[Blogger's Note: This is the second in a series of 3 articles]
Columbia University invited Global Terrorist No.1 (or 2, depending on the mood), Enemy No. 1 (or 2 depending on the mood), State sponsor of Terrorism (it’s not George Bush Stupid …) and Holocaust denier - the democratically elected President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a part of the World Leader’s Forum initiative. The bosses in Columbia will pass the buck if there’s too much heat about giving a platform to an extremist (it wasn’t the President but a Professor of some nondescript course who actually made the invitation) and others will pat their backs and say how Columbia upheld Freedom of Speech by listening to a tyrant ramble on stage. Lee Bollinger, the President of Columbia in his opening remarks said, "Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator" and then added "You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated". In between he exposed Iran's "hideous designs" on various issues, and wrapped it up with a parting salvo "I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions". Mr. Bollinger’s remarks reminded me of a hymn from the Vedas:
"Mathru devo bhava
Pithru devo bhava
Aacharya devo bhava
Athithi devo bhava"
(Respect one’s mother, father, teacher and guest just as you respect God).
Sure, Mr. Bollinger would not have read the Vedas but I think he did go overboard in inviting someone and then being so extremely judgmental, that the very values that Columbia stood up for in making the invitation i.e. Freedom of speech looked like mere lip service. What Mr. Bollinger did was to exemplify the perception of American Foreign Policy in the Middle East – ignorant, belligerent, bullying and ugly.
Sometime in March 2006 Mr. George W. Bush, who in some parts of the globe is perceived to be Global Terrorist No.1, Enemy No. 1 and State sponsor of Terrorism, visited India. The Indian government tried very hard to have him address the Indian Parliamentarians in the Parliament house. When a significant number of Parliament Members threatened to heckle him, the Government decided to have Bush address the masses from Purana Qila, the Old Fort. When Bush did address the group of Parliamentarians, he was given a standing ovation from time to time. He wasn’t heckled and he wasn’t reminded of his numerous gaffes that he had made. Athithi devo bhava indeed!!!