September 24, 2007
Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, will be speaking at Columbia University today.
His presence on the campus is provoking a fury, in the media, and strong protest from students and lawmakers. More than 10,000 protesters are expected. The speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver said that he would consider reducing financial assistance to the University. Dov Hikind, assemblyman from Brooklyn suggests that Ahmadinejad be arrested when he sets foot on campus!
Those who support his visit believe he is entitled to free speech. They also believe that we can all benefit from listening to arguments in defense of position that we strongly oppose or even abhor. It is true that in our liberal democracy we value free speech and encourage the sharing of ideas, even when they are controversial.
But what about indecency, which is defined as an offence against recognized standard of propriety?
Anyone who denies the existence of the Holocaust, calls and plans for the destruction of Israel, supports Al Qaeda, politically, financially and militarily is not entitled to be given a forum at one of our most prestigious institution of learning.
John Coatsworth, the acting Dean of the Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs who sponsors this event said that he would have extended an invitation to Adolf Hitler if given the opportunity. Would he also extend an invitation to Osama bin Laden?
Is the president of Iran testing the limits of our democracy or just making a mockery of it? We know that in his country as in most Islamic regimes those values we cherish are totally suppressed.
President Ahmadinejad may benefit from our constitution and enjoy our freedoms thus he has a right to speak but we have a right to oppose his visit and not be subject to his views who cross the line, in my opinion, to what is acceptable and decent.
It is one thing to allow someone to speak, whatever that person wants to say, and quite another to invite that person to your home. Apparently and regrettably, Columbia University did not make the distinction.