Carol calls “truly sickening” the spectacle of U. Penn’s influential president, Amy Gutmann, posing next to a student, Saad Saadi, dressed as a suicide bomber at her annual Halloween costume bash.
At Campus Watch, Winfield Myers, who broke this story, illuminates the deeper implications of this appalling incident:
What’s missing…from the larger academic community of which [Gutmann] 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 [at Saadi’s garb]? 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.
It is time for trustees stop hiding behind their placid masks–stop avoiding an argument–and take a stand on travesties such as this one. The U. Penn Board should direct Gutmann to apologize unequivocally for posing alongside a student decked out with large plastic sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest and a toy gun. She should make it clear that she abhors the moral equivalency of so many campus denizens, who too often have represented the bombers and their victims as moral equals.
The board should also order a review of Middle Eastern and other studies, which are largly to blame for the deeply entrenched intellectual perversity that informs the academic environment and enables this kind of mockery to occur. From the days when Lenny Bernstein courted Black Panthers to the years that Arafat sported a Colt .45 with impunity, there has been altogether too great a readiness among our intellectuals to excuse violence–if it is against the bourgeoisie or, today, Jews, Israelis, and Americans.
Trustees nationwide–starting at U. Penn–must stand against this violence-excusing zeitgeist on our campuses. If they do not, we should all tremble at where this perversity will lead.