Objectivity and the Western University: part 1 of 2

The ideal of pursuing knowledge as a good in itself is enshrined in one of the greatest creations of Western civilisation, the university. The modern university was created as a home for reason, free enquiry, unfettered curiosity, and the search for objective knowledge that is shareable, underlining the unity of man.

‘It is interesting to ponder why Chinese or Indians or Muslims or Arabs can enter Freiburg University or the Sorbonne or Oxford or Harvard or Chicago University or Toronto University and specialise and earn a universally respected degree in their own Chinese or Indian or Muslim or Arab culture but no German or Frenchman or Englishman or American or Canadian can enter any Chinese or Indian or Muslim or Persian or Arab university and earn a universally respected academic degree in his own German or French or British or American or Canadian culture.

The reason is that these non-Western universities (and therefore their own native cultures which they reflect) have not yet caught the insatiable original Greek curiosity about all being; they are interested in others only to a degree; for the most part utilitarianly, only to use them, only to learn from them. They are not interested in knowing their essence, their being; they are for the most part wrapped up in themselves; the others are perhaps too strange, too forbidding for them; their original, natural, wholesome curiosity is somehow inhibited.’*

No university in any Islamic country, with perhaps the exception of Turkey, offers any rigorous courses on non-Islamic civilisations, certainly nothing with the depth and comprehensiveness of the courses offered in Western universities on every civilisation, ancient or modern.

No scholar from the Islamic world has achieved anything close to the scholarship of the leading Western scholars of Islamic studies. There is no Muslim scholar who has contributed anything of any significance in the study of European history, languages, or literature, in the way that Europeans from the sixteenth century on have done for Islamic civilisation.

Western civilisation is defined by fearlessness and openness to the truth. At the time of the Cold War, the above writer was worried that this openness was being compromised by a ‘virus’ that came from the bogus universities of the Soviet Union, an ‘inhibition of original curiosity.’ Allow me to quote him again:

’Nothing authentic is known or taught in Soviet universities about Christianity; whereas practically everything is known or taught in Western universities about communist doctrine and practice…this blunting, inhibiting virus has infected Western universities themselves with respect to the knowledge of Christianity. The non-West is gradually overpowering the West! The original universal Greek curiosity is gradually being overwhelmed.’

Thus spoke Charles Habib Malik eight years before the collapse of Soviet Communism.

Today, thirty years later, it is the dictates and prohibitions of Islam that are infecting Western universities. The central purpose of the university – to promote the search for objective truth through impartial research – is being corrupted by a combination of political correctness and Arab money…

* Charles Habib Malik. A Christian Critique of the University (1982: Waterloo, Ontario: North Waterloo Academic Press, 1990), at http://www.wardconsultation.org/Readings/Charles_Malik.pdf.


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