American Visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (or 'When the Pot Met the Kettle')

Is anyone else shocked and a little disappointed by the treatment Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has recieved since arriving in the US? Fair enough, we know at this stage not to expect much a large percentage of the general populace, the deluded Bush-voters and flag wavers. Sure enough, these people were out in force, proclaiming Ahmadinejad a 'Hitler' and such. One New York newspaper (in a fashion typical of the American media's reluctance to sensationalize) led with "The Evil Has Landed".

But I was a bit disappointed to see the Iranian President's treatment having been invited to speak at Columbia University, supposedly on of the most enlightened establishments on the continent. President Lee Bollinger embarrassed himself, his school and his country when he introduced the Iranian leader as a man who appeared to lack "intellectual courage," had a "fanatical mind-set" and may be "astonishingly undereducated." He went on to accuse his guest of "exhibiting all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator".

Now, I'm going to admit that I'm far from an expert on Iran, or President Ahmadinejad, but my impressions of him are (a) as a well educated, well spoken and internationally conscious man, and (b) as a representative of an Iran that has grown hugely since the reign of the Shah's and the bloody early days of Khomeini's republic.

His reaction to this introduction:

"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."

Before I go any further, I'm not starting a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fan club here. Obviously he can be criticised, on his statements concerning the holocaust for example, but ultimately he's a representative of an Islamic Republic. Realistically, as non-islamics and 'westerners' we are always going to have fundamental disagreements with nations such as Iran. As far as I can see we fortunate that the leader of a religious state is so moderate compared to, say, the Taliban in Afghanistan. The key issue is that in this day and age we have to show respect for people and cultures that are different to our own. This respect was certainly not shown to President Ahmadinejad during his visit to the US, an ignorance made all the more audacious by that country's recent track record in world affairs.

Here's a somewhat balanced report of the visit:

Obviously this is a tricky one and I'm not going to pretend that I'm all knowing, so if anyone disagrees or has an opinion on this, let me know! Comments below.

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September 26, 2007 at 10:46 PM Blathnaid said...

Interesting column in the Guardian today by Marcel Berlins who writes about Mr Ahmadinejad's visit. He says it was the American who emerged from the questioning session at Columbia the 'more dislikeable figure'. And he goes on to say why:

'I don't of course mean that an impolite hist is more objectionable than a holocost denier, but Bollinger did something I would have thought impossible - force me to sympathise, however fleetingly with the president of Iran' (Berlins, The Guardian 26.09.07)

September 26, 2007 at 10:47 PM Blathnaid said...

meant host not hist in that last comment

September 28, 2007 at 1:23 PM Clockwork Rob said...

Do you know is that available online? I've found his guardian profile, but that particular article doesn't seem to be there...