-COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: “A self-promotional circus.”

EDITORIAL COMMENT

“The forum to which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was invited for a talk at Columbia University in New York, where I teach, is one of the inanest ideas of President Lee Bollinger–something called “World Leaders Forum,” to which he invites the most notorious warmongers around the globe . . .” 

OCTOBER 12, 2007–  Hamid Dabashi, the distinguished Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York City, this week wrote a fascinating article in Egypt’s Al-Ahram’s weekly on-line edition. He wrote about President Ahmadinejad’s recent invitation to talk at Columbia.

Dabashi, to say the least, is no fan of Amadinejad, nor of ‘the horrors the Islamic Republic has perpetrated against its own citizens,’ as he puts it.

What Dabashi does show us is an interesting perspective of the on-going conflict that exists between Columbia’s President Bollinger, and the teaching staff. Here’s some of what he has to say:

The only reason that the world at large should care about the cantankerous exchange between an irresponsible and sensationalist president of a beleaguered and increasingly illegitimate Islamic Republic and the racist president of an Ivy League university in the United States is that in the brief encounter between the two dwells the symptoms of a much more frightful malignancy now afflicting our globe–the fact and phenomenon of an Empire least equipped to rule the world and yet flaunting a vulgar audacity to issue pronouncements about its ills and afflictions–at once creating, promoting, and supporting undemocratic regimes in its domain of influence (from the Saudis to the Taliban) and yet unable to deal with their criminal consequences, while at the same time having the audacity to give itself the moral authority to be the arbiter of truth in the world, carrying the white man’s burden to set the course of history aright.

The forum to which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was invited for a talk at Columbia University in New York, where I teach, is one of the inanest ideas of President Lee Bollinger–something called “World Leaders Forum,” to which he invites the most notorious warmongers around the globe (among the most innocuous and irrelevant leaders), so they will have yet another forum to reiterate their nonsense. The world suffers the terrorizing predicament that it does precisely because these so-called leaders have altogether too many forums on which to talk, and some of them the inordinate power and the necessary wherewithal to put to action the nonsense they thus speak. They should never be invited to any university, and if they are they are to be sat down and talked to and not to listen to–they have scarce anything important, new, or significant to say.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to come to Columbia University and address our community on 24 September 2007. Neither I nor any one of my colleagues in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC), the principle home of Iranian Studies, knew, was consulted, or approved of this visit. In his opening statement, President Bollinger said, “This [Ahmadinejad’s visit] is just one of many events on Iran that will run throughout this academic year, all to help us better understand this critical and complex nation in today’s geopolitics.” So far as my colleagues and I in MEALAC know, we are party to no such “project” in understanding Iran, outside our regular teaching and scholarly projects reading and writing on diverse aspects of Iranian history, politics, culture, arts, cinema, literature, and geopolitics none of which is of any immediate use to the US military or the neocon chicaneries trying “to understand” Iran. In fact, ever since Lee Bollinger has become our president, our department has been systematically sidestepped and undermined precisely because we do not cater to such self-promoting and megalomaniac projects.

Ahmadinejad’s September 2007 visit to Columbia was overwhelmingly dominated not by the inanities that he repeated in his talk, nor indeed by the horrors the Islamic Republic has perpetrated against its own citizens over the last three decades, but in fact by the rude and racist remarks that Lee Bollinger made when introducing him. In his own remarks, Ahmadinejad said nothing outside his regular nonsense–yet again effectively denying the suffering of millions of human beings and their descendents during and in the aftermath of the Jewish Holocaust, denying that there are even homosexuals in Iran, denying Iranian women are the second rate citizens in their own country. No amount of footnotes or linguistic, political, or cultural fine- tuning can excuse these inexcusable obscenities. No degree of solidarity with the Palestinian cause can ever translate into denying or belittling the monumental suffering of other human beings viciously murdered in their millions by the German Nazis in European concentration camps in the course of the Jewish Holocaust.

No cultural explication of the difference between the varieties of homoeroticism in Iran and outside Iran can explain the fact that non-heterosexual practices in the Islamic Republic are severely repressed, denigrated, or even punished. No amount of cultural finagling can change the fact that Iranian women live in a legally sanctioned gender apartheid system. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the representative of a brutal theocracy that has systematically and consistently repressed, imprisoned, and even cold-bloodedly murdered those opposed to its very theocratic foundations. Having said all of this, I must immediately add that only Lee Bollinger’s mind-numbing racism when introducing Ahmadinejad could have made the demagogue look like the innocent bystander in a self-promotional circus . . .

The original article can be read at:  http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/866/focus.htm

 


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