Controversies Surrounding Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - Columbia University

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On September 24, 2007 Ahmadinejad appeared at Columbia University. President Lee Bollinger received harsh criticism for inviting such a controversial figure to Columbia. He responded in a statement saying "The event will be part of the annual World Leaders Forum, the University-wide initiative intended to further Columbia’s longstanding tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues, and also for closing the area to outside protesters. Columbia University's president, Lee Bollinger, introduced Ahmadinejad with a combative tone: "Mr. President you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator." Ahmadinejad responded by opening his speech saying that his introduction was "an insult to information and knowledge of the audience there." Some of his arguments were met with derisive laughter, for example "... in Iran we don't have homosexuals, like in your country. We don't have that in our country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who told you that we have it." An aide later claimed that he was misrepresented and was saying that "compared to American society, we don't have many homosexuals".

He however was applauded when he spoke about the Palestinian peoples' right to self-determination. He spoke on the issue of the September 11, 2001 attacks that "if the root causes of 9/11 are examined properly, why it happened, what caused it, what conditions led to it, who was involved, and put together how to understand and how to prevent the crisis in Iraq, fix the problem in Afghanistan and Iraq combined". He also stated "the most liberated women in the world are the women in Iran". Regarding the Holocaust he said "granted this happened, what does this have to do with the Palestinian people?" He used Koranic quotes to criticize the Bush administration and the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He also stated the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Outside the convention many protested his presence there, most of them supporters of Jewish organizations .

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