My alma mater, Columbia University, has just invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak. Keeping up with the Joneses? Harvard (as well as the National Cathedral) hosted former Iranian president Ayatollah Khatami just a few weeks ago. Mr. Ahmadinejad himself chatted up a group at the Council on Foreign Relations following his speech to the UN General Assembly.
Establishment America seems determined to seduce Ahmadinejad. The more bellicose toward America he becomes, the more they prostrate themselves at his feet. He's been courted for a sit-down by Mike Wallace, who back-pedaled on a tough question after Ahmadinejad threatened to terminate the interview. He's been greeted by "religious leaders" and will now address a group at Columbia.
Press coverage has been anything but harsh. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out on a recent show, leading newspapers failed to mention in their coverage of Ahmadinejad's UN speech his long peroration inviting the swift return of the "hidden" imam, a holy person who died in the 10th century and whose imminent return -- heralding the end times -- is expected by some Muslims, including the president of Iran.
If you had told me 20 years ago that Columbia would play host to a religious fanatic who believed in stoning adulteresses and homosexuals to death, who shut down newspapers and harassed journalists, who funded terror organizations around the globe, and who declared that the Holocaust never happened but that he might just do it right this time, I would have told you that he'd be in for a tough session. But today, with universities in America so cordial toward anyone who hates America (e.g., Princeton's Cornel West took time out of his busy lecture schedule to appear with Hugo Chavez in Harlem last week), perhaps the students and professors at Columbia could use a few suggestions on what to ask Mr. Ahmadinejad.
1. On Sept. 5 of this year, you called for a purge of liberal and secular teachers from Iran's universities. How is the campaign to impose religiously acceptable teachers going?
2. In your speech to the United Nations, you mentioned that "some" countries, "relying on their superior military and economic might," were performing a great disservice to the cause of peace. You added that "even the interests of citizens of powerful countries will be jeopardized -- as was seen in the recent crises and even the natural disaster such as the recent tragic hurricane." Was God punishing the United States by sending Katrina to the Gulf?
3. You seemed to imply that U.S. intelligence and security services must have had a hand in the September 11 attacks. What do you think happened that day?
4. Human Rights Watch has described your cabinet as "Ministers of Murder." Interior Minister Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi, for example, was reportedly responsible for the extra-judicial killings of opposition figures, political activists and intellectuals. Gholamhussein Mohseni Ezhei, the minister of information, was said to be responsible (in his last post) for prosecutions of reform-minded clerics. He also cracked down on the press, closing at least 100 newspapers in the past six years. He has been implicated in the kidnapping and murder of Pirouz Davani, a critic of the Islamic regime. How do you square this with your claim that you represent a "perfect democracy"?
5. In your speech to the General Assembly, you declared that "in accordance with our religious principles, pursuit of nuclear weapons is prohibited." Yet just one sentence earlier, you threatened that if the "hegemonic powers" attempt to "impose their will on the Iranian people through resort to a language of force and threat with Iran, we will reconsider our entire approach to the nuclear issue." Can you reconcile this flat contradiction?
6. You have dedicated yourself to reviving the spirit of the Islamic Revolution. When Ayatollah Khomeini took power, he reduced the marriageable age for girls from 18, as it had been under the shah, to 9. It was later raised to 13. What age do you consider proper for marriage?
These are just a few suggestions. But if things run according to classic patterns in our benighted academic world, Ahmadinejad will be asked whether he considers George Bush a warmonger, whether he ever listens to rap and whether he thinks his children will grow up in a peaceful world.