Tuesday, March 28, 2006

# Posted 12:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YALE AND THE TALIBAN: I haven't kept up with my alma mater's strange decision to admit an apologist for religious fascism, but OxFriend Jamie Kirchick (Yale '06) has written about it. John Fund has also rallied to the cause at the Wall St. Journal.

I guess Harvard will now have to one-up its rival by admitting one of Kim Jong Il's kids.
(9) opinions -- Add your opinion

I am arready there.
David, It strikes me that because the fire about this decision has all been coming from the Right, it is all aimed at the University. In fact, however, the State Department and INS are complicit in this and someone ought to be asking them why Rahmattulah is at Yale, rather than at Guantanimo, where his compatriots are. It is possible that the State Department or INS knows something that we don't, but it is altogether satisfied to allow the University to take the hit on this one.
Ralph, that may be an important question (or may not), but it is a different question--one is the standards for issuing a student VISA and the other for admission to one of our nation's elite universities.

There's no reason why questioning the standards for a VISA should detract from the criticism of Yale, which has favored an uneducated fascist not only over nice qualified whitebread American kids, but over the fascist's own victims.
I wonder, can fascists choose change, or is it that, once a facsist, always a fascist? Is Rahmattulah a fascist or indeed was he ever a fascist, as opposed to an apologist for those who were?

Personally, I have never cared much for Ivy League elitism, and the idea that Yale moved quickly to snap up Rahmattulah before a competing university could act just confirms my prejudices. But, it seems to me (a right wing nut job according to many) that Rahmattulah is appropriately placed at Yale. Can you imagine an environment more hostile to religious fanatacism? I would imagine that Guantanimo would be more comfortable, what with five calls to prayer, properly prepared meals, the absence of unveiled woman parading about trying to cause men to sin, and the walls of confinement reaffirming the occupants' belief that they are indeed engaged in a war on behalf of Islam as they know it.

In all seriousness, though, I am more than a little disappointed in my right wing brethren. It is they, after all, who believe in "freedom and democracy," and the tranforming power and attraction of these concepts to peoples everywhere. All that we need do is remove the dictators and democratic institutions will spring from the ground like flowers in spring.

I confess my own belief in this admittedly naive concept albeit an overly simplistic articulation. However, I also believe that minds must in fact change in order for "freedom and democracy" to work, and in particular, former Taliban and their significant numbers of supporters must choose change voluntarily. Frankly, that is the real problem with democracy; it requires voluntary compliance in significant measure. Without conversion of the bulk of Taliban sympathizers to a belief in "freedom and democracy" (whatever that means), it aint gonna happen.

Accordingly, I support Yale's decision to admit Rahmattulah. It is my hope that his mind begins to change from the dark, fascist Taliban mindset (assuming that he possessed it) to something more moderate, more modern, and more conducive to democracy and individual rights. Of course, there's no guarantee that anything lasting and positive will come from his experience at Yale, but that is true about our efforts in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan (overlooking for a moment the achievement in removing Sadam and the Taliban). It didn't stop my neo con friends from trying in those settings, and it shouldn't stop us from trying in this setting. When a former Taliban asks for the opportunity to study in America, willingly exposing himself to our views, we would be counterproductive fools to say no.
AGA: Apart from the fact that Rahmatullah Hashemi has not repudiated the Taliban so that, while he may be a future ex-fascist, he is currently a fascist. (Aand yes, he is. You can't seriously argue that someone acheiving his level of success within a fascist government isn't a fascist absent significant evidence that he undermined that government).

I'm sure you realize Yale has much higher standards for non-fascists (and, as mentioned in my last post, much higher standards for fascism's victims). I don't see why you'd be diasppointed in your right-wing brethren for opposing giving such a generous advantage to a high-ranking Taliban member. It seems like simple decency to me

It's quite simple, really. Yale has thousands of applications from better qualified, more deserving, students. Yet they were passed over for a fascist with a fourth-grade education.
I am an Yale alumnus (and have some acquaintance with Mr Belton to boot) and I was present when Mr Hashemi showed up at Yale as the Taliban representative. It is sufficient to say that he thoroughly disgusted me by the views he expressed.

The point is that Mr Hashemi was not simply misguided. He was complicit in the barbarism and vileness that the Taliban committed in Afghanistan. I am sure that a person who abetted murder and who later repents would not receive the same consideration from Yale. Mr Hashemi is no better, rather his role as a member of the Taliban was a lot worse than that of a simple criminal. I am frankly disgusted by Yale's actions in this regard, and find the quotes by the admissions office in the NYT article particularly appalling. I am also neither a person from the Right nor am I from the Left as these terms are understood here-I am a foreign citizen.
Just got back from a new haven visit. Ralph's State Dept and INS comment is dead on. This guy was befriended by a US govn't team in Afghanistan after he turned on the Taliban and placed at Yale as a 'special student'. Meaning he is allowed to take a class or two. The fact that the right is using this to reprimand the Ivy League left (what, the fascist left?) is as absurd as it is ironic.
It could be stated even more simply, "What business does an American educational institution have giving one of a finite number of seats to an enemy?" And to that you can add descriptors: fascist enemy, enemy of the secular, unqualified enemy etc.

I have no response to this simple statement or to yours, save one. It is really more of a question than a response, and its my inability to answer the question which serves as the response. Sorry, its the best that I can do under the circumstances. The question is how else are we and they to succeed?

How is it that fundamentalist Islamics decide that Islam's sphere of influence is more appropriately and more beneficially relegated to the private and personal, not the public and political? How is it that these fundamentalists decide that allowing the freedom to choose wrongly is better than coercing the correct choices upon pain of death? How is it that they come to view humiliation as something that does not include a Muslim converting out of Islam, that honor is unaffected by the rape of one's daughter, and that the time for sharia law is passed?

My own view is that unless these and other changes occur on a rather significant scale, there is no realistic hope that "freedom and democracy" is able to take root there. Nor am I able to imagine how a group of minds molded by these views can break free on their own, absent the passage of many, many more years. After all, they've not just sustained it since the 15th century, they appear to me to be actually stronger now than they were in the middle of the last century.

For me, in my admittedly limited world, but no more so than the pundits and media who I've seen hounding Rahmattulah, I believe that we need Taliban to convert so to speak to a different belief system. I believe that the number of Taliban and Taliban sympathizers (or lets just say good, Allah fearing Muslims who believe their version of Islam is the solution) equal or exceed the number of those who think that the solution is disentanglment of the religious from the secular.

Given those beliefs and my inablility to answer these questions, I am glad that Rahmattulah is here. I hope he receives an education which affords him a perspective that he can take back with him and put to good use. I imagine that he has the potential to be more effective with his former affiliates than his far more noble and brave country woman who rightfully is disgusted by his appearance at Yale. I don't expect her to feel or act otherwise, but I believe that she needs men like him who think like him to convert to a different way of thinking, and I don't think that she can do it on her own so to speak.

So I agree with your arguments. It isn't right or just or fair that he's here studying at Yale. But, I think that it is a very good thing that he is here. I know its "apples and oranges," and you'll have to forgive me since I am neither an historian nor an academic, but let me try to communicate with an analogy. I don't think that it was right, just, or fair for General Lee to escape punisment at the conclusion of the Civil War, but I think that it was the best thing to do and a good thing that it was done.
I'm a college drop-out, so my opinion may not count for much, but it's always been my understanding that college is supposed to improve one, rather than vice versa.

If a former Taliban who expresses remorse learns more and better, I'm entirely unclear what the harm is.
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