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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Ahmadinejad Explained

    I suppose if I only could draw one conclusion about Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s, speech at Columbia University, is that a politician is a politician, no matter where they are from. It is the only profession that I can think of, where a person can make an important and controversial speech, without saying much at all.

    Ahmadinejad claims that he is an intellectual, a man of modern thinking, but for a thinker he doesn’t seem to let his words to explain what his real opinions are.

    In order to obtain any meaning from his words, I had to carefully comb over a transcript of his speech to boil out the bravado, which he uses to hide what he really means. For example, he has been quoted often saying he calls for the ‘destruction of Israel,’ but when questioned directly about this opinion no less than three times at Columbia University, instead of addressing the question, he made vague references to the plight of the Palestinian people.

    He tried to distract us with another, albeit important, issue and hoped we wouldn’t notice that he never answered the posed question. He didn’t want to answer and confirm that he holds an unpopular opinion.

    By distracting us, he tried to give the illusion that he is a compassionate man, concerned with the well being of a distressed people.He didn’t want to tell us that he would be willing to secure the well being of one people with the destruction of another, a solution that ignores many elements of conflict anyway.

    In another part of his speech, when asked about the ill treatment of women and homosexuals in his country, which includes wrongful arrests and even executions, Ahmadinejad began taking about drug traffickers and how it was right to give them capital punishment.

    From this we can draw one of two conclusions; either Ahmadinejad thinks that being a woman and/or a homosexual is as immoral and illegal as trafficking drugs, or he was changing the subject so he didn’t have to reveal his true feelings without lying.

    Ahmadinejad can’t be that moronic, so my guess lies with the latter.

    It seems that the politicians have descended to a new low. When asked a controversial question, that may estrange part of their constituent if they answer the ‘wrong way’, they just keep avoiding the question until it goes away.To prove that I’m not just picking on Ahmadinejad here: the Iranian President’s speech reminded me of the diatribe of our own 2008 Presidential candidates.

    Last May, in the Republican debates, Mitt Romney was asked a hypothetical question about his approach to the Iraq war, if we had known there were no WMDs there. Instead of answering the question, Mitt Romney’s response was to label the question a ‘non-sequitur,’ a term used in philosophy, and a ‘null set,’ which is a mathematical term.

    Romney’s intention in doing this was two-fold.First; he got out of answering a tough and controversial question; second, he got to sound intelligent by using big words that he [probably] didn’t realize did not even apply to the question being asked.

    Mitt Romney and Ahmadinejad are not the only politicians who use this approach. As students in an academic institution, we should be insulted at this false intellectualism.

    Ahmadinejad was called on his alleged ‘Holocaust denial’ at the Columbia QA. He dodged the question by saying that he was not denying, only that there needed to be more research done on the subject.

    At a cursory glance, this seems like a perfectly reasonable attitude. After all, as a researcher, be it history or science, the last thing you would want to do is ‘close the book,’ on your own work, to use the President’s own words.The monitor of the event, John Coatsworth, however, had an interesting response to that. He said that, in a scientific discourse, there needs to be ‘some agreement as to what the facts are’ otherwise, there can be no discussion.

    That, to me, is an interesting concept to think about. After all, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Imagine if research did not build on itself, and each scientist needed to prove again what their predecessors have already done. Sir Isaac Newton famously wrote, ‘If I have seen a little further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.’

    If an event as well-documented as the Holocaust needed to be ‘re-proven’ every time there was discussion on the matter, as Ahmadinejad seems to be saying, then it would be impossible to talk about in a significant way. Every dialogue would start from the same place and we would never learn anything new. There would no progress this way, and six million Jews would have died in vain.

    Ahmadinejad’s desire to ‘rediscover and research’ is just his brand of denial. He believes that if we start the research from the beginning then we’ll find that it didn’t happen the way we currently believe it did.

    I propose a challenge to Ahmadinejad: do this research for yourself! Visit the many holocaust museums around the world and the concentration camps and ghettos scattered through Eastern Europe. See the endless primary source documents for yourself and then make a judgment.

    If Ahmadinejad is as intellectually honest as he says he is, he will only be able to draw one conclusion. One of the loudest arguments preceding Ahmadinejad’s presence at Columbia was that it would give the President a platform to spew his radical Islamic, anti-West, ‘anti-freedom’ agenda.

    For the most part, we needn’t have worried. Most of the President’s speech was pseudo-philosophical ramblings about science, enlightenment and theology; essential boring fluff that was Ahmadinejad trying, unsuccessfully, to sound like an enlightened scholar.

    At one point, it even sounded as if he was accusing the Bush administration of using the scientific method to justify the ‘War on Terror.’ What logic he used to reach this conclusion, I’m not sure, but it serves to demonstrate several of my points. Ahmadinejad thinks that by using science-related terms, people will think he’s smart, and that if he can demonstrate to Westerners that he’s an academic, then he’ll get sympathy from some Americans.

    I know that there are some here in America, notably the liberal left, that are so disillusioned with our curren
    t executive administration so much so that they would willingly support a foreign leader, even one accused of supporting terrorism, that says anything negative about President Bush.

    However, he may have lost some points with that crowd by ignoring the alleged executions of homosexuals in his country by saying that Iran doesn’t have any homosexuals.That got a few laughs from the audience, but it was one of the points in the speech I did not find ironically funny.

    This comes out of a discussion I had with a friend of mine, who is familiar with Persian culture. According to him, in that part of the world, the men tend to be very close with each other, in a way in which our homophobic culture might label as ‘gay.’ However, this type of behavior is thought of as completely normal there.You could conclude that this should mean that people of this culture would be even more accepting of homosexuals than Americans.

    In actuality, the reason why they don’t consider male closeness as homosexual is because the very idea of homosexuality is alien to them. In Shari’a law, the penalty for male homosexuality is described under their sodomy laws; that is ‘unusual’ sexual behavior.This could mean that they do not understand the concept of homosexuality in terms of romantic love between two people, but only as a sexual perversion.

    From this standpoint, I would say that the Ahmadinejad’s objectives to homosexual extend not from intolerance, but from ignorance. After all, this would explain why transexuality is treated as perfectly normal and legal in Iran, while homosexuality is abhorred.

    In fact, next to Thailand, Iran performs more sex change operations than any other country in the world. There is even state financial support available to those seeking sex change operations.It’s clear that, while our culture tends to group the transgendered and homosexuals together, in Iran, gender identity issues are considered medical pathology but homosexuality is a sin against God.

    But, what does this say about Ahmadinejad as he tries to claim the legitimacy of his majority Islamic nation, governed by Shari’a law in a Western world? On one hand, he claims to be an enlightened thinker, while on the other, he is holding on to old-fashioned values the West considers to be dated, and, indeed, in violation of basic human rights.

    Even most of the intolerant members of the anti-homosexual movement in this country don’t want homosexuals to die. And, the few that do, are not in charge of the country.In our culture, can we, in good faith, confer ‘academia’ status on this ruler, when his ideas are clearly in violation of our own cultural standards?

    Another demonstration of this can be seen by an event that occurred in Ahmadinejad’s home country shortly after his visit to New York. Ahmadinejad was due to speak at Tehran University, in Iran‘s capital. Students, concerned that neither they nor their compatriots were receiving the freedoms that Ahmadinejad claimed they were getting, in his speech at Columbia, wrote a letter to their President.

    Even though he established that intellectuals received academic freedoms in Iran, the ongoing arrests of students and professors that disagree with the President seem to suggest that he does not take freedom of speech very seriously. Or at least, only those that agree with him are granted that right.

    Ahmadinejad cancelled his appearance at Tehran University when students threatened to stage a protest after the letter went unanswered. In America, even those with unpopular ideas get a platform on which to speak. And, unlike in Ahmadinejad’s government, that right is not just for show, like when President Bush was invited to speak at an Iranian University, which Bush declined.

    Does Ahmadinejad think we will be fooled by this show of hospitality? As he showed in his speech at Columbia, Ahmadinejad is a man of pomp and flash. He preaches about morality, but he does not practice what he preaches.

    Ahmadinejad is a hypocrite in the worst way, in that, as he makes grand claims about enlightenment, truth and human freedoms over here, people are dying and facing daily oppression in his home country.

    I am glad we allowed this man to speak, if only because it allowed us the opportunity to show the world that we are nothing like him.

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