At the University of Southern California, Mr. Rahmatullah expressed irritation with a question about statues that at that point hadn't yet been blown up. "You know, really, I am asked so much about these statues that I have a headache now," he moaned. "If I go back to Afghanistan, I will blow them."
Carina Chocano, a writer for Salon.com who attended several of his speeches in the U.S., noted the hostility of many of his audiences. "A lesser publicist might have melted down," she wrote. "But the cool, unruffled and media-smart Hashemi instead spun his story into a contemporary parable of ironic iconoclasm," peppering his lectures with "statue jokes."
But sometimes his humor really backfired. At a speech for the Atlantic Council, Mr. Rahmatullah was confronted by a woman in the audience who lifted the burkha she was wearing and chastised him for the Taliban's infamous treatment of women. "You have imprisoned the women--it's a horror, let me tell you," she cried. Mr. Rahmatullah responded with a sneer: "I'm really sorry to your husband. He might have a very difficult time with you."
At least they beat Harvard.
Richard Shaw said the admissions office had once had another foreigner of Rahmatullah's caliber apply for special-student status. "We lost him to Harvard," he says. "I didn't want that to happen again."I shudder to think who Harvard got.