Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Statement
Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania President, Poses for Photo with Student Costumed as Suicide Terrorist:
Scholars For Peace in the Middle East www.spme.net
Asks for University of Pennsylvania Sensitivity Training on Suicide Terrorism and Its Victims
On October 31, 2006, President Amy Gutmann held her annual Halloween party. The following events occurred:
**President Gutmann was allowing herself to have pictures taken with student guests at the party one by one.
**President Gutmann let her picture be taken with a senior student, Saad Saadi, who chose to dress as a suicide bomber with a toy rifle and replica of bombs around his torso.
** Mr. Saadi also posed with University Chaplain William Gipson
**Mr. Saadi and other guests enacted for a camera pictures of individuals kneeling on the ground with guns pointed to their heads in poses similar to execution photographs placed on the internet (3 photographs posted on web)
**Another photo was taken with a youngster aiming Mr. Saadi's gun at the camera-this was titled "Influencing a future Mujahideen."
** Mr. Saadi said when he approached President Gutmann for to the photo, she joked, "'How did they let you through security?
** Mr. Saadi added that while some party guests expressed disapproval at the costume, more people were complimentary.
**All of the preceding photographs were taken at the President's home, during party she sponsored2
Engineering senior Saad Saadi came dressed as a suicide bomber, or, as he titled the costume, a "freedom martyr."3
In all fairness to President Gutmann, it was also reported that when she realized what his costume was portraying she declined another picture and told him that she thought his costume was deplorable.
In a form letter sent to Dr. Ed Beck, a Penn graduate and President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), as well as to others seeking an explanation of what happened. Ms Gutmann indicated she seemed to think that the issue raised was about freedom of expression, and she defended the student's right to wear the costume, even though she said she found it deplorable.
We believe that this freedom of expression is not the issue. We were impressed with Ms. Gutmann's inaugural address in which she said:
"The higher education community must take the higher road. We need to fix our moral compass, fuel our will, and fire our imaginations by what unites rather than divides. Let us extend the example of Muslim and Jewish students at Penn who pursued dialogue and fellowship after the tragedy of 9/11."
SPME is not contesting the freedom of a student to dress up as a "freedom martyr" as Mr. Saadi called himself, or a "suicide terrorist" as others prefer to label it. But democracies thrive not only when anyone can say anything, but when members of the public have the good sense to distance themselves from the morally grotesque statements that some people will inevitably make when given that freedom. And among such moral depravities, SPME would definitely include the notion that blowing oneself up amidst "enemy" civilians with home-made cluster bombs constitutes an honorable act to be rewarded by entry into heaven.
Nothing is more divisive than such sentiments; nothing makes dialogue more impossible than glorifying such depravity. Nothing could be more imperative for a leader like President Gutmann than to stand by her call to unite, than to manifest the courage to distance herself publically from such acts of "free speech."
Responding effectively to the abuse of freedom is a fundamental part of the exercise of freedom, and a necessary way to set the moral compass on which freedom and democracy depend.
SPME regrets that the President Gutmann has focused on the question of freedom of speech that appears to justify the student's choice. We suggest an alternative response. Because this event has been so highly publicized, President Gutmann now has an ideal opportunity to show leadership, a strong moral compass, and perhaps to influence future events, by taking a well-thought-
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East therefore urges President Gutmann to take the lead sponsoring and establishing at the University of Pennsylvania a well publicized sensitivity training program in which students can experience what terrorism feels like to its Israeli, Iraqi, Jordanian, Spanish, British, Australian, and other civilian victims. We urge President Gutmann to take the lead as well in establishing an educational program about teaching children hate, in which students can learn about how vulnerable young people are taught hate and then exploited, deceived, and sometimes forced into acts of violence.
SPME is a worldwide grassroots not-for-profit educational community of scholars with over 7300 faculty members seeking to address issues of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism as it manifests on college and university campuses. SPME seeks to have a safe and secure Israeli at peace with her neighbors able to recognize their legitimate peaceful aspirations.
We await with anticipation President Gutmann's leadership.
Edward S. Beck,
Walden University, Alvernia College, Susquehanna Institute
University of Vienna
Rev. India E. Garnett
United Church of Christ
Board of Directors
Jonathan Adelman, University of Denver
Steven Albert,University of Pittsburgh
Leila Beckwith, UCLA
Phyllis Chesler,City University of New York
John R. Cohn MD,Thomas Jefferson University
Donna Robinson Divine,Smith College
Stanley Dubinsky, University of South Carolina
Rabbi Peter J. Haas, Case Western Reserve University
Efraim Karsh,Kings College University of London
Richard Landes,Boston University
Robert Mirin, Esq. Harrisburg, PA
G. S. Don Morris, California Polytechnic Institute and Wingate Inst.
Philip Carl Salzman, McGill University
Gerald Steinberg, Bar-Ilan University
Ernest Sternberg, University of Buffalo
1. "Controversy erupts over student in terror garb"
2. Democracy Projecthttp:
3. Gutmann's Halloween bash is 'Wicked' www.dailypennsylvanian.com