As I'm sure most of you know, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is speaking in several forums today in NYC. He is scheduled to speak before the UN as they debate another round of economic sanctions against Iran for its developing nuclear (shh...weapons...shh) program. That sort of nonsense is to be expected from the UN, which is well known for ingenious moves such as having Iran and Syria head the UN commission on human rights.
What I find incredibly appalling is that Columbia University invited Ahmadinejad to come speak on politics and international relations. He has been invited as a "respected" world leader who can teach much about foreign policy to Columbia students. Outrage has been rampant over this appearance, and I'd like to join the fray. The President of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, has said that he will not cancel the appearance in the name of free speech and academic freedom. In fact, he has said that given the chance, he would invite Adolf Hitler to speak at the university!
Bollinger speaks almost as if he is fulfilling his "duty" to free speech by inviting Ahmadinejad and promising to have invited Hitler. This represents a complete misunderstanding of what free speech really means. There is a profound difference between the right of free speech and the exercise of said right. Recognizing the right of free speech entails that the government not forbid private individuals from speaking their mind when other individuals voluntarily agree to hear what is being said. Notice, this is solely a political idea. The right of free speech does not entail the obligation to provide a platform and microphone to anyone who wants to speak his mind.
In other words, there are ethical standards upon which to exercise the right of free speech properly. When you agree to provide a platform for a man's ideas, you sanction those ideas in a sense. This sanction is not necessarily agreement, but rather, the statement that the person's ideas are at least worthy of debate. Now, imagine if you agreed to give a platform to a man who explicitly advocates your murder. No matter what the outcome of the speech, this implies that there is legitimate debate over whether you should be murdered or not. Who really benefits from this arrangement and who is harmed?
By allowing Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University, they are giving this indirect sanction to ideas like holocaust denial, the genocide of Israel, the destruction of the United States, and the ascendancy of Islam to world power. That is, these ideas are worthy of being debated. Are they?! We are talking about a man who not only openly calls for our destruction, but who also has a hand in the killing of our soldiers in Iraq, and who is a leader in a government that is the #1 worldwide sponsor of terrorism. This evil is to be given an open forum?
This grants him a legitimacy that he most certainly does not deserve. The appalling nature of his ideas are now masked by a veneer of respectfulness and wisdom. His appearance anywhere in New York City is a mockery of morality and justice. Calling for the destruction of Israel and our country, he should absolutely be taken at his word and arrested the second he sets foot on American soil.
I emphatically condemn Columbia University for this travesty and I applaud the New Yorkers out protesting today. Hopefully, Ahmadinejad will be at the receiving end of justice soon enough.