Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Enraged Hindu Nationalists Gang Up on Musharraf at Stanford
The editors of Stanford Daily have criticized the less-than-civil questioning by "enraged Indian nationalist" after President Musharraf's speech at Stanford University last Friday. The Stanford student body clearly did not present itself well. Instead of engaging in a healthy intellectual and political discourse worthy of Stanford, they brought dishonor upon a highly regarded international institution of higher learning.
The session was characterized by catcalls and vicious attacks on Musharraf when "enraged Indian nationalists and other emotionally charged students questioned everything from the legitimacy of Musharraf’s rule to the inherent corruption of the Pakistani government". The response was "equally defiant" from "finger-wagging" Musharraf. In the end, the session "contributed little to the debate" and created "an intellectually stifling atmosphere for those hoping to foster authentic debate".
In spite of my best efforts, I was unable to get an admission ticket to the event. It seems that the less-than-transparent ticket allocation process at Stanford allowed the extreme Hindu Nationalists at Stanford to pack the audience and degenerate the expected civil discourse into a vulgar assault on Musharraf, and Pakistan by proxy. From the reported content of comments and the tone of the questions, it seems that many of these aggressive and uncivil attendees are probably affiliated with the Sangh Parivar considered responsible for massacres of minorities in Gujarat and Orissa.
Here's the full text of the Stanford Daily editorial opinion:
This past Friday at Memorial Auditorium, the ASSU Speaker’s Bureau and Stanford in Government — in conjunction with a host of other campus organizations — presented Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani head of state, for their annual “Big Speaker” series. Following his contested rise to presidency in 2001, Musharraf played a central role in global counter-terrorism efforts and Indian-Pakistani relations, at the same time drawing controversy in international politics.
After delivering a nearly 55-minute speech that highlighted the importance of combating terrorism, resolving political strife in the Middle East and South Asia and other issues, Musharraf faced a question-and-answer session with the Stanford community. No sooner had the microphones been turned on did the cat-calls start flying. Enraged Indian nationalists and other emotionally charged students questioned everything from the legitimacy of Musharraf’s rule to the inherent corruption of the Pakistani government. The end result was ultimately a back-and-forth between strong-willed, would-be inquisitors and an equally defiant, finger-wagging Musharraf.
This event is but the most recent manifestation of the problem with enlightened and civil discourse on campus. As one of the leading educational institutions worldwide, Stanford is a repository for diverse opinions, ideologies and global outlooks. Oftentimes, as evidenced by the Musharraf question-and-answer session, these beliefs conflict in less-than-subtle ways.
As far removed as the Farm seems from events in the real world, too often do issues of national and global import trickle down into fiery dorm list exchanges. The recent strife in Gaza has highlighted the uneasy relationship between Israeli- and Palestinian-leaning student organizations on campus. The 2008 election cycle deeply shook the psyche of student life, from the accusations of viciousness in the Democratic primaries to the outrage over the passage of Prop. 8. Many hold particularly strong beliefs on these issues, yet the climate has not always been conducive to certain parts of the population effectively articulating positions not shared by a majority of the student body.
The editorial board in no way advocates the curtailing of dissent or an environment that values diluted, politically correct tripe as a means to address complex issues. Rather, in coordination with the educational mission of this university, we endorse a campus culture that provides for the free and civil exchange of varied beliefs in a non-threatening setting that encourages intellectual stimulation and growth. Too often do we find tumultuous subjects reduced to shouting matches, in which each side tries to drown out the other in a sea of impassioned remarks. This does little to perpetuate an atmosphere in which disagreement is celebrated.
The University is often held up as a central place where personal beliefs are challenged and redefined, where exposure to diverse ways of thinking expands one’s perspective. It is thus ironic that many students interested in civil discussion may shy away from thorny topics for fear of instigating conflict in the dining hall, on the chat list or in emails to The Daily. Shouting matches, electronic or otherwise, not only contribute little to debate but also create an intellectually stifling atmosphere for those hoping to foster authentic debate.
Musharraf is no doubt an immensely controversial figure, and his presence should have rightfully sparked an intense and thoughtful discussion on the state of South-Asian geo-politics and the current state of counter-terrorism. Just as the Gaza conflict and the presidential election have brought opposite ideologies to a head, we should not balk at the prospect of lively debate. If we prize our reputation as a world-class institution, it is incumbent upon us a student body to argue for our beliefs, but in a way that is more in line with the values of Stanford and less comparable to cable television news stations.
Source: The Stanford Daily Editorial
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