Recently, we witnessed an unusual sight when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke as an invited guest at Columbia University in New York.
Ahmadinejad is easily one of the world's most dangerous men, and the invitation extended to him by the school ignited considerable controversy. It is not often that a prestigious university rolls out the red carpet for somebody who is one of the biggest supporters of terrorism in the world, so it was an unusual event to say the least.
Many consider Ahmadinejad to be nutty, and his position on many issues would support that conclusion.
He believes the Jewish Holocaust that took place during World War II did not occur, and he said during his talk at Columbia that there are no homosexuals in his country.
As for his position on the Holocaust, it makes sense when studying his pattern of anti-Semitic behavior. He has called for the destruction of the state of Israel and clearly is not a friend of the Jew.
As for his ridiculous claim about no homosexuals being in his country, it makes one ponder just how he would know something like that.
His country is certainly known for being oppressive so would it really surprise anybody if he had governmental agencies spying on people's sex lives? Whether it was in Nazi Germany or modern day Iran, minority groups like homosexuals are easy targets for the government.
The bottom line is if he is spying on homosexuals he is probably spying on a lot of other minority groups, maybe even religious minority groups like Christians.
As for his talk at Columbia, the big question is whether or not he should have been invited.
I believe the invitation was a mistake.
Those who defended the invitation said it was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how freedom of speech works in our country. They said it would help highlight important differences between our country and Iran because America is a melting pot when it comes to expressing ideas, while Iran is not.
While I am the first amendment's biggest fan, I don't see how giving this man a forum contributed to the marketplace of ideas in a constructive way.
He has plenty of other avenues in which to promote his warped perspective of the world.
If nothing else, his appearance at a prestigious university like Columbia legitimized his status as a relevant leader. After all, if he can be welcomed by an academic giant like Columbia, many will recognize him as somebody who has something important to say.
True, Columbia President Lee Bollinger did attempt to challenge Ahmadinejad on many subjects, but he was a lightweight in the presence of a master.
As he has many times before, Ahmadinejad ducked and avoided his questions in a skillful way. He didn't lay a hand on him.
What Bollinger should have remembered is that the main purpose of universities is to educate and develop the perspective of its students. Was that accomplished with this visit?
I don't believe so. All it did was expose them to a dangerous man with dangerous ideas. Surely, if these students are bright enough to go to Columbia, they already understand that there are unstable rulers in the world.
It did not require giving this man a forum in the media capital of the world to make this point to the students.
The best summary of why this was a bad idea was given by Abraham H. Foxman in a guest editorial in "USA Today."
Foxman, who is national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote: "In the final analysis, there is only one relevant point about whether he should have been invited: the great need in the world today is to make a moral statement to isolate this individual, not give him legitimacy. His ideology of hatred and Iran's building of a nuclear weapon to implement that ideology are the greatest threats to civilization as we know it. Columbia should have taken a stand that some ideas are simply not acceptable."
Sometimes ideas and people are so bad that they need to be rejected from the marketplace of ideas with extreme prejudice.
Ahmadinejad is somebody who needs to be confronted firmly. He should not be invited to places like university campuses where he can be politely applauded and face minimal resistance.
Bad men should be treated appropriately.