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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 poet, 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