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Next week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's Holocaust-denying president, who has said that "Israel must be wiped off the map," will be in New York for the U.N. General Assembly session. As the titular leader of a U.N. member state, Ahmadinejad is entitled to visit the city for this reason. But he is not entitled to something else he received, namely an appearance to speak at Columbia University, where he will be introduced by none other than Lee Bollinger, Columbia's president.
Yesterday Bollinger put out a statement defending his decision to authorize the event, and it was filled with high-minded rhetoric:
Columbia, as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas--to understand the world as it is and as it might be. To fulfill this mission we must respect and defend the rights of our schools, our deans and our faculty to create programming for academic purposes. Necessarily, on occasion this will bring us into contact with beliefs many, most or even all of us will find offensive and even odious. We trust our community, including our students, to be fully capable of dealing with these occasions, through the powers of dialogue and reason.
But there is one little problem here. As Bill Kristol points out:
As Columbia welcomes Ahmadinejad to campus, Columbia students who want to serve their country cannot enroll in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at Columbia. Columbia students who want to enroll in ROTC must travel to other universities to fulfill their obligations. ROTC has been banned from the Columbia campus since 1969. In 2003, a majority of polled Columbia students supported reinstating ROTC on campus. But in 2005, when the Columbia faculty senate debated the issue, President Bollinger joined the opponents in defeating the effort to invite ROTC back on campus.
The original decision to kick ROTC off campus was the product of 1960s anti-Americanism, but the ostensible reason the policy continues is objection to the law, signed by President Clinton, that prohibits open homosexuals from serving in the military. Apparently some ideas are so odious that they are unworthy of answering "through the powers of dialogue and reason."
So, what is Ahmadinejad's regime's policy on homosexuals in the military? We don't know, but according to Human Rights Watch, Iran is not a terribly friendly place for gay civilians:
On Sunday, November 13, the semi-official Tehran daily Kayhan reported that the Iranian government publicly hung [sic] two men, Mokhtar N. (24 years old) and Ali A. (25 years old), in the Shahid Bahonar Square of the northern town of Gorgan.
The government reportedly executed the two men for the crime of "lavat." Iran's shari'a-based penal code defines lavat as penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts between men. Iranian law punishes all penetrative sexual acts between adult men with the death penalty. Non-penetrative sexual acts between men are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are punished with death. Sexual acts between women, which are defined differently, are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are also punished with death.
If the U.S. military executed homosexuals instead of merely discharging them, perhaps Bollinger would welcome ROTC back to Columbia.
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