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April 16, 2013

A Factual Error in the ... Title? Really?

korb book cover.jpg

We've been warned since childhood not to judge a book by its cover. But we can probably be forgiven if we judge a book by its title, especially when it includes a factual error.

Yes, it happened. An American book publisher, Beacon Press, located in Boston, Mass. (and a department of the Unitarian and Universalist Association), has published a book that includes a factual error in its title.

The book in question is Light Without Fire: The Making of America's First Muslim College written by Scott Korb.

The book is about Zaytuna College, which CAMERA has written about here.

Zaytuna College, located in Berkley, California, is not, as the book's title states, "America's First Muslim College." That honor belongs to another school, American Islamic College, located in Chicago, Illinois.

AIC's website states the following:

History of the AIC:

The American Islamic College was established in 1981 as a private, not-for-profit, four-year college offering programs leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies. In March 1983, the college purchased its present landmark building on Lake Shore Drive, and in September 1983 began its first academic semester.

The College has been the only Islamic institution of higher education with degree-granting authority in North America. In 1991 the College was granted the authority to offer the Associate of Arts degree in addition to the Bachelor of Arts degree; this authority was later removed by the IBHE (Illinois Board of Higher Education) due to the administration’s inability to meet IBHE criteria. After significant reorganization and the installation of a completely new administration with the mandate of the Board of Trustees and the Executive Council, the American Islamic College has reinitiated the Operating Authority process via the IBHE. Until such authority is received, we continue to offer a variety of non-credit and non-degree classes that include: history, Islamic studies, art, music, and Arabic and Turkish language.

Currently, neither Zaytuna nor AIC are accredited institutions. Zaytuna's website states that it is "moving forward with our plans to establish the first accredited Muslim college in the United States."

AIC, which was founded in 1983 was previously accredited and has since lost its accredidation, which it is trying to recover. And more to the point, AIC was in existence prior to Zaytuna College, which was founded by Hamza Yusef in 1996.

It's kind of an egregious error for a publishing house that describes itself as "an independent publisher of serious non-fiction and fiction."

Just how "serious" can a book be if it publishes a book with a factual error in its title?

Posted by dvz at April 16, 2013 04:55 PM


Dexter tells us the publishing house claims to be "an independent publisher of serious non-fiction and fiction".

Did he confirm the book came out of the non-fiction division?

Posted by: wayne at April 17, 2013 05:16 PM

Zaytuna College is, in fact, the first Muslim Liberal Arts College. Perhaps the author should have differentiated that because the AIC is in fact, not a liberal arts school and is currently not a college either.

DVZ responds:

Thanks for your post, Ginny.

The book makes no mention of AIC.

And the text itself repeats the same error offered in the title. It refers to students attending the school "as part of the first class of the nation's first Muslim college.... (Kindle location 430)." And there is also a reference to the welcoming of the "first class into the nation's first Muslim college..." at Kindle location 449.

Posted by: Ginny Cifelli at April 17, 2013 11:00 PM

Zaytuna operates as a typical college, in the sense that students matriculate, or move as a group toward a degree. IAC has a pay-per-class set up, and everything there is non-credit and non-degree. (Though they did have a short-lived program that intended to offer degrees.)

Zaytuna is also a liberal arts college, which IAC is not and never was. It thus seems fair to call Zaytuna America’s first Muslim college.

DVZ Responds: First means, um, "First." AIC (not, as you write "IAC") was ... first.

The fact is, the title is inaccurate.

Have a nice day.

Posted by: Beacon Press at April 18, 2013 04:25 PM

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