You know that the world is an upside down place when the journalists are more positive about the Middle East than the professors:
Al-Hayat International Arab Daily reporter Salameh Nematt began the discussion, which was organized by Americans for Informed Democracy, on an optimistic note.
He said the "Iraqi government is more legitimate than any other government," as their elections had a greater turn-out than those in the United States and more legitimacy than those in Egypt.
"An overwhelming amount of Iraqis want to have a peaceful transition; this is not something reflected in the American media."
Not everyone agrees:
[Penn Political Science professor Anne] Norton reflected Rubin's sentiment, saying she is in complete agreement [with Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist Trudy] Rubin "that the United States did just about everything wrong," citing the use of torture that ensued in the region.
"This is the road to Abu Ghraib," she said, referring to the former U.S. prison in Iraq. "This is the road that we have set our feet upon."
This exchange illustrates nicely the contrast between descriptive and social scientific predictive/prescriptive approaches to reality. Nematt makes an empirical observation. But Norton, because reality did not unfold as she expected or evidently desired (and because it contains demonstrably bad features), becomes a moralist. Go figure.
The Daily Pennsylvanian also reports that Carl Ernst's talk on Sufism was not wholly well received:
Reem Kanaan, a post-doctoral researcher at the School of Medicine, characterized Sufis as a small minority of the population of practicing Muslims. They represent only "2 percent of the Islamic population," she said.
Kanaan said that all the smaller divisions of Islam are incorrect in their interpretation of the Quran. Sufism and other sects like Shiism "make a section" out of what should be a unified religion, she said.
It might be pointed out that Islam has not been a "unified religion" since at least the year 661, if not 632.
But the biggest heresy of all comes from the editorial page of the Columbia Spectator:
Although essentially different from racial and gender diversity, ideological diversity would also benefit Columbia outside of the classroom. Conservative students would have some institutional support at a time when they sorely lack it, strengthening undergraduate debate. Outspoken advocates for conservatism on campus would also challenge those who don't share their views to more thoroughly understand their own beliefs.
Changes are afoot. Heresy today, gone tomorrow.