Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ahmadinejad at Columbia

I missed the speech by the President of Iran at Columbia University. I did not miss all the rock throwing in advance of it. Would you invite Hitler to speak? In the name of free speech? Academic freedom and inquiry? Anyway, I was not invited. Transcripts are available on the internet, cornucopia of free speech. Who’s going to bother to look it up? And then, for crying out loud, read through the stuff.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger introduced the speech thus: “It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naivete about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices.” “This event has nothing whatsoever to do with any ‘rights’ of the speaker but only with our rights to listen and speak. We do it for ourselves.” “It is consistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies.” Why, he asked the President of Iran to his face, did “over 300 public intellectuals, writers and Nobel Laureates express such grave concern that your inflamed dispute with the West is distracting the world’s attention from the intolerable conditions your regime has created in Iran?” Also, in Dec. 2005, you described the Holocaust as a “fabricated” “legend” and later held a two-day conference of Holocaust deniers. In Oct. 2005 you said Israel should be “wiped off the map.” The President of Columbia University concluded his welcoming remarks, “Today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express revulsion at what you stand for.”

To which, President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded, “My dear friends, all the words and messages of the divine prophets from Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, to David and Solomon and Moses, to Jesus and Mohammad delivered humans from ignorance, negligence, superstitions, unethical behavior, and corrupted ways of thinking….. So, in today’s world, bullying powers are misusing many scholars and scientists in different fields with the purpose of stripping nations of their wealth. They, in fact, wish to justify their own wrongdoings. By creating nonexistent enemies, for example, and an insecure atmosphere, they try to control all in the name of combating insecurity and terrorism”

The President of Iran, who identifies himself by profession as a teacher, insists his interest in the Holocaust is one of academic freedom: “Given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives. I believe the Holocaust, from what we’ve read, happened during WWII. Right now, there are a number of European academics who have been sent to prison because they attempted to write about the Holocaust or research it from a different perspective, questioning certain aspects of it. Why shouldn’t there be more research about the root causes?”

“And my second question, well, given this historical event, if it is a reality, we need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not. After all, it happened in Europe. So why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price of an event they had nothing to do with? But why is it that the Palestinians should pay a price, innocent Palestinians, for 5 million people to remain displaced or refugees abroad for 60 years. Is this not a crime? Is asking about these crimes a crime itself?” During the question and answer period following his speech, Ahmadinejad further said, “What we say is that to solve this 60-year old problem, we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself. We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum” “I am not saying that it (the Holocaust) didn’t happen at all. I said…granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?”

Question from the audience: Mr. President, Iranian women are now denied basic human rights and your government has imposed draconian punishments, including execution on Iranian citizens who are homosexuals. Why are you doing those things?

Answer: “We have two deputy—two vice presidents that are female. In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country.” (Audience laughter.) “We don’t have that in our country.” (Audience booing.) “In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who’s told you that we have it.” (More laughter.)

(Originally posted 10-3-07)

Copyright 2007 by William C. Cotter

1 comment:

Glenda said...

I remember this well. Unlike most Americans, I am not of the mind to believe most U.S. government propaganda, and do think American citizens would be better off to research independently.
The true leaders of Iran are the Mullahs, so attacking Ahmadinejad is an empty gesture. He is a smart man, who has been misquoted endlessly, most especially over the Holocaust. His actual quote concerned the necessity to include the many millions of other victims of that event. He asks, why only Jews? Why is Israel the example set for the world as a shining example of suffering, to the exclusion of many other nations.
He also asks, why the middle east when setting up this "nation" of Israel? What other event could have better been predicted to set off wars of the future?
Considering the propaganda set forth by the Bush administration concerning Iran, a sovereign nation regardless of their politics, and the lies told over the attack on Iraq, we may now assess their so-called threat differently. They have not attacked another nation in hundreds of years, but have, as other neighbors of Israel, been subjected to countless attacks, fully supported by the U.S., including the seriously nasty set up of the U.S. and Iraq during the '80's.
Exactly what is the threat from Iran that their president should be humiliated on American soil?


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