In a July 12 post, Safi equated the Israel Defense Forces with al Qaeda and the Taliban. “Let’s call it what it is: State sponsored terrorism. State sponsored murder,” he wrote of the Israeli government.

In a July 18 post, Safi excused Palestinian terrorism as an “inevitable” way to fight back against Israel. Safi insisted his followers “Educate yourself on the BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions) movement.” BDS, which advocates for a boycott of Jewish imports from the State of Israel, has been regarded as a virulently anti-Semitic movement.

In a July 23 post, Safi insisted in a conspiracy-laden tirade that the “corporate media” and America’s political and military institutions were plotting to provide “cover” for Israel’s “massacres in Gaza.” On July 27, he would again promote a conspiracy that most news outlets are “beholden to corporate interests and nationalistic propaganda,” and then suggested that radical left-wing site Democracy Now is America’s only trusted source for news.

On July 23, Safi invoked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (who was a strong supporter of the State of Israel) in order to demonize the Jewish State.

On August 2, he wrote that Senator John McCain was a “morally bankrupt vomitous excuse for a politician” after the Senator pledged to fund Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

In an August 6 post, he accused both Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama of being “guilty of war crimes.” A day later, he wrote that Palestinian “resistance… should inspire all committed to peace and justice.”

After Israel’s war with Hamas, Safi on several occasions equated the Ferguson riots with the Palestinians in Gaza. “Struggle continues here, there, everywhere,” he wrote on Facebook.

Not once in Safi’s several Facebook rants did he condemn the Hamas terror group that rules the Gaza Strip and initiated the 50-day war with Israel. Not once did he prove that Israel had ever purposely targeted a civilian during its war with Hamas. Not once did he condemn Hamas for its various wrongdoings, such as using UN facilities for rocket storage, using human shields as cover to launch attacks, planning the mass slaughter of a Jewish community, or executing civilians that protested their rule.

Duke employs as its Islamic Studies Center director a man who has in his recent past called world leaders “war criminals,” supported anti-Semitic hate groups, and excused Islamic terrorism as a means of “resistance.” He remains, however, the undeterred leader of the Islamic Studies program at a school with 15,000 of America’s brightest students.


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