Harvard Fellow Attends Anti-Police Brutality Conference … in Iran

 

Speaking of education, I caught Michael Totten’s latest column at World Affairs Journal about this group of twenty-odd American yo-yos who’ve gone to a conference in Iran against police brutality and racism. No, not Iranian policy brutality and racism. American police brutality and racism. Mike, reporting this with the journalistic equivalent of a straight face, notes that,

The Iranian government hunts down gay people and hangs them from cranes. It sends the Basij militia into the streets to attack peaceful protesters with clubs, chains, knives and axes. It routinely and as a matter of policy tortures liberal activists and intellectuals in Evin Prison.

These people think black lives matter? Really?

And that American police officers are like ISIS? Really?

And the keynote speaker at a supposed anti-racism conference vows to destroy the world’s only Jewish state within a generation. Really?

Really, Mike. Really.

“The activists meant well, I’m sure,” writes Mike. “They had no idea they were being used as tools in a propaganda scheme by a repressive and violent regime in precisely the same way North Korea recently exploited Dennis Rodman a few years ago. Someone really ought to sit down and explain it to them.”

They meant well, Mike, you think? Let me introduce you to one of them, Harvard University fellow Amir Sulaiman. You’d think a fellow of Harvard, known as the world’s most prestigious and competitive of universities, might already be aware that he was being used as a tool in a propaganda scheme by a repressive and violent regime. You might especially think so if you knew that he’s not just any old fellow, but a fellow of the Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University, where, presumably, one becomes a fellow because one has some interest in, and unusual scholarly acquaintance, with the Islamic world. (How Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia feels about propping up an Iranian propaganda exercise these days is anyone’s guess, but I suppose once you’ve made the donation, you’re not supposed to micromanage.)

But first, here’s the odd thing: Why is Amir Sulaiman a fellow of Harvard at all? What does he study? Where can I find research he’s conducted, look at papers he’s written, consider his scholarly output? Fellowships at the oldest institution of higher education in the United States are a competitive business; surely he must have done something impressive — or done something, anyway — to get that fellowship.

Well, I couldn’t find anything. Not a blessed thing.

Friends, meet Amir Sulaiman, who as far as I can tell won a fellowship to the Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University because he’s dope:

Amir Sulaiman is a podownloadet, recording artist, activist and newly appointed Harvard Fellow, born in Rochester, New York. His poems cross subjects of love, tragedy as well as what it means to reconcile humanity with the unprecedented trials of modernity. He has performed his works across the US as well as many other countries including England, Belgium, Senegal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Australia, Iran and the Netherlands, and continues to tour world-wide. His recently published book of poetry, Love, Gnosis & Other Suicide Attempts met with critical acclaim, in addition to his latest album “The Opening,” the third in a unique trilogy project, following “The Meccan Openings” (2011) and “The Medinan Openings” (2012). Amir was first introduced to a National audience in 2005 when he was featured for two seasons on Russell Simmons’ groundbreaking series Def Poetry Jam on HBO.

Here’s a sample of his oeuvre:

Think about it: No one, through a long process that must have involved much faculty discussion, many readings of his work, multiple letters of recommendation — not one person had the cojones to say, “The idea of appointing this relentlessly talentless and thoroughly obnoxious buffoon as a fellow of Harvard university is preposterous. Is this application some kind of April Fool’s Joke?”

And thus it came to pass that when representing Harvard University at a conference in Tehran known for such panel discussions as “Zionist Fingerprints on the 9/11 Cover-up,” Mr. Sulaiman, when asked how he felt about comparisons between the US and ISIS, thought it fit to say, “the scale” of murders was not the same, “but I do understand the ideological reference … of you killing an innocent person an unarmed person and the state allowing it.”

Yes, Mike, someone really ought to sit down and explain it to him. It’s nothing a rational chat, or a good education — like the kind one might get at America’s best-known Ivy League university — wouldn’t fix, right?

Maybe. Or maybe we’re so completely doomed that I don’t even know why I bother anymore.

Published in Education, Foreign Policy, General, Islamist Terrorism
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  1. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    This story is appalling. Sigh.

    There’s a lot of good work going on at Harvard and at all the Ivies and their friends. It’s too bad when things like this happen.

    This is a diversity program gone completely off the road. They do not know how to evaluate Muslim candidates. All Muslims look alike to them. Any Muslim will do.

    • #1
  2. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Reminds me of a Romanian joke.

    The transportation ministers of the USSR and America are discussing trains at the UN. The American minister brags that the the US train system is the most punctual in the world. The Soviet minister sneers and says it can’t possibly be as punctual as that in the USSR. So the two decide to test this, by going to Central Station and getting a train for Washington DC. The train arrives on time at the station and then actually manages to arrive ahead of time at its destination. “See, the American says you can’t beat that.” The Russian minster laughs and says “Wait till you see the trains operate in Moscow.”

    The next month the two ministers are in Moscow and to settle their argument they decide to go to catch a train from Moscow to Leningrad. At the Moscow train station the two wait for a train that is nearly two hours late. On the ride to Leningrad the train stops several times because of malfunctions. Finally they arrive in Leningrad 8 hours late.

    The American minister turns to his Russian counter part and asks “Well?” His Soviet counter part straightens up and says “The American capitalist system is racist towards blacks.”

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    You are not allowed to critique this man’s work. He is not angry, he is anger! He is not dangerous, he is danger!

    That is not poetry, that is codswollop. And no, I’m not going to make it rhyme.

    • #3
  4. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Maybe they’ll like his views so much they’ll keep him….I think the halls of higher learning have been off the rails for awhile – I’ve read the Harvard Divinity Review for years – always interesting and the last issue shocked me – I had to look twice at the cover – please continue to bother…..we need alternate viewpoints, and muck revealed when it is muck.

    • #4
  5. Yudansha Member
    Yudansha
    @Yudansha

    MarciN:This story is appalling. Sigh.

    There’s a lot of good work going on at Harvard and at all the Ivies and their friends. It’s too bad when things like this happen.

    This is a diversity program gone completely off the road. They do not know how to evaluate Muslim candidates. All Muslims look alike to them. Any Muslim will do.

    Incorrect.  US Ivies are now institutions of anti-education.  The only way to fix them is to burn them to the ground, scatter the faculty to the Four Winds, and start over from the ground up.  Every one I know who got a liberal arts “education” got dumber and more smugly closed-minded with every passing day.

    I can handle dumb.  I can handle smug.  Dumb and smug is a truly toxic and nearly unfixable combination.

    • #5
  6. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    Complete stupidity and Harvard are used together in sentences more and more. It’s a trend.

    UN REPORT: IRAN’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD WORSE UNDER ROUHANI THAN AHMADINEJAD

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #6
  7. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    a link to the specific post

    http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/michael-j-totten/iran%E2%80%99s-bogus-posturing-police-brutality

    • #7
  8. Tim Wright Inactive
    Tim Wright
    @TimWright

    Went to an Ivy. Don’t give those damn people a penny. Tim

    • #8
  9. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    This sums up Harvard.

    I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University. – William F. Buckley Jr.

    • #9
  10. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    MarciN: This is a diversity program gone completely off the road. They do not know how to evaluate Muslim candidates. All Muslims look alike to them. Any Muslim will do.

    If so, what an absolute tragedy and waste. So much could be done with an endowment like that to study — really study — this part of the world, it’s languages and peoples and history and culture and governance. It is well worth studying. And even the idea that “They do not know how to evaluate Muslim candidates” contains an absurdity: It shouldn’t even be relevant whether he’s a  Muslim candidate. This isn’t a madrassa; it’s an endowed department at Harvard for the academic study of the Islamic world.

    • #10
  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    captainpower:a link to the specific post

    http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/michael-j-totten/iran%E2%80%99s-bogus-posturing-police-brutality

    Sorry, thought I’d included it. Will now.

    • #11
  12. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Sulaiman is an abomination, and certainly no match for the Iranians, who really are “danger,” but he’s probably good for a few chuckles in Tehran. I think there is a good chance that this came from the administration and not from the Alwaleed program, whose faculty looks rather normal.  One would like to have overheard the negotiations that secured the fellowship.

    • #12
  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Front Seat Cat:Maybe they’ll like his views so much they’ll keep him….I think the halls of higher learning have been off the rails for awhile – I’ve read the Harvard Divinity Review for years – always interesting and the last issue shocked me – I had to look twice at the cover – please continue to bother…..we need alternate viewpoints, and muck revealed when it is muck.

    I guess. Sometimes I do despair, though, and think it’s too late.

    • #13
  14. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Sandy:Sulaiman is an abomination, and certainly no match for the Iranians, who really are “danger,” but he’s probably good for a few chuckles in Tehran. I think there is a good chance that this came from the administration and not from the Alwaleed program, whose faculty looks rather normal. One would like to have overheard the negotiations that secured the fellowship.

    Yes, to be a fly on the wall.

    • #14
  15. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Percival:You are not allowed to critique this man’s work. He is not angry, he is anger! He is not dangerous, he is danger!

    That is not poetry, that is codswollop. And no, I’m not going to make it rhyme.

    I am not nauseous. I am vomit.

    • #15
  16. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Yudansha: Incorrect.  US Ivies are now institutions of anti-education.

    I didn’t study at one and my opinions aren’t formed by recent experience. But there’s a tremendous amount of good research coming out of these universities, too: I am entirely with MarciN about this. I assume you’re saying it for rhetorical effect, but just in case — one never knows — would you really think America improved by burning the 17 million books in the combined collections of Harvard Library to the ground? Would you wish to see the Harvard School of Public Health burned to the ground, or these specialists, say, in cancer epidemiology scattered to the four winds? What about the Yale Divinity School — scatter them, too, and start afresh? UPenn’s medical school, its dental school, its law school, its engineering school, its nursing school, its veterinary school, as well as its biomedical teaching and research capabilities — burn those? Burn Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, its School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Architecture and the Bendheim Center for Finance? The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton Theological Seminary? What about its department of East Asian Studies? 

    Burning and destroying these universities — or any university — is not the solution. Reform is in order —  particularly for their own sake, given that an appointment like Amir Sulaiman’s makes all the serious researchers there into a laughingstock and deeply devalues the cachet and prestige of the university. Relentless public ridicule when the dumbness and smugness gets out of hand might be a useful tool toward that end. But burning universities to the ground, no, I don’t think that’s the solution.

    Starting over with other educational institutions — that’s absolutely a solution. The more good institutions we create — especially taking advantage of online technology that can help us bring the best of these universities to students at lower costs, while avoiding the unbearable smugness and cant — the better. And the more successful these are, the more market pressure will force the Ivies to get their acts together. But however annoying they can be, they are still, for all of that, doing important work, and I am grateful they exist.

     The only way to fix them is to burn them to the ground, scatter the faculty to the Four Winds, and start over from the ground up.  Every one I know who got a liberal arts “education” got dumber and more smugly closed-minded with every passing day. I can handle dumb.  I can handle smug.  Dumb and smug is a truly toxic and nearly unfixable combination.

    • #16
  17. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    If I were in Boston now, though, I’d really like to find out just how this guy became a fellow of the Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program. This is not a faculty steering committee comprised of lightweights: among them are figures such as Roy Mottahedeh, whose work on the Iranian Revolution is (I hate the word but it’s apt) magisterial. The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran is essential reading for anyone who wants better to understand what happened in 1979; it’s both gripping and beautifully-written, too. He’s a hyperion to a satyr. So it’s genuinely baffling that he and his colleagues didn’t just laugh Sulaiman’s application off the desk — and baffling that they didn’t take him aside and say, “You do realize what this regime is all about, and you do realize it’s using you — and Harvard — don’t you?”

    And with so many deserving candidates, I am sure, and such a need for good scholarship of the Islamic world — what on earth happened? The question should be asked and should be answered, because this is a travesty.

    • #17
  18. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    I checked the faculty list, too, and I’d guess that either they were railroaded or blindsided.

    • #18
  19. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: If I were in Boston now, though, I’d really like to find out just how this guy became a fellow of the Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program.

    This reminds me of Leonard Bernstein and the “radical chic” of the Black Panthers. Certain intellectual liberals don’t know how to deal with the most pathological aspects of black culture.

    Here is another example which I think was discussed on Ricochet when it happened: A completely illiterate and nonsensical performance by two black collegiate debate teams, who are competing for the national championship, God help us all.

    • #19
  20. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    I am not sure why so many want to cut this guy and Harvard slack on this. Why not take it at face value? Amir Sulaiman knows exactly what he is doing and believes what he says. Harvard was not duped, but instead sought this person out, recognized a kindering spirit, and honored him by granting him a prestigious position of Harvard Fellow. The activist do not “mean well” and we’re not duped by Iran.

    • #20
  21. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Fake John Galt:I am not sure why so many want to cut this guy and Harvard slack on this.

    Does anyone here want to cut Amir Sulaiman any slack? Hands up if you do. Seeing any hands? Don’t be shy, folks, if you want to cut him some slack, put up your hand — everyone here will hear you out respectfully.  (Or else, because everyone here has agreed to abide by the COC.)

    I argue for cutting Harvard slack in the sense that I think burning it to the ground, scattering the faculty to the Four Winds, and starting over again is not a conservative impulse. In fact, it’s rather revolutionary and violent, and rarely does any good come out of storming the Bastille or some other grand, violent protest gesture. I believe Harvard is still, despite its well-documented tendency to dabble in this kind of inanity, a great research university that contributes tremendously to the advancement of knowledge in many fields. Besides, civilized people don’t burn books: period.

    Harvard has an illness. I think that illness should be cured; I don’t think the host should be destroyed. The first way to cure an illness is to study and understand it, which is why I’d like to know more about how Sulaiman was appointed to this fellowship. And I’d like to know this based on real research, not speculation or prejudice: I’d like to interview the people on the committee that awarded him the fellowship, hear in their own words what they were thinking, and try to get a sense of what they imagined the benefit to Harvard might be. Without that, all I can say is that something looks rotten here, and very embarrassing for Harvard. This isn’t really ‘cutting them slack,” it’s quite the opposite. Short of burning the university to the ground, it’s as far from “cutting them slack” as I can in fairness go, not knowing more about how it happened.

    Why not take it at face value?Amir Sulaiman knows exactly what he is doing and believes what he says.Harvard was not duped, but instead sought this person out, recognized a kindering spirit, and honored him by granting him a prestigious position of Harvard Fellow.The activist do not “mean well” and we’re not duped by Iran.

    I agree that it’s very likely that Suleiman does not mean well and that he was not duped. It’s possible that he wanted to see for himself whether Iran was the way he had heard it to be — which is an admirable urge — but his comments likening US law enforcement to ISIS suggest either deep malice or profound stupidity; if the latter, again, why is he at Harvard; if the former, who backed his application, who approved it, and why? Questions worth asking. Have we a Ricochet member in Boston who might want to do a bit of investigative journalism? I’m sure we’d all love to know what you find out. I’d start by talking to this years’ fellows, all of whom seem to be doing useful and respectable research; then speaking to the members of the steering committee, who are likewise serious scholars. I’d like to know how he scored on the GRE; I’d like to know who submitted the three (or more) letters of recommendation he received; I’d like to see transcripts from each college or university he attended; the papers, manuscripts, publications, or other materials he submitted in support of his application; I’d like to know whether he’s received a scholarship, or whether he pays his tuition through personal wealth or the proceeds of his “art,” and I’d like to kn0w why, in his words, he thinks it appropriate to go to a conference like that.

    That’s a story I’d like to read, wouldn’t you? Anyone in Boston want to try to find out?

    • #21
  22. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I’d like to know how he scored on the GRE; I’d like to know who submitted the three (or more) letters of recommendation he received; I’d like to see transcripts from each college or university he attended; the papers, manuscripts, publications, or other materials he submitted in support of his application;

    I’d like to know the same things about a certain president. (Substitute LSAT and SAT for GRE).

    • #22
  23. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    MarciN: This is a diversity program gone completely off the road. They do not know how to evaluate Muslim candidates. All Muslims look alike to them. Any Muslim will do.

    If so, what an absolute tragedy and waste. So much could be done with an endowment like that to study — really study — this part of the world, it’s languages and peoples and history and culture and governance. It is well worth studying. And even the idea that “They do not know how to evaluate Muslim candidates” contains an absurdity: It shouldn’t even be relevant whether he’s a Muslim candidate. This isn’t a madrassa; it’s an endowed department at Harvard for the academic study of the Islamic world.

    All true.

    There’s a lot of ignorance at Harvard, especially in their Middle East studies. There has been for two decades.

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I have very mixed feelings about Harvard. There are some unbelievably hardworking departments like Harvard Dental School, which does so much charitable work that I hold them in the highest esteem.  I had a friend who was a mentally ill person who was treated there for ten years. Harvard Medical School and Dental School are not overrated. :)

    That said, there is no excuse for the sloppy scholarship with which they have approached learning about and teaching about Islam and the Middle East (I’m a Daniel Pipes fan also).

    • #24
  25. Yudansha Member
    Yudansha
    @Yudansha

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Yudansha: Incorrect. US Ivies are now institutions of anti-education.

    would you really think America improved by burning the 17 million books in the combined collections of Harvard Library to the ground? Do wish to see the Harvard School of Public Health burned to the ground, or these specialists, say, in cancer epidemiology scattered to the four winds? What about the Yale Divinity School — UPenn’s medical school, its dental school, its law school, its engineering school, its nursing school, its veterinary school, as well as its biomedical teaching and research capabilities?  Burn Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, its School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Architecture

    Wow. I was properly and brilliantly upbraided by Claire Berlinski, herself!  Now, I’m truly a member of Ricochet.  I suppose in the interests of civilization, we could forgo some of the burning.

    Now then.  By far the majority of your scholarly nominations for reprieve from the torch, are libraries (which should never burn) or in the hard sciences.  Any medical, mechanical , electronic, or mathematical studies are of tremendous value to the entire human race (and animals, of course) and should be treated as such.

    On the other hand, I would gladly burn anything with Woodrow Wilson’s name on it. And the all the law schools in the land, along with all the received jurisprudential wisdom for at least the last 115 years.

    I would never destroy anything religious in nature.  Bad Juju.

    • #25
  26. Yudansha Member
    Yudansha
    @Yudansha

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Yudansha: Incorrect. US Ivies are now institutions of anti-education.

    I am entirely with MarciN about this. I assume you’re saying it for rhetorical effect, but just in case — one never knows…

    Yes, I must admit; it’s mostly for rhetorical effect.  Though… there are several wheelbarrows full of college departments and faculty just desperately in need of scattering.

    And you’ll note, I’m no Robespierre; I’m not talking about having anyone’s head.  Let the [insert oppressed minority class here] scholars, flog their “credentials” in the marketplace like all the other Starbucks baristas they’ve supposedly educated.

    • #26
  27. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    @CB#21: sorry Claire, I have given up on the Ivy Leagues long ago. I have known too many idiots educated by them to be impressed. A lot of well educated people that mean well but that do not have the common sense to come in out of the rain, but know they are smart enough to tell others when too. Harvard does not have an illness, it is part of the disease.

    • #27
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