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Way to Go! Bollinger Displays American Hubris and Insult Guests (Ahmedinejad)


*E-mail your concerns and complaints to Columbia at this email:* (Hat-tip Sr. Zahra)

Let me start off by saying that I am no fan of Ahmedinejad… in fact, I don’t particularly like him at all. But I support his right to speak to Americans… the last thing we want is to engage another country in war.

ahmadinejad.jpgSo, when Columbia decided to host the Iranian President for a speech, I was proud of our academic institutions standing up in the face of the Israel Lobby and its supporters, to allow Americans the opportunity to hear directly from the person they have come to hate so much. It wasn’t surprising then that mostly Jewish students and groups lined up to protest against his arrival (this is a fact, not an opinion). The pressure mounted on Columbia’s President to disbar Ahmedinejad from speaking… apparently freedom of speech only applies to rants against Muslims and Islam. In any case, Bollinger couldn’t cancel the event (whether he did it because of “freedom of speech” or because it was too late to change plans, God knows).

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bollinger.jpgAnd then at the beginning of the speech, Bollinger dives into an awful rant, an embarrassing harangue that was insulting, besides being not entirely factual. Here is a man from another nation (Iran) wanting to open the lines of communication directly with the American people, and what do our “great” American academics do? Not even afford the man the reasonable and basic etiquettes and courtesies that a guest deserves. Here are a few lines of his insults (more here on NYTimes live blog of the event):

Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator

Frankly, and in all candor Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions, but your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mind-set that characterizes what you say and do

Today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for

It was better, much better, that Columbia would have canceled the event than to show the world that the “American Hubris” is not just limited to our government, especially the Bush click. As a poster on Dailykos wrote,

As an American, I was stunned and embarrassed by Bollinger’s harangue of Ahmedinejad. It was a craven and cowardly capitulation to political pressures, and unworthy of the academic institution that Bollinger represents. I know who and what Ahmedinejad is, but I also know that he was at Columbia at Columbia’s invitation. Bollinger’s speech was less a challenge to Ahmedinejad than it was an ambush, and it dishonered all of us as Americans.

Bollinger could have challenged Ahmedinejad’s many hyperbolic and absurd statements in a manner that was not abusive and insulting. He chose instead to curry favor with those who are intent on demonizing Iran and plunging the U.S. into another illegal and immoral war. Bollinger’s behavior was inappropriate. It presented to the world the face of an ugly and bullying America. I am utterly humiliated that Bollinger should have behaved this way.

Shameful is one word I would describe this situation with. Beyond the shia-sunni issues, what would you say?


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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").



  1. MR

    September 26, 2007 at 10:15 AM

    Columbia shouldn’t be considered ivy league anymore.

  2. Shahzad

    September 26, 2007 at 11:19 AM

    What make me sad is that Ahmedinejad is the only leader from a Muslim country I remember that actually gave “da’wah” to the Western country that he visited. In parts of his address to the Press club he discussed the how the first revelation was “iqra” and the importance of science in Islam. When was the last time we had a butt-kissing leader from Saudia or Pakistan act in this way?

    But to the topic, I did listen to Bollinger’s rant and was utterly disgusted by it. The utter arrogance of it all. But Ahmedinejad rubbed it in his face (and the audience clapped in response) by saying that in our countries we never treat our guests in such a fashion.

  3. Amad

    September 26, 2007 at 12:29 PM

    Yes, Shahzad, we got to hand him that. At the same time, he is also the same person arming lunatics and murderers (e.g. the Mahdi army in Iraq who are busy in their sunni-genocidal plans).

    Ahmadenijad did good with his response but really, how despicable of Bollinger! He may have saved the $$ stream for the school’s endowment, but he made Columbia look pretty lowly in terms of what they have for their president.

  4. Kamran

    September 26, 2007 at 2:40 PM

    is the video available online?

  5. Amad

    September 26, 2007 at 2:48 PM

  6. Alireza

    September 26, 2007 at 6:27 PM

    To watch the video

    you can find it on youtube and google video.

    Just search for keywords Ahmadinejad and Columiba. I guess the one on google video (C-Span) is the most complete. The one on youtube is from FOX which of course might be biased even I would say in vedio taping the event!

  7. Sis Shaykha

    September 26, 2007 at 8:16 PM

    Asalamu Alaiakum

    I’m not a fan of this man either. However i like that he actually speaks…the…truth (sometimes). Too bad other “leaders” aren’t doing this.

    But i’m not going to pat him on the back just yet.

    The President of Columbia made himself look like a complete bigoted, biased, prejudice, close-minded moron with that one hour speech. I guess he was trying to prove to his donors that he really does hate iran (or maybe islam alltogether). I was shocked at how rude he came off. I mean enemies host each other, over for talks, and they dont’ attack each other like five-year-old kids. But this guy (what he isn’t even part of the government lol) comes on stage, embarrases himself and all that America claims to stand for.

    I mean really though, who are they kidding, they probably benefitted more from his visit than he did from coming.

    Wa’aalykum Asalaam

  8. Dawud Israel

    September 26, 2007 at 10:06 PM

    I know you guys hate for it to be heard. But the Shias are the only ones who are actually doing something. Ahmedinejad and Hezbollah have been the only ones who have been openly and successfully standing up for the deen.

    Salahudin Ayubi was an Ashari and the Ummah united behind him. I’m quite sure the Ummah back home is preparing to unite behind this Shia leader.

    Hubris…been a while since I’ve heard that word. I know the meaning of it all to well from my Greek Civ class and from what I’ve learned of the previous nations in the Qur’an.

    Amad can you tell everyone the connotations of that word–especially in Greek culture (the ancestor of the West) and how important this concept is?

  9. Siraaj Muhammad

    September 26, 2007 at 10:57 PM

    The mounting pressure from the far right neo-con zealots has been near to deafening the past few days before and during Ahmedinejad’s arrival. Lee Bolinger rather poorly tried to tread the line of both liberalism and as well as conservatism by first justifying bringing him and then roasting his guest. The outcome was what one would expect – everyone hated Lee Bolinger, in the end.

    While we have our theological differences, I have a great amount of respect both for his dedication to religious practice and his unwavering principled stances in the face of mounting international pressure.

    I was particularly impressed by his rebuttals to further investigation into the Holocaust. While I have no interest in disproving the implementation of the policy, I believe he made a true statement when he said that scientific inquiry into any matter does not end simply because a thing is well-researched and documented, and that one can come from different angles at an issue.

    If there was one gaffe he made, it was to say that there are no homosexuals in Iran. And that’s what will receive all the airtime on the news. It’s a great soundbite, makes for great copy, and it’s going to be lampooned ad nauseum like Howard Dean’s hee-haw yowl from 2004’s Iowa primary.


  10. Siraaj Muhammad

    September 26, 2007 at 10:59 PM

    *Clarification – 2nd paragraph refers to Ahmedinejad. Should be prefaced with “With regards to Ahmedinejad, ”


  11. Salafiyah

    September 27, 2007 at 1:14 AM

    I think we need to support the Iranian Government. Even though it is not Sunni, basically they are still Muslim. At the end of the day they will be voicing legitimate concerns on our behalf. Especially now, since Iran is at a threat of being attacked by the Western World, we can’t just say oh they are shiah, and we are sunni, so lets abandon them.

    Unfortunately it seems Ahmadinejad’s public relations advisors and speech writers are really incapable of doing a good job. Denying the holocaust, not only is it false, but it unnecessarily draws negative media attention

    Truth is Ahmadinejad is getting more negative media press coverage than Mullah Umar and Usamah Ibn Ladin post 9-11. Which is bad for Iran.

    As a matter of fact, one of the taliban foreign representatives visited an American University in California, and he got better media coverage than Ahmadinejad.

  12. inexplicabletimelessness

    September 27, 2007 at 1:52 AM

    SubhanAllah, I totally agree. Even though I don’t agree with so many of Ahmedinejad’s ideas, let alone theology, I would’ve hoped that we as Americans could’ve given him a fair chance to speak without inserting their preconceived biases into his speech.

    Although his ‘gay people’ comment will probably be the main thing laypeople of America remember from his speech, I think many Iranians were proud to see their president act in a diplomatic manner (whilst being humiliated by ‘American “democrats” ) in the face of such disagreement.

    Overall, I think this incident has actually increased my respect for the guy. I wish people of Ahlus Sunnah could stick to their morals and ideals like he did.

    May Allah give us all yaqeen and certainty in what we believe in, and make us qualified to represent His Deen, ameen.


    September 27, 2007 at 2:33 AM


  14. Kamran

    September 27, 2007 at 3:02 AM

    Highly encourage y’all to read this before you make up your mind who/which government to support:

  15. Kamran

    September 27, 2007 at 3:04 AM

    follow up response from Br Anas to the above link:

    Assalaam Alaikum,

    This matter is very relevant and real. I would like to point out that matters in Lebanon are little different. Believe it or not, the least impressed sunnis about what Hizbollah did last summer were the sunnis of Lebanon. This is due to many factors and it could take pages to explain. Briefly, Hizobollah was the only faction in Lebanon that was allowed to carry weapons after the civil war (which ended in 1990) all with the excuse that they’re fighting Israel. Well after Israel left Lebanon, Hizbollah was running out of excuses. In fact, that was creating a lot of political tensions in Lebanon and increasing pressure on Hizbollah to disarm. Then came the assasination of Hariri that broke the camel’s back. Lot of people don’t know about the amount of hate that Hizbollah had for Hariri, a prominent and very wealthy sunni who made most of his wealth while he worked his way up in Saudi Arabia. Hariri rebuilt Lebanon out of the civil war and entered the political arena as a very influential figure in the whole Middle East. When he was murdered, Syria, who has been occupying Lebanon since the beginning of the civil was (1976), was forced out of Lebanon due to international pressure. Now the pressure increased on Hizbullah to disarm. There is a theory out there that Hizbollah had to invent a war in order to keep the legitimicy of its heavy weapons (heavier than Lebanese army itself!!!!) esp. after it lost direct support from its main ally, Syria. Regardless, during the war last summer, everybody forgot their differences, and politics was put on the side in order to face a common danger. However what has happened since was really shocking and really opened the eyes of people, at least the Lebanese people, as to the reality of Hizbollah. Unfortunately, you still see ppl outside Lebanon still amazed by what Hizbollah did last summer forgetting or not even knowing what has happened ever since. Hizbollah was very arrogant about the so called victory, even though it was made with the price of destroying Lebanon and specifically the Shia population in the South. Now, it wanted to impose its will on Lebanon. Eventhough they did not have a majority in the Parliament, they demanded for a greater share in the Lebanese ministery which would give them a veto power. That really meant that they would have the power to veto any legislation they don’t like, especially anything that could bring the killers of Hariri (or the scores of important people who were assasinated thereafter) to justice. Off course that demand was rejected by the Lebanese government. As a result, all the Hizbollah and Amal ministers withdrew from the governement, and began their vicious campaign against it. During Dec of last year, they began a massive standoff in the middle of Beirut demanding the government to resign. This standoff is still happening up to this day by the way, though it has toned down. To make the matters worst, Hizbollah and its allies wanted to enforce a curfew on all of Lebanon (as if they own the country) back this Feb. They blocked roads with burning tires and with sand piles in hopes of stopping the country. As expected there were clashes and few people were injured or killed. Hizbollah and their allies were now becoming more open about their hatred towards the sunnis. They were attacking sunni market places, intimidating common people and even some sunni shuyukh. I have heard some people narrate that they heard cursing of the Companions in the middle of Beirut. It’s important to note that those clashes were happening in suni areas, which tells you pretty much who were the intruders/aggressors. All these events were serving as wake-up calls for the sunnis in Lebanon. They realized that they have to unite, something they haven’t done throughout and after the civil war (1975-1990). It’s important to note that the Lebaneze Sunnis were the only people who did not take a major part in the civil war itself despite their sizable population (I’m excluding the Palestenians who are also sunnis, but did take a major part in the civil war). The Lebaneze sunnis were the only sect that did not have a militia to defend itself pretty much throughout the war, and were always looked at as a catalyst for peace. But, now they realize that it was this weakness that allowed the assasination of the likes of Hariri, and the fact that they were bullied around. I personally haven’t seen a unity among the sunnis like I have seen recently. Some see it as a very dangerous polarization of sunni versus shi’i due to events happening in the region such as the war in Iraq. But, I see it as a necessity and as the only choice that the sunnis were left with in face of the naked arrogance that Hizbollah displayed after the war. This is not to forget that the Shia have been united for a long time, so why is it ok for the Shia to unite but it’s Haram on the Sunnis to unite?? Anyway, now you see the majority of the sunni street with the exception of a small minority (such as Fat’hi Yaken, who used to be leader of the Muslims Brotherhood in Lebanon, but now have branched off and made his own little movement) rallying behind the government and the Mufti.

    Sorry I didn’t mean to write this long, but I think it might be beneficial for a Muslim to understand a bit of the intricacies of the Middle East and not be fooled by the propaganda that Hizbollah and Iran are trying to sell. One last note which I think is very interesting and which was touched upon by the article below is the position of sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. I think we all know how much this shiekh was in favor of sunni-shia unity. Now, you will be amazed of he what is saying. I think the discovery of the grave of Abu Lu’lu’a al-Majoosi in Iran might have played a role in his “conversion”. I have seen this grave on a video clip and you can see how much money the Iranian government has spent in order to rennovate the grave and make it like a Mazaar. Recently, I have seen a debate between al-Qaradawi and the Rafsanjani of Iran. Qaradawi was very direct about his disappointments with the Shia and was demanding a clear fatwa from the Shii mullas to forbid the cursing of the Companions. But Rafsanjani was shunning away almost all questions by being political as usual. In a recent conference that had both Sunni and Shia scholars, Qaradawi posed the following question, “How can we unite between people who say Omar radiya Allah anhu [may Allah be pleased with him] and people who say Omar la’anahu Allah [may Allah curse him]?” Pretty logical question, is it not?

    And Allah knows best,

  16. ruth nasrullah

    September 27, 2007 at 11:07 AM

    Salaams, Dawud Israel. Hey, you must not be reading my Houston Chronicle blog! I recently used “hubris” in the title of a post – and in fact in that post I linked to a MM post that contained a quote from Sh. Yasir Qadhi. I wiki’ed the ancient Greek meaning and was surprised it’s so different from today’s usage.

    (I don’t know how to shorten these links to the Chronicle, but you can go to to read the post.)

  17. Amad

    September 27, 2007 at 12:43 PM

    Actually I am reading an excellent book, American Hubris (highly recommended read, with caveats)… and so I thoroughly now understand what Hubris means. The easy example: America’s behavior over the last decade.

    But it on Amazon

    Kamran, jak for the excellent response from my dear friend Anas Hlayel (could never get his name’s spelling right!)

  18. youngMuslimah

    September 27, 2007 at 1:54 PM

    I dont like ahmadinejad in particular too, but like sharzad said he’s the only muslim leader who actually has the guts to speak up instead of dancing to the american tunes. he handled the situation really well.

  19. Kamran

    September 27, 2007 at 2:46 PM

    hlayhel :)

  20. Zahra Billoo

    September 27, 2007 at 3:13 PM

    Let’s walk the walk.

    Columbia has set up an email address at which to receive concerns like the ones addressed here. So in addition to spreading the word via blogging, let’s register our complaints at: . . . !

    Email away folks.

  21. ...

    September 27, 2007 at 3:42 PM

    *emailing*……..=) thanks Zahra

  22. Amad

    September 27, 2007 at 5:15 PM

    Salam Sr. Zahra… I emailed as well, and added the email address at the top.

  23. Kamran

    September 27, 2007 at 5:48 PM

    you guys have a sample email..that I can use as a template…always better to recycle :) don’t worry..I won’t use the exact same email.

  24. Amad

    September 27, 2007 at 6:23 PM

    actually i pretty much used the entire blog entry… removing some “bloggish” comments and inferences, removing the “historical background” and making it more direct… took me about 5 minutes to modify.

  25. Umm Layth

    September 27, 2007 at 7:18 PM

    Speak the truth, against injustice, but only when it suits their whims.

  26. abu khaled

    September 27, 2007 at 11:54 PM

    assalamu alaikum,
    so im wondering, why is that all our brothers and sisters are support this shia in terms of his dawah, but when it comes to the popular ashari scholars in the west, we won’t even look at them when they speak and we warn the ppl about them, but we wont warn the ppl about the shia? surely, the ashari are closer to ahlsunnah than the shia….

  27. Siraaj Muhammad

    September 28, 2007 at 12:13 AM

    Salaam alaykum Abu Khaled,

    It’s not his creed that we respect – it’s the amount of pressure he’s withstanding without either bending backwards in political doublespeak to sugarcoat his beliefs or retracting positions “for the good of all.”

    And, the other thing worth noting is that this is perhaps the only political leader who truly lives an austere lifestyle reminiscient of what we’ve read about the 4 khulafaa ar-rashideen. I’m not saying he’s like them, don’t get me wrong here, what I’m saying is that relative to what’s out there from sunnis, the man is respectable from many different angles.

    Doesn’t mean I’d follow him. It just means I respect him.

  28. abu khaled

    September 28, 2007 at 12:30 AM

    Walaikum asalams br. Siraj,

    I definitely agree that we don’t follow the creed of Ahmedinejad, but we are giving him respect, right? Therefore, why can’t be jus not follow the creed of the ashari and give them respect at the same time? You know when a popular Ashari ‘scholar’ comes to town for a weekend intensive or something, do many of us not over-enthusiastically tell the people this man is from Ahl-Bidah and we encourage people not to go to the masjid to hear him speak? I mean, I understand Ashari are heretics, but still, can we still respect their scholars somewhat with the same type of respect we give Ahmedinejad? I know of Ashari scholars that lives very close in their practices of the Sunnah (obviously except in terms of their creed). Many of us don’t respect these Ashari at all, we hate them with all of our over-zealous hearts, why cant we at least be somewhat respectful? I mean when Shaykh Yasir Q signed this Pledge of Unity, did many of his students even start losing respect for Shaykh Yasir? SubhanAllah, yet we’ll still give respect to this Shia-leader…

  29. sincethestorm

    September 28, 2007 at 12:33 AM

    Politics aside…Ahmedinejad’s behavior of behaving in a polite manner even when insulted does illustrate the superiority of Islamic manners. Had he been rude, Hollinger wouldn’t look that bad. Just a nice reminder for us all about the importance of Islamic ettiquette and manners.

  30. Siraaj Muhammad

    September 28, 2007 at 7:55 AM

    Salaam alaykum Abu Khaled,

    I think what you’re discussing is a separate issue. We’re talking about politician’s, not scholars. Politicians deal with different issues and pressures, and the respect is for his commitment to his stances in the face of pressure and the luxuries he could have as leader of Iran, which he has discarded.

    As for Ash’ari scholars, I know that many of our brothers fight tooth and nail on a regular basis online against them and their ideology. I used to be one of those people, but I have left that behind in favor spending my time bettering my life and trying to come closer to Allah subhaana wa ta’aala. In Chicago, I actively work to cement relations between AlMaghrib Institute da’ees and da’ees from other organizations, whether it’s YM / MAS, or Dar-ul Hikmah. We go as far as even promoting good events which don’t relate to aqeedah because we would prefer that people go to these events than stay home and waste their life watching television when we ourselves have no program that night to offer.

    I agree with you that those of us from Ahlus-Sunnah need to stop engaging in petty ad hominems. Besides being juvenile, they are the hallmark of weak intellects. Even during the days of my internet debates, I never, in my memory, spoke ill of specific individuals and focused on criticizing priniciples and practices.


  31. Rick Carey

    September 28, 2007 at 8:18 AM

    What I thought was rude was that Ahmedinejad came to Columbia and tried his hand at proselization (i.e. trying to convert the audience). That was completely inappropriate in an academic setting as Allah has no place in the centers of reason and learning.

    Oh and the “Israeli Lobby” line. Please, the Muslim lobby is much larger and much more powerful in DC. Why is it that Jews are the only foreign people whose Lobbying of the US government is a bad thing?

  32. Amad

    September 28, 2007 at 8:53 AM

    What I thought was rude was that Ahmedinejad came to Columbia and tried his hand at proselization (i.e. trying to convert the audience).

    Amazing isn’t it that you can’t bring God into the speech but you can bring homosexuals into it… very academic topic indeed.

    the Muslim lobby is much larger and much more powerful in DC.

    You are joking, aren’t you? In fact, I think you are a baby troll that enjoys throwing in strange absurdities in order to make people react. You know as well as I do (unless you live in a cocoon) that the Muslim lobby as compared to the Israel lobby is like a house-fly compared to a bull.

    Why is it that Jews are the only foreign people whose Lobbying of the US government is a bad thing?

    Don’t conflate Jews with Israel. True that a lot of Jews support the lobby, but there are non-Jews who support it as well, like the Christian Zionists. And most of them are Americans, not foreign, as is the case for the few Muslim lobbyists.

  33. Siraaj Muhammad

    September 28, 2007 at 11:40 AM

    Rick, please read The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy by Professor John Mearsheimer and Professor Stephen Walt. Link to Amazon with reviews is here:

    The book is newly released.


  34. Amad

    September 28, 2007 at 11:52 AM

    Salam… I am in the process of reading the book.. its quite dense, and I am about 2/3 of the way through.

    It is a truly remarkable book and a must-read for anyone remotely interested in the Palestinian issue and the lobby’s work in America.

  35. concerned

    September 28, 2007 at 6:04 PM

    salam aleykum…

    my comment is ouside the topic but its related to the last few comments a recent documentary i watched discussing the zionist lobbyist in america regarding the palestinaian issue is Occupation 101. heres the link

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