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September 23, 2007

Letter to Bollinger from a fellow academic

I got this email with instructions to disseminate. The author brings up more crimes of the Iranian regime that I had forgotten about, like the persecution of the Bahais.

UPDATE: I just searched Juan Cole's blog for any mention of Ahmedinejad's visit. I thought since Cole is a Bahai he might have some thoughts on the matter. Didn't find anything. (Why we care.)

UPDATE: I googled Cole and Bahai and apparently he's an ex-Bahai, or at least at odds with the community in some way. in any case, he's shilling for the latest Iranian regime to oppress them.

So here's the letter from Dr. Denis MacEoin of Newcastle University:

Dear President Bollinger,

I write as an outsider to your university, but as a British academic with a background in Persian, Arabic, and Islamic Studies, and as someone versed in the complexities of the current Iranian regime. I have been advised that it is Columbia's purpose to invite the egregious President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak to its staff students, and that, despite pleas for you to reconsider this invitation, it is your intention to go ahead.

I must say that I find this regrettable on several grounds. Ahmadinejad has surely been described to you (and with much accuracy) as an opponent of the best values of Western society, not least the academic values that you and Columbia uphold. He does not care for freedom of speech, indeed he has done much to suppress it during the short time he has been in power. It may not have been made clear to you that, during the last year, he has instituted a major clampdown on Iranian universities, dismissing lecturers and imposing on all institutions of higher education in the country a severe discipline of censorship and political and religious acceptability. . . .

What you may not know is that, over the past several years, and with renewed vigour this year again, the Iranian authorities - for whom religious freedom holds no meaning - have denied to members of the Baha'i religious minority (the largest in the country) any right whatsoever to attend a college or university. They have also disrupted and banned attempts made by the Baha'is to set up their own institutes of higher education for their young people.

If you cannot see the direct contradiction between your invitation to such a man as a representative of his obnoxious regime and the realities of the academy in Iran, then I remain puzzled and dismayed. If you can ignore the execution of minors, the hanging of homosexuals, and the use of stoning as a punishment for adultery, then I am all the more amazed.

Nor does it end there. Ahmadinejad, as you undoubtedly know, is a major financier of international terrorism, a supplier of arms to terror groups like Hizbullah and Hamas, and an advocate of genocide, who has made open and specific threats to the state of Israel, a member state of the very organization he is due to address. Whether he is personally a monster or a bureaucrat is scarcely the point. He is complicit in all these matters, and in his past history has been identified as a supervisor of torture during his time as a Revolutionary Guard.

May I ask you what it takes to make someone persona non grata nowadays? Does freedom of speech, a value I uphold as staunchly as yourself, have to mean that every brute, every tyrant, every torturer, every anti-Semite, and every proponent of genocide has to have his day at the podium? There are ways of learning about the views of Mr Ahmadinejad. Someone like myself can read his speeches in the original and pass them on in translation. That is the normal way to transmit knowledge. But to give recognition, as you are doing, to a man like this raises questions about your judgement. I shall assume that you are simply ill-informed about Iran, the brutal regime that runs it, and the freedom-hating, human-rights-abusing individual who holds its presidency.

Please do think more about this. Even if this reaches you after he has spoken, you may want to consider a public statement drawing attention to the true political and religious views of this unspeakable man. I certainly think you owe it to the Baha'i community of Iran to explain why you provided a public forum for a man who has resolutely refused to admit their youth to universities, and possibly raise with senior members of your university how to bring pressure to bear on the Iranian Ministry of Education to ensure fair treatment for a much traduced and misrepresented minority.

And, given Mr Ahmadinejad's public statements calling for the 'eradication' and 'extermination' (qal' u qam' kardan) of Israel, I would hope a word of apology to New York's Jewish community would also be in order. I can only ask you to do these things, for I have no legitimate call on you or anyone else at Columbia. But I do ask them in the name of academic integrity, of human rights, and of simple humanity. I hope to read before long that steps in these directions will have been taken. It would speak ill of Columbia University were they not.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Denis MacEoin
Royal Literary Fund Fellow
Newcastle University

Judith | 09/23/07 at 11:08 PM | Categories: - Iran

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If only more academics understood this. I have a cousin who is a dean at a liberal arts college in Iowa, cut from the exact same cloth as the Columbia people. Thanks for the link over at LGF, it was well worth reading.

bikermailman | September 23, 2007 11:42 PM

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