To the Editor:
It was with great regret that we read the recent article, “Harvard’s Ethical Dilemmas,” by Richard Cravatts in the February 2nd issue of The Record. His statements were not only illogical but also ignorant and biased.
Cravatts incorrectly argues that it is an “ethical dilemma” to contest the Solomon Amendment and concurrently accept funding from a Saudi prince to set up a Middle Eastern research center. The Solomon Amendment authorizes the government to make funding entirely contingent upon the military’s ability to enforce and practice certain discriminatory practices on campus. Prince Alwaleed’s contribution, however, was certainly not made with the stipulation that discriminatory practices of the Saudi government be exercised on campus. Cravatts seems to realize this gap in logic, but still insists that something has to be given in return, presumably beyond Prince Alwaleed’s commendable and stated intention to bridge ostensible gaps between disparate cultures, religions, and regions.
Even if we choose to use Cravatts’ flawed analogy, his argument remains a weak one. Harvard insists that it should receive funding and still be allowed to deny the military from recruiting on campus. Thus, Harvard accepts funding from the government while still contesting governmental practices. Cravatts wants us to believe that Harvard can receive funding from the US government without adopting all its policies, while accepting Prince Alwaleed’s contribution would somehow require embracing the practices of Prince Alwaleed’s country.
Another point that highlights Cravatts’ ignorance is his presumption that Prince Alwaleed is synonymous with the Saudi government and its practices. Prince Alwaleed holds no official position in the Saudi government, and is but one of 3000-4000 princes of Saudi Arabia. In fact, politically, Prince Alwaleed has consistently been viewed as a liberal and one who promotes women’s rights. However conservative his views may still be in relation to many of us in the West, it is clear that he is not simply a mouthpiece for the Saudi government. Moreover, lest one thinks that all his money comes directly from the Saudi government, Prince Alwaleed has generated most of his wealth through his own entrepreneurial efforts. Needless to say, Prince Alwaleed is not a mere conduit for a transfer of money from the Saudi government to Harvard.
In addition to his illogical and unfounded assertions about Prince Alwaleed’s contribution, Cravatts also mischaracterizes the work of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization to which Prince Alwaleed made a donation. Cravatts falsely maintains that the organization’s stated mission is to “promote a positive image of Islam.” While the language is used to describe the work that the organization does, the stated mission on the organization’s website is “to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” While there have undoubtedly been a number of groups that have criticized the organization (mostly after the post-9/11 witch-hunt against any organization that was pro-Islam), there are also many supporters. For example, in 2003 the ACLU gave an award to CAIR for its contributions to the advancement and protection of civil liberties. It would be a gross oversimplification to characterize CAIR’s work as simply propaganda and proselytization.
Riddled with various statements of political rhetoric, Cravatts clearly reveals his own ill-founded biases. For instance, the author wrongly insinuates that any anti-Israel action or argument is somehow anti-American or contradictory to Harvard’s mission as an academic institution. It is rather amusing that an article ranting about all of the intolerances of others insists that everyone follow only one particular political agenda. We hope that in the future The Record is more selective in its publication of such sensitive topics, or at least exercises more caution during the editing process.
Mohammed Shaheen and Sadaf Abdullah Board Members of the Muslim Law Students Association
Note: The views expressed in this letter are not necessarily the views of all the members of the Muslim Law Students Association.
To the Editors:
I recently picked up your latest publication while at the law campus and was appalled to see such horrible journalism practices. I was reading your letters to the editor and noticed that an editor on your staff (Mitch Webber) wrote a letter in which it was blatantly obvious that he read another person’s letter written to the editor (Arsalan Suleman) and counterattacked the person’s points. The integrity of your paper was definitely compromised by such bad journalism practices. The best part was you placed Mitch’s letter right next to Arsalan’s letter to the editor. I hope you do not think your readers are so ignorant as not to notice.
I hope you change your poor journalism practices and improve your paper.
Mitch Webber responds:
Of course I was responding to Mr. Suleman’s letter. It is standard editorial practice to respond to letters in the same issue. It would have been artificial and strange to wait to respond in a different issue, or for the Publisher to have positioned the letter elsewhere in the paper. If Mr. Mohsin wishes to dispute the content of my letter, he should do so without inventing bizarre tenets of journalistic integrity.
Mitch Webber Opinion Page Editor