Eight years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini published a little book called "Lectures on Islamic Government." It was printed in both Persian and Arabic -- but not English or any other Western Language, Princeton University Prof. Bernard Lewis told a group of congressmen yesterday at a House subcommittee hearing on the reauthorization of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The book, according to Lewis, clearly lays out the ayatollah's views on how an Islamic state should work -- views now seen in action in Iran. A few months ago the book was hastily translated into English, Lewis said.
"It would have been useful had a careful and annotated edition, in the NEH style, of this book been publicly available for study and comment before that," Lewis said in his testimony.
Lewis was one of eight witnesses at the hearings by the House subcommittee on post-secondary education of the Committee on Education and Labor. The reauthorization hearings are a routine procedure held at intervals of approximately four years to certify and reevaluate the agency. The NEH has a current budget of $150.1 million.
Other witnesses included Joseph Duffey, chairman of NEH; Robert Geller, producer of the PBS television series "The American Short Story," and a number of grantees and humanist scholars. All testified that the humanities in general -- and the NEH in particular -- were vital for their projects and for the understanding of culture.
Rep. William D. Ford (D-Mich), chairman of the subcommittee, agreed that there was a role for the humanities to play in developing understanding of cultures of key foreign countries.
"I don't have the feeling that of all the tens of thousands of people we sent to Iran," Ford said after the hearing, "we have a reservoir of people who can tell us more about what the Iranians are like."
Referring to the growing relations with China, Ford said, "We ought to try to anticipate opportunities to develop scholars who can learn something about China."
Ford anticipates no controversy over reathorization of the Humanities Endowment.
The Senate held its hearings on the Humanities Endowment last summer. The Senate is expected to approve reauthorization of the Endowment today. A similar process occurs for the National Endowment for the Arts.
But in addition, at least four other hearings on the NEH - in the states of some members of the subcommittee -- will be held starting at the end of this month.
"We're not aware of any problems," said Ford, "but this kind of reauthorization is worthy of broad hearing, so people can see what's going on in the humanities and so people can tell us about their projects."