Of course Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be a guest at the Columbia University question-and-answer forum on Monday. What a glorious opportunity to showcase the most precious freedom that sets the United States apart from almost every other country on earth: the true and unfettered Freedom of Speech and the open and free exchange of ideas.
We don't fear ideas.
Ahmadinejad and his Islamic fundamentalist handlers in Iran would never allow such an exchange of ideas in his homeland. Hell, they wouldn't even tolerate men and women in the same open room.
Can you imagine Ahmadinejad facing a room of Iranian coeds in miniskirts questioning his authority over their bodies? That ain't gonna happen! So let's let it happen in New York
What's so fascinating is that Ahmadinejad sees this very freedom of speech and ideas as the United States greatest weakness. He comes with every intent to exploit this weakness. He brings a wealth of ideas and he is articulate and has a well honed sense of humor. He hopes to win converts. He may even succeed.
Divide and conquer is Ahmadinejad's hope. Yet he really fails to understand the great power of ideas and open and free discussion. He sees it as a weakness simply because his government and his theocracy would fall in days if he allowed his countrymen the same freedoms.
The idea of Iranians listening to western music terrifies him so much he has outlawed it in Iran. Although I play Iranian , Persian and pan Arab music, Wizard Radio is banned in Iran!
Oh Allah! What if Iranians were allowed to read or see the news? What if they were allowed to congregate in small groups to discuss the future? What if they actually allowed bloggers to post anti-government diatribes on the Internet for all to read.
Surely the United States is moments from falling into chaos!! Ahmadinejad knows this must be true because over 50% of the public actually dislike President Bush and the news media (gasp!) is allowed to report this fact! Over and often!!
So let's give Ahmadinejad an ear. Let's engage him in dialog to the greatest extent possible. Let's show him what the United States is all about.
Ahmadinejad fails to understand that ideas and discussion and conflict are what give the United States power. He thinks he will exploit our weakness. Instead his words will simply strengthen the nation, our spirit and our values.