I am a member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. They just posted a petition of protest to President Bollinger which I urge you to sign:
We, the undersigned members of the Columbia University community, condemn in the strongest possible terms those responsible for bringing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University.
This event does not promote academic integrity and honest debate in the true spirit of academic freedom. It gives a podium to an individual who has no intention of speaking or debating in good faith, and who is well known for incitement to genocide; support for world-wide terrorism; imprisoning, mutilating, and murdering academics, trade unionists, journalists, students, and others; and engaging in historical denial and revisionism to justify his despotic agenda.
We disassociate ourselves from the invitation and the event.
Here is a more substantial statement
The Board of Directors of _Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), an international academic community of over 19,000 scholars at 1000 university campuses, strongly condemns those responsible for the appearance of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad at Columbia University for the following
1) Mr. Ahmedinejad, in violation of international law, has kidnapped and
2) Mr. Ahmedinejad, in violation of international law, has supported
3) Mr. Ahmedinejad is engaging in the largest purge of academics, with
arrests and expulsion of students (estimated at 3000) since the Ayatollah
Khomeni’s Islamic Cultural Revolution purge as a “corrective movement.”
4) Mr. Ahmedinejad, in violation of principles of academic freedom, wants
university textbooks rewritten to cleanse them of “infidel trash.”
5) Mr. Ahmedinejad, in violation of international law, has committed
incitement to commit genocide both against Israel and in Darfur.
6) Mr. Ahmedinejad, in violation of principles of academic integrity, has
engaged in historical revisionism, giving credence to denial
of the Holocaust as an event of history.
SPME is strongly committed to the principles of academic freedom, but it is both naive and a distortion of the principle to believe that Mr. Ahmedinejad’s appearance at Columbia University furthers or even strengthens academic freedom or can even be categorized under this cherished rubric.
Columbia fails to distinguish between those who espouse hateful views–and thus can be challenged in debate–and those whose political interests depend on implementing those hateful values. The latter cannot engage in meaningful debate without relinquishing their power.
While Mr. Ahmedinejad may be a world leader and entitled to the courtesies accorded to such, he is not entitled to be legitimized academically to propagandize his positions in an institution of higher learning to develop sympathies for his cause, which are matters of life and death.
Not only would Mr. Ahmedinejad not extend the same courtesies to leaders hostile to Iran, but he considers Columbia’s invitation a sign of weakness and foolishness on part of Western academics, who invite their enemies into their institutions of higher learning and allow them to spread hostile propaganda. Columbia may think it shows its moral superiority to Ahmedinejad in being so tolerant, but it merely displays to the entire world its fatal misunderstanding of the difference between freedom of speech and granting murderers legitimacy.
The Administration of Columbia University has made a very unwise decision and must be told so by faculty peers from around the world. As of this writing and circulation, it is not too late to cancel this invitation and we respectfully demand that President Bollinger do so.
For Further Information Contact: Dr. Edward S. Beck. President 717.576.5038, ScholarsforPeace@aol.com
For a spicier take on this see Breath of the Beast’s post, which ends with the following summation:
You, sir, are also a useful idiot. You are ready to play a role (however small and irresolute) in martyring the Iranian people, Israel and Western Civilization in the service of a pathetic misapprehension of what civil discourse in a civil society really is. Civil discourse, President Bollinger, is a two-way street. Your “deep faith” in that “long term process” is indefensible without an appreciation for the fact that when you are not dealing with a fellow believer in that process, you must be exceedingly careful not to allow him to use your openness against you and those who are fellow believers. When you invite a genocidal despot into your University you are inviting death, repression and intolerance into your home. There are no sharp remarks that will take the stench out of the walls.