Monday, September 24, 2007

"In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like you have in your country"

Tough Welcome for Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad smiled as Columbia President Lee Bollinger took him to task over Iran's human-rights record and foreign policy, and Ahmadinejad's statements denying the Holocaust and calling for the disappearance of Israel.

``Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,'' Bollinger said, to loud applause.

He said Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust might fool the illiterate and ignorant.
``When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous,'' Bollinger said. ``The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history.''

"Granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestian people?'' he said.
But then he said he was defending the rights of European scholars, an apparent reference to a small number who have been prosecuted under national laws for denying or minimizing the Holocaust.

Here is Ahmadineblog, Continuing coverage of Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University.

A few desultory questions and some surreal answers.


* “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like you have in your country … I don’t know who’s told you we have it.”

On this point he could benefit from the scinitilating scholarship of at least one Columbia Prof, whose book on the subject of Homosexuality in the Arab/Muslim world is reviewed here:

Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics at Columbia University, is a controversial figure. As a protégé of the late Edward Said, who is also of Palestinian-Christian descent, his views on Zionism have made him a target of the Israel lobby, while others have defended him in the name of academic freedom.

In 2002 he plunged into a different controversy with a paper entitled "Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World" which sought to marshal a case against gay rights from a nationalist and secular standpoint -- one not based explicitly on a moral judgment of homosexuality itself.

The central thesis of his 25-page polemic was that promotion of gay rights in the Middle East is a conspiracy led by Western orientalists and colonialists that "produces homosexuals, as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist." After several years' gestation he has now produced a book, "Desiring Arabs," which elaborates on this.

** "Coatsworth... asking the President again to explain his thoughts on the denial of the Holocaust.

Ahmadinejad responds:

“There’s been more research on physcis then there’s been on the Holocaust but yet we keep researching physics.”

*** Why do you deny rights to women and gays?
"... women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedom..."

More, later.


Here is the best excuse I've heard, or argument if you will, for extending that invitation to Ahmadinejad:

Colin Felsman, 20, a currently enrolled student, said the visit was a great opportunity, adding: "He's the president of Iran, not the president of the world. Columbia University is acting in solidarity with the two-thirds of Iranians under the age of 30 who lack the ability to confront President Ahmadinejad."

However, I'm not sure this motivation was uppermost in the minds of Columbia U's administration when they extended their invitation to Ahmedinejad. As it turns out, the whole event was a reflection of the grandiloquent pettiness of this man, and the failure of his ideas and "knowledge" when confronted by robust criticism.


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