I've been chewing on this one for a few days. A few of my fellow alumni are up in arms and I've been reading and trying to decide what I think.
On the one hand, Rahmatullah Hashemi, a former ambassador for the Taliban, does not seem as extreme as his fellows. He also seemed to have started questioning the Taliban very early on during his career.
If he were perhaps a little younger, one could almost excuse him for mistaking the Taliban for the solution to Afghanistan's problems.
On the other hand, this new Yale students was a young man, not a child. He served in an official capacity for a regime that sponsored a terrorist organization that perpetrated heinous attacks on the United States.
He has also been an apologist for their misogynist and racist views.
Citing the Taliban revocation of ancient tribal practices like honor killing, exchanging women as gifts and arranging marriages without a bride's permission, he insisted that the Taliban had actually enhanced the lot of women by giving them the right of "self-determination."
Uh, yeah...and Hitler put the Jews in ghettos for their own safety.
This is how he responded to a woman who protested the Taliban's views.
"You have imprisoned the women -- it's a horror," she shouts, tearing off a burka in protest."I'm really sorry to your husband,"
Hashemi answered. "He might have a very difficult time with you."
The New York Times article would have it that he has repented, but I'm not quite buying it.
Looking back, sitting in the Commons after his class on terrorism, he said that were he to do the trip over, he would be less antagonistic. "I regret the way I spoke sometimes. Now I would try to be softer. A little bit."
So, he would have been less antagonistic when putting her in her "place?"
"On the East Coast the questions were much harder, especially about bin Laden and the Buddhist statues," he recalls. "The statues had just been blown up. I tried to distance myself from it, but inside I was dying. If I said I had nothing to do with it and didn't support it, I would have been in trouble back home."
This is easy to say now. We must not forget there have always been brave dissidents who have risked their lives when they could not stand to follow an authoritarian regime. If he was truly dying inside, he would have done something. Otherwise, this is hyperbole at best.
It wasn't until the fall that one of his new friends, Fahad, a Pakistani, tipped him off to the kosher meat at Slifka, the Jewish dining hall. (The Freshman)
Eating in a Jewish dining hall does not prove his tolerance; though it may prove hypocrisy. According to a Yale Daily News editorial, he has recently written:
"Seemingly, like the poor Taliban, common Americans are ignorant of the fact that their franchise state of Israel in the Middle East is serving as an American al-Qaida against the Arab world."
...but when you're hungry, it is okay to partake of Jewish hospitality.
We'll never quite know for sure, of course, how much his views have changed.
Even if he has changed, does it matter?
While it is true that Yale does not reject qualified applicants on the basis of their beliefs, this man went beyond beliefs. He did not just think or speak these thoughts. True, he does not seem to be guilty of actively perpetrating these horrors, but he served in an official capacity in one of the worst regimes in the world's history.
Assuming for a minute, that his prior work history should not be a barrier, the question becomes whether or not he really is so exceptional that he merits admission to one of the world's most selective universities in the world.
Academically, he seems to struggle with his classes in his special program. He does okay, but most work extremely hard to earn satisfactory grades in a class that he really should excel in:
And all the young minds around him were so fresh, it was daunting sometimes, people who looked as if they were hardly paying attention in class blazed through their exams. [...] He was happy about his grades after the fall-term finals. He had a 3.33 G.P.A. He had done better than he thought in Managing the Global City and worse than he expected in Terrorism: Past, Present and Future.
Keep in mind this is as a special student in a non-degree program--not as a regular student. Decent, but not Yale's usual caliber.
Academics isn't everything, however. Diversity of experience and ideas is an important part of college. However, this student tries to avoid discussing his experiences openly with his classmates. Who could blame him? At the same time, if he wins admission based on the idea that he will share this experience, that does not seem to be the case.
The Yale Daily News columnist suggests that perhaps the Yale experience will liberalize Rahmatullah Hashemi and that he will bring this experience to bear when he returns to participate in a newly democratic Afghanistan.
Perhaps, but aren't there any future Afghani leaders who are not tainted with a connection to the Taliban?
We may forgive those who were caught up in the spirit of a reprehensible regime, but we must never forget that there were always those who resisted.