A fascinating article in the New York Times Magazine this week, titled The Freshman. Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi is attending Yale now, after serving as an unofficial ambassador from the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. That apparently got him a bit part in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, when he was captured on film criticizing a woman who had decried the state of women's rights under the Taliban.
His statements at the time were, of course, influenced by his job as a Taliban representative; diplomats can't always speak their mind. I won't vouch for his opinions on the rights of women or the proper role for religion in a society. But I was particularly struck by his impression of Western society, and can only hope it is an accurate one
"You have to be reasonable to live in America," he said. "Everything here is based on reason. Even the essays you write for class. Back home you have to talk about religion and culture, and you can win any argument if you bring up the Islamic argument. You can't reason against religion. But you cannot change Afghanistan overnight. You can't bring the Enlightenment overnight."
Perhaps we can settle for keeping the Enlightenment here?