"AMERICAN JIHAD": DAY THREE: The Crimson
finally ponies up some coverage
of the jihad issue, albeit not very competant coverage. I'm gonna quote the whole thing with commentary.
The Faculty’s Standing Committee on Commencement Parts will meet today to discuss recent controversy over the planned speech by Zayed M. Yasin ’02 titled “American Jihad.”
The meeting comes a day after about a dozen students met in the Quincy House Junior Common Room to discuss protesting the speech because of the use of the word “Jihad” in the title.
“I’m concerned,” said Hilary L. Levey ’02, who organized the meeting. “I don’t know the content of the speech, but I think the use of the word ‘jihad’ in its context now has a lot of other meanings besides the religious meaning. When you say ‘jihad’ now you think of planes flying into a building.”
Levey said she has talked to many undergraduates, alumni and parents who are unhappy with the choice of the speech after the events of Sept. 11.
“It could be very painful to hear about that when you have people who have died in the name of jihad,” Levey said.
Now obviously there are people out there who are concerned about this speech for no reason other than its title, but frankly I think the fact that the speaker is a supporter
of a Hamas front group
is at least as distressing as Yasin's poor choice of title and might be worth mentioning somewhere near the top of the article.
Yasin, a former president of the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS), said that his speech is not political and is meant to relate the original religious meaning of “jihad” to the road that seniors will face upon graduation.
“It’s a speech about the privileged opportunities and responsibilities we have as graduates...and about how these are enunciated in both the Islamic concept of jihad and in American ideals,” Yasin said.
“The idea is that we live in difficult and trying times and we will have to struggle both within ourselves to do the right thing and with very difficult problems that affect our communities,” he said.
So the line of defense emerges. "American Jihad" will be an a-political speech that just happens to use the term "jihad." It's not about politics at all, so there's no reason to offer any political objections. Only problem is, there's a war on between the United States and a bunch of self-proclaimed jihadists. Any commentary on the term "jihad" in such a climate is inherently political, because it's part of an ongoing (and extremely high profile) struggle within the Islamic community to define the term. The meaning of "jihad" and its role in Islam is, in other words, a political issue, and there's just nothing you can do about that.
Yasin said he is not surprised by the outcry that followed the announcement of his speech title.
“That is part of why I wrote this speech,” Yasin said. “Jihad is not something that should make someone feel uncomfortable. It’s a matter of other people deciding what they think jihad is and attributing to the word the product of their own imagination.”
Right...part of the reason Yasin wrote the speech was to change our ideas about jihad. That makes it a political speech.
While not surprised by the reaction, Yasin did say that he was surprised at the vehemence of the response.
“More disturbing is ad hominim attacks upon the work that I’ve done and on my personal life,” he said. “They’re very disappointing. I expected more from the Harvard community. I’m referring to people who have called me anti-Semite, to people who have said I support terrorism...All of these are untrue.”
Hm. I wonder who these unnamed attackers
might be. "Ad hominem" is a dirty word or something among sophisticated people, but when a single individual is singled out to receive a high honor from a university, I don't know what other kinds of attacks we should be offering. Now, I have no idea whether or not Yasin is an anti-semite in the sense of harboring negative feelings toward individual jews, but as a signer of the Chomsky divestment petition
there can be no question that he subscribes to a vehement form of anti-zionism that's not all that different. As for whether or not he supporters terrorism, well, I'll just say again that I think supporting
groups that the US government considers to be sponsors of terror
and raising money for organization that allow ambulances to be used as bomb delivery devices
amounts to supporting terrorism.
University Marshal Richard M. Hunt said the speech does not deal with the Middle East at all and is “healing” and “non-confrontational.”
“It’s a speech that maybe has a title that misleads some people down some different paths,” Hunt said. “The students and the public when they hear this will be convinced.”
So now it's not apolitical at all. In fact, it's supposed to "convince" us of something, but it's OK because it doesn't involve the Middle East. In fact, it's the fact that the speech won't discuss Yasin's views on the Middle East that makes
it objectionable to my way of thinking. The universe can stand to hear yet another vicious attack on Israel from a prominent figure in the Islamic community. What is intolerable, however, is for people harboring extremist views on the Middle East to be given a prominent platform from which they can seize the mantle of moderation for themselves while they work to impair the government's attempts to cut off funding for terrorism.
But David B. Adelman ’04 said he thinks the University should not have chosen such a contentious issue for one of the few Commencement speeches given by seniors.
“There’s a lot of very motivating ideas out there they could have chosen,” Adelman said. “Using such a contentious issue is unnecessary at this time.”
Sounds about right to me. I'm not quite sure what motivated the faculty committee to make such an obviously divisive choice. There are two possibilities I can think of. One, that this is just an outbreak of political correctness motivated by a totally misplaced fear that your average Harvard student is walking around thinking that all Muslims are terrorists. Second, and more insidious, is the possibility that Committee Chair Richard Thomas who is also a signer of the Chomsky petition is just intentionally misusing his authority to promote anti-zionist views.
Adelman also said he finds questionable Yasin’s past support of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF).
While Yasin was president of HIS, the group raised funds for HLF at a November 2000 dinner. The U.S. State Department has alleged the foundation has ties to Hamas, an Islamic terrorist group.
Seems pretty important to me. It might be nice if they'd noted that the alleged "ties" are millions of dollars to finance the murder of Jews and not just, say, occassional social contacts.
Yasin defends HLF, saying while working in Albania three years ago, he witnessed the group’s “professionalism, compassion and dedication to helping people in dire need.”
Adelman said he has written to the senior class committee and Commencement Director Grace C. Scheibner, asking to see the speech in order to assess its content.
Levey also said she will wait to see the speech before taking further action. Yasin declined to release the text of his speech to students who inquired, although Hunt said that he would privately show the speech to concerned students.
And thus we reach the end. I'm probably the only one who thinks this, but in my opinion it's not really very relevant what the actual content of the speech is. Either he'll be calling for some sort of violent warfare against the infidels (which strikes me as very
unlikely) or he'll be putting forth some nice, moderate, unobjectionable view that gives the impression that he's not a supporter
of groups waging terrorist warfare
. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Incidentally, why didn't The Crimson
mention me in their story? Well, I stole their foosball table
a while back so I guess there's still hard feelings.