A California professor is assigning his political science students a text he co-wrote that calls al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden a "freedom fighter" and the United States a "neocolonial power."
Fox News reports that some students of professor Emmit Evans at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo aren't too happy with that description.
The book, The Other World: Issues and Politics of the Developing World, notes that “the al Qaeda movement of Osama bin Laden is one example of an attempt to free a country (in this case, Saudi Arabia) from a corrupt and repressive regime propped up by a neocolonial power (in this case, the United States)."
Junior Aaron Bandler told Fox, "It totally blew my mind that a professor would essentially call al Qaeda a bunch of freedom fighters in required reading for class."
Evans responded that he merely presents facts and doesn't moralize. "With respect to my writings, they are empirical, not normative," he told Fox News.
Here are a few facts for Evans: The Saudi-born bin Laden is the son of a man who became a billionaire through the patronage of the Saudi royal family. The bin Laden family's company, the Saudi Binladin Group, is one of the world's largest construction companies and has been entrusted with what's probably the most sensitive infrastructure job in the entire Islamic world: expansion of the mosques in Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites of the faith.
In other words, the bin Ladens are an integral part of the Saudi power structure. And Osama bin Laden used much of his share of the family fortune to finance his terrorist activities, which didn't turn against Saudi Arabia until the royal family invited U.S. troops to help repel Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 — an act bin Laden believed violated Islamic doctrine.
Putting it in terms Evans would appreciate, bin Laden was a right-wing religious extremist who turned against the government and society that made his family rich because it was too liberal.
But Evans probably doesn't know any of that. I checked on Evans' curriculum vitae on the Cal Poly website and found no obvious signs he's done any academic work or travel in the Arab world, or anything related to the Islamic religion or anything that would remotely support his "empirical" conclusion about bin Laden.
That tells me he's just another tenured radical pushing his political views in the classroom. Nothing "empirical" about that.