Sunday, September 17, 2006

Khatami at Harvard


short article at the Harvard University Gazette

The former president of Iran was in town last Sunday to give a lecture at the Kennedy School of Government. There were protests outside; what did the average Cambridge citizen think of it all?

His lecture has not yet been archived yet. (I don't know what the reason for the delay is. Perhaps they don't have enough people working on the website.)

Mohammad Khatami profile
His website
KSG
"Dialogue Among Civilizations"

Even though human beings inevitably inhabit a certain historical horizon, we could still aim at meta-historical discourse. Indeed, a meta-historical discussion of eternal human questions ? such as the ultimate meaning of life and death or goodness and evil ? ought to substantiate and enlighten any dialogue on political and social issues. Without a discussion of fundamentals, and by simply confining attention to superficial issues, dialogue would not get us far from where we currently stand. When superficial issues masquerade as real, urgent and essential, and where no agreement, or at least mutual understanding, obtains among parties to dialogue concerning what is truly fundamental, in all likelihood misunderstanding and confusion will proliferate instead of any sense of empathy and compassion.

The movement of ideas and cultural interaction and interpenetration recur in human history as naturally and persistently as the emigration of birds in nature. Translation and interpretation have always proved to be one of the prime venues for the movement of ideas. The subtlety lies in cases where the language under translation or interpretation sounds the same as the one we use today, whereas the world, or universe of discourse to which the two languages belong, has changed over time. Particular difficulty arises when one of the parties to the dialogue attempts to communicate with another by employing a basically secularist language in an essentially sacred and spiritual discourse. By secularism here I mean the general rejection of any intuitive spiritual experience and any faith in the unseen. The true essence of humanity is more inclusive than language, and this more encompassing nature of the existential essence of humanity makes it meaningful to hope for fruitful dialogue.


So what fundamentals does Khatami adhere to? And what interpretation of Islam? And does his interpretation of Islam admit of true dialogue and agreement with other traditions?

Assorted photos. I must admit that I like his clothing.

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami speaks at the Bait ul Ilm Islamic center in Streamwood, Illinois September 2, 2006. Reuters/John Gress (UNITED STATES)

Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami leaves a meeting with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations at the offices of the Turkish Mission to United Nations in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2006. Khatami is taking part in a United Nations conference Tuesday and Wednesday. (AP Photo/David Karp)

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami addresses an invitation-only audience in the Dome Room of the Rotunda on the Grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, September 7, 2006. Khatami's visit was sponsored by the University's Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY NO SALES NO ARCHIVE REUTERS/Dan Addison/U.Va. News/Handout (UNITED STATES)

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami (C) and Professor of Religious Studies Abdulaziz Sachedina (3rd R) leave the Dome Room of the Rotunda after delivering an address at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, September 7, 2006. Khatami's visit was sponsored by the University's Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY NO SALES NO ARCHIVE REUTERS/Eric Kelley/University of Virginia/Handout (UNITED STATES)

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami speaks during a press conference at Washington National Cathedral Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006. Khatami is the most senior Iranian to travel outside New York in the United States since Islamic fundamentalists seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held Americans hostage for 444 days. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, center, is escorted by Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, right, and Rev. John Bryson Chane, Bishop of Washington, left, before Khatami spoke at Washington National Cathedral Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami speaks at Washington National Cathedral Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Reverend John Bryson Chane (L) and Reverend Samuel Lloyd III (R) walk with former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami before a speech at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Khatami, the most senior Iranian to visit the United States in 25 years, said dialogue between top Iranian and US officials will only happen when both sides stop verbally assaulting each other.(AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami makes remarks at the Council for American Islamic Relations dinner, Friday, Sept. 7, 2006, in Arlington, Va.(AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, left, arrives at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006, in Cambridge, Mass. Khatami discussed 'Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence.' (AP Photo/Bizuayehu Tesfaye)

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami observes a moment of silence at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006 in Cambridge, Mass., for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Bizuayehu Tesfaye)


Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, right, is escorted by security as he departs the Media Laboratory on the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Mass., Monday, Sept. 11, 2006. In a speech at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006, Khatami condemned Osama bin Laden for committing crimes in the name of Islam. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, right, meets with former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami at the U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

REUTERS/Chip East

Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami waves as he leaves after a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the United Nations in New York September 12, 2006. REUTERS/Chip East (UNITED STATES)

No comments: