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Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones…

September 28, 2007

By now, I am sure that most of you have heard about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s little visit to Columbia University. This past Monday, Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs invited President Ahmadinejad to speak at the World Leaders Forum. This was a gutsy move on Columbia’s part, and many were hesitant to even invite the President, yet what happened during the forum was a sight to see.

Usually when introducing a guest speaker, one does not usually resort to calling them names. Surprisingly, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger took this approach while introducing President Ahmadinejad, setting the maturity precedence for a truly amateurish forum. Sure, President Ahmadinejad has said some truly tactless, insensitive comments, and it had to be tempting for Bollinger to call Ahmadinejad out for his controversial comments on the holocaust, yet by saying what he did, Bollinger ultimately sunk down to Ahmadinejad’s maturity level:

“Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator, and so I ask you, why have womenmembers of the Bahá’ í Faith, homosexuals and so many of our academic colleagues become targets of persecution in your country?”

Come on, Bollinger. Not calling your guest a petty and cruel dictator is something you should have learned in debutant training school. After Bollinger threw out his zinger at Ahmadinejad, the audience began to applaud. I couldn’t help but feel as though I was watching an episode of Maury where some disgruntled housewife called out her unfaithful husband –- and had the paternity test results to back it up. Maturity clearly was not anyone’s prerogative at the forum. On the other hand, though, the forum’s rampant immaturity did bring about something hilarious. In response to Bollinger’s incessant questions relating to Iran’s treatment of homosexuals, President Ahmadinejad’s acidic – if petty and cruel – tongue unleashed one of the finer quotes of 2007:

“In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who has told you that we have it.”

In the wise words of Kathy Griffin, “Where my gays at?!” It would not surprise me that there aren’t many out homosexuals in Iran because the legal consequences they would face are somewhat daunting. As stipulated by Iranian law, sodomy is a crime and if two consenting adults are caught in the act, they could face death. Consenting adult lesbians caught in the act are subjected to 100 lashings. I suppose it’s no wonder why Ahmadinejad can’t find any homosexuals in Iran.

As ridiculous as Ahmadinejad may be at times, Bollinger’s juvenile tactics were somewhat uncalled for. But then again, Bollinger did get Ahmadinejad to claim that there aren’t any homosexuals in Iran.

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