Everyone agrees that whether or not America should wage war on Iraq is a serious issue. I am sure that on campus people hold many diverse opinions on this issue. It is great that students are encouraged to cultivate their own opinions even to the extent of criticizing the government. However, it is truly saddening that a couple weeks ago that expression of diversity was stifled.
I am referring to the biased and narrow-minded presentation given by the Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Nabil Kaylani at UR on Oct. 23. The topic of Professor Kaylani’s presentation was Iraq and Globalization. Now, when I attend a lecture, I do not expect to agree with everything that is being presented. In fact, there is not much of a point of listening to someone espouse exactly what I believe, for then I might as well record myself.
Yet I do expect someone, especially a professor, to at least make an effort to respond intelligently and with appropriate attention and respect when posed with a question differing from his own opinion, or that of the opinion that he is presenting ? be it his own or someone else’s.
Professor Kaylani began his presentation by analyzing the causes of September 11 and connecting it with the present situation with Iraq. However, he did so by, as he said, representing the views of the Arabs of the Middle East. This, of course, is fine. In fact, it is exemplary. It is essential in any situation to understand the opinions of the people involved on all sides, and to try to understand a situation without understanding the people involved is sheer stupidity.
However, it seemed at many times that he took this as an opportunity to shift the topic from Iraq and globalization to the even more controversial issue of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, or what really seemed to be just Israel-bashing. There is a difference between discussing the issue from either a pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian perspective and from either an “Israel is evil/crazy” or “the Palestinians are evil/crazy perspective.”
Instead of focusing on the many other reasons of Arab resentment towards the West in the Middle East ? primarily United States-led globalization in the region ? the topic of the discussion, he threw in tidbits of anti-Israel fun facts. To put it in perspective, when listing the reasons Osama bin Laden gave for the attacks on September 11, Professor Kaylani listed as number two of three reasons the U.S. supports Israel ? in reality, this reason was given as a much higher number on a much longer list. He also threw in other things such as a fear of Palestinian ethnic cleansing.
Of course, although I do not agree with these views, they do exist, primarily in the Arab world which Professor Kaylani claimed to be representing. If someone wants to present them, by all means, present them. But a presentation becomes propaganda when the speaker cannot listen to other viewpoints. Whenever someone would ask a question differing from this opinion, he would shrug his shoulders and say he could not answer it because he was “just representing their [Arabs’] views, not mine.” However, whenever someone would ask a question supporting his viewpoint, he would digress on a tangent supporting it, often leading to Israel bashing ? for example, implying that a U.S. attack on Iraq could lead to a nuclear/chemical war initiated by Israel.
I do support different opinions. I also support dialogue between those who hold those different opinions, as well as the freedom to express vocally whatever one wishes, as long as it is done with appropriateness. However, when a bias is presented and there is no room for discussion, no room for variance, then instead of spreading understanding and knowledge, which is the purpose of a university, one spreads misunderstanding and hatred.