Feature > Opinion > COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY HOSTS PRESIDENT AHMADI- NEJAD BY ZOHREH RASTEGAR
The Belligerent Lee Bollinger
I like to get your attention to the recent President Ahmadi- Nejad's visit to Columbia university and the humiliating reception he received, ironically from the President of a highly respected academic institution.
In my opinion which I am sure is shared by many, Mr. Lee Bollinger has deviated from all the principles of a true American and everything that this country stands for including etiquette and hospitality. He has brought much controversy and condemnation upon his respected institution.
Regardless of who Mr. Ahmadi- nejad is and how much we Iranians are opposed to our government and its atrocities in the past 30 years, yet, on principle, he has been invited as a head of a government and a country of 75 million people authorized by Mr. Bollinger claiming to discuss the differences and the critical issues in an intellectual forum, priding himself and our democracy that there is no place more appropriate to set the politics aside for the sake of an intellectual and open discourse.
Unfortunately, not only he did not measure up to those standards, but he did create a greater chasm between the two nations and perhaps affecting the whole region and the Islamic world.
At the outset of his hostile and belligerent opening speech he claimed that, ( I am paraphrasing) In this place we do not make politicians and we do not discuss politics. Our job is 'to make minds'. But, he belied everything he claimed and all that his respected entity stands for. To the contrary, he did not prove anything about making healthy minds, rather he did an excellent job, setting the minds of the audience by his humiliating and narrow minded opening speech.
Mr. Lee Bollinger accuses Ahmadi- Nejad as not having the 'intellectual courage'. That may be true, but he as the head of an Ivy leagues academic institution did not display any sign of intellect or courage either.
It was petty and cowardly to succumb to the pressure of certain lobbyist groups, alumni and some benefactors selling the integrity of such regarded entity contradicting the goals of their invitation which was supposed to be an open forum for a positive dialogue.
Mr. Bollinger reduced Mr. Ahmadi- nejad to nothing and he did not prove to rise above that level himself.
Unfortunately, the Columbia university's invitation and the treatment of their controversial guest, Mr. Ahmadi- nejad has created a great chasm between the two nations as well as much more resentment and confusion to this already grave situation.
I as well as any Iranian who cares for his/ her heritage feel awkward defending Mr. Ahmadi- nejad, but there is a difference if we chastise our children in our own way or allow an stranger discipline and belittle our children.
I wonder how American people feel if President Bush come under such hostility as an official guest of any country, regardless of being the worst President in the American history. Certainly we all would be offended.
This is a crucial time of history. The question is not Ahamdi- nejad or the current government of Iran, but the integrity and the name of Iran and the Iranian people.
We must not let some groups or politicians, self- serving people or this administration take advantage of the current shortcomings of Iranian government and use this opportunity to destroy the name of Iran, to insult and to ignore everything that has to do with Iran.
We all have the right to oppose to our government and to work toward democracy and the age of enlightenment for Iran, but we must not be fooled by certain self- serving people and politicians who have never cared for our sovereignty and the integrity of our nation. History is my witness. We are our only 'Keepers' of our heritage and instrumental to our political and social destiny..
Iranian people have been under this regime for 30 years. Isn't this strange that our rights to 'freedom and Democracy' is highlighted only when it comes handy?
If Mr. Lee Bollinger did not have the authority, permission from his benefactors or the courage to hear the Iranian President, then he should have never entertained the idea of inviting him causing so much pain for both nations.
Among his comments, he said; and I am paraphrasing: Your presence in this place is ridiculous. And one wonders who is really ridiculous to ask him to be there.
Certainly, Mr. Bollinger did not display the intellectual demeanor and the mind of an informed academia, rather he followed the same path as any uninformed, emotionally affected by the propaganda average citizen may follow. This is a great catastrophe for our academic institutions as well as for our democracy and so called freedom of speech.
In my opinion and all those who share my views, he should apologize to all Iranians for his disgraceful behavior as a host as well as apologizing to all American academic institutions who will suffer from such a bad example.
I appreciate your thoughts and feedback. Please forward this letter to your other friends and the Iranian academia and activists.