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11 Sep, 2015

Letter to the Editor of The Harvard Crimson

Celebrating Resilience, Inspiring Solutions

“Inspiring solutions” to the multitude of challenges facing the Arab World in a calm and constructive manner was the theme that we, Harvard Arab Alumni Association, chose for our annual Harvard Arab Weekend, the largest Arab conference in North America. Participants brainstormed avenues for a brighter future for the region under Harvard’s aegis of free speech, a right denied to most Arabs. We inspired hope that echoed through Marcel Khalife’s healing tunes at Memorial Church, through humor that withstands oppression by the Arab World’s Jon Stewart, Bassem Yousseff, through resilience embodied by Syrians yearning for freedom, through the dynamism of Arab entrepreneurs, through the vision of Arab media leaders, through the credibility of prominent financiers, and through brightening the future by educating refugees, and through the Arab World’s best and brightest at Harvard.

Using peaceful tactics to express personal rejection of basic human rights infringements has been the hallmark of the struggle against apartheid and previously embodied by Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance. It is in this spirit that one of the fifteen panels at the conference discussed the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Nudging states to comply with Security Council and UN resolutions through peaceful means is worthy of debate in the intellectual beacon of free speech that Harvard embodies; the alternative is sheer censorship.

Extremists have always attempted to silence respectful debate and overwhelm those who dare hope. We all face ideologues that attempt to monopolize the agenda by fear mongering, be it through physical violence or outdated tactics of curtailing freedom of speech. These ideologies can only succeed if they scare the majority who yearns for a peaceful and prosperous future.

We are committed to heal the polarization tearing our region apart. Harvard’s collective wisdom must be at the forefront of such an honorable endeavor. We thank our thousands of participants: students, alumni, faculty and sponsors. We also express our resolve to the paranoid who fear free debate here at Harvard and there in our part of the world, we will dare dream, hope and continue to inspire solutions.

Harvard Arab Alumni Association