[Ed: Photos appearing at the link above have been removed.]
She's sorry now
The blogospheric-led uproar, spearheaded by Winfield Myers, over University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann's idiotic decision to pose for a Halloween photo with a student in suicide bomber gear has yielded results. Here's her apology:
Each year, the president hosts a Halloween party for Penn students. More than 700 students attend. They all crowd around to have their picture taken with me in costume. This year, one student who had a toy gun in hand had his picture taken with me before it was obvious to me that he was dressed as a suicide bomber. He posted the photo on a website and it was picked up on several other websites.
The costume is clearly offensive and I was offended by it. As soon as I realized what his costume was, I refused to take any more pictures with him, as he requested. The student had the right to wear the costume just as I, and others, have a right to criticize his wearing of it.
Good for her for not taking the John Kerry route and blaming "assorted right-wing nutjobs."
But Myers makes an important point:
Claiming that the student had the right to wear the costume is, I believe, a dodge and a moral cave-in to the very forces that made possible his entrance into the party and her subsequent acceptance (at least initially) of his costume. This is not a question of rights, after all, as Penn is a private university and can regulate what its students wear. No one is allowed to attend class or stroll across campus in the nude because such actions would be universally seen as morally unacceptable (or, at the least, socially disruptive). It would violate agreed-upon norms of public behavior. I also doubt students would be welcomed if they wore transparent clothing or pants with the crotch cut out.
What's missing from President Gutmann's statement, and from the larger academic community of which she is a part, are moral parameters within which every member of the community must act, short of the prohibition of criminal acts, which this of course is not. This applies particularly to statements or actions concerning terrorism, the war on Islamism, and the representations of those actions.
Had Mr. Saadi, or anyone else, shown up dressed in as Hitler, Pol Pot, David Duke wearing his Klan garb, Bull Conner, Sirhan Sirhan, John Wilkes Booth, a slave trader with a whip, a rapist, or any such person, he would have been identified immediately as representing someone, and perhaps some force, that is evil. Neither Ms. Gutmann nor anyone else would have objected to having him barred from her home and party; indeed, to have failed to act in such a way would have invited opprobrium.
But in the modern university, especially in anything relating to Middle East studies, the guardrails are down. After years of scholarship that consistently fails to investigate thoroughly, much less condemn, terrorism or jihadism, or which misrepresents both these historical actors and the consequences of their actions, can we be surprised at President Gutmann's lack of shock? With moral equivalency between bombers and the bombed, especially regarding suicide bombers, a mainstay of modern scholarship and pedagogy in Middle East studies, why wouldn't a young man presenting himself as a killer of innocents be laughed at rather than set straight by his intellectual and moral superiors--i.e., women like Amy Gutmann?
Apologias for terrorism and extremist politics breeds an atmosphere in which the intolerable becomes the everyday. I shudder to think where this will take us.
More reax to Gutmann's statement:
Let me get this straight: the probably-PhD.-toting president of your fine university isn't smart enough to notice that the youngster is dressed up like a suicide bomber?
Wow. Speaks volumes for the education of the people you guys hire.
I cannot belive you guys actually said, "This year, one student who had a
toy gun in hand had his picture taken with the President before it was
obvious to her that he was dressed as a suicide bomber." When was ignorance EVER an excuse?
You were better off not replying.
Reader John M.:
We are supposed to believe that Gutmann did not know what kind of costume it was until after the picture was taken? What, the kafiyah didn't alert her that maybe the costume might be a tad outside the pale? And are we really supposed to believe she missed the flourescent simulated bomb belt strapped around his waste? Why can't these baby boomers just apologize when they're caught red-handed being plain dumb? It's always, "I'm sorry but (insert conditional clause)"
Looks like Saadi has now blocked public access to his Halloween photo album. But I saved a few parting reminders that he wasn't alone in laughing at violent jihad: