“If the whole world was of uniform opinion but one, the world would be no more justified to silence that one voice than he if he had the means to silence the world.”
And thus came to Columbia University the Iranian President….
Mr. Ahmadinejad strode onto the stage in a packed auditorium, smiling slightly. Before he sat down, he held up his hands to the crowd, to some applause.
He then gave a speech that meandered from topic to topic, from science and religion, to creation of human beings, and the misuse of wisdom. But it was during the question-and-answer session that he was confronted with some of his most controversial positions.
He said that as an academic, he questioned whether there was “sufficient research” about what happened after World War II. “We know quite well that Palestine is an old wound” for 60 years, he said at one point, in the earlier part of the question-and-answer portion.
“We need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not.”
He was also asked to answer directly whether he or his government seek the destruction of Israel. He did not. But he said that to solve the “60-year old problem,” “we must allow the Palestinian people to decide on its future itself.” (nytimes).
There are now fears of a backlash against Columbia University especially because Mr. Ahmadinejad used the platform to extraordinary effect even receiving loud applause in a country that has branded him a leader of a terrorist state. Mr. Ahmadinejad seized the opportunity to highlight the unresolved fate of Palestinian refugees; he also explained the Iranian position and intention of its nuclear ambition.
Whatever the pit falls, it is clear that free expression especially the right to present a dissenting opinion is indeed - a right and benefit all governments must support especially African governments.