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Was the reaction in Columbia appropriate?

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The media frenzy around the arrival of the high profile Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the United Sates for a United Nations General Assembly meeting and a question and answer event at Columbia University, invited by the University’s president Lee Bollinger is an important issue. There are two matters that I want to highlight here. One is the obvious issues that were raised during Mr. Bollinger’s introduction of the Iranian president and the second being the controversy of the Iranian presidents right to be at Columbia University.

Somehow it should be obvious that if you invite someone to your home, you shouldn’t make fun of him and insult him and say things that are uncalled for, no matter what you feel about him, especially if that person is the head of a sovereign state and the venue is a prestigious university like Columbia. It seemed like Bollinger was in some sneaky and obvious way try to accommodate people who have criticized him for bringing the Iranian President to campus. I thought that Ahmadinejads opening response was very good in saying:

“In Iran, tradition requires when you invite a person to be a speaker, we actually respect our students enough to allow them to make their own judgment, and don’t think it’s necessary before the speech is even given to come in with a series of complaints to provide vaccination to the students and faculty.”

The second matter that I thought was strange was the protesters outside of the University. I can understand people who hate him, who think that he says stupid and controversial stuff but what bothers me are the people who actually say that he shouldn’t have come or have been invited. That raises the question for me: what is the propose of a higher education? I’m wondering if students are supposed to just hear and listen to people with the same opinion as them and carry out the same ideas out to society or should it be the case that students should hear each side of an issue and then judge it for themselves. One might not agree with what Ahmadinejad says but we should at least listen to him. Especially since I think that he has many valid points, not about the Holocaust and homosexuals in Iran, but about other issues that tend to just be ignored because people in the US think that he is stupid, evil or just irrational (something that I will come back to in another World News entry). One thing that the childish response towards Ahmadinejad did, was to unite people in Iran behind him, even people who are generally in opposition to him. I guess that is probably the last thing that anyone wants.
Read more on The Guardian and also Al Jazeera.

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