CU-Monitor© 2018

The intolerance of tolerance — America has gone too far

ALLEN FAGIN

The Hill

Wed Nov 06 2019

...Several weeks ago, Columbia University invited the prime minister of Malaysia Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad to address its Global Leadership Forum. Dr. Mohamad has faced accusations of being anti-Semitic and he has even questioned the Holocaust.

But despite this history — known to all — one of the world’s most prestigious universities extended an invitation to him. After news of this invitation became public, I wrote to Columbia’s President, Lee Bollinger, who responded:

You are correct that I find the anti-Semitic statements of Prime Minister Mahathir to be abhorrent, contrary to what we stand for, and deserving of condemnation. Nevertheless, it is in these instances that we are most strongly resolved to insist that our campus remain an open forum and to protect the freedoms essential to our University community.

This is the tolerance of intolerance. “Protect the freedoms essential to our University community.” But what of the freedom to be sheltered from vilification based on one’s religious identity? Must an “open forum” include the right to slander and abuse?

In his speech, the Malaysian Prime Minister defended his absolute right to preach hatred: “When you say ‘you cannot be anti-Semitic’, there is no free speech. I am exercising my right to free speech. Why is it I can’t say something against the Jews…”

So, there we have it. He is granted license to spew his venomous remarks, at the invitation of one of America’s most prestigious institutions. And his right to do so defended — tolerated — by one of America’s foremost intellectuals.

This defense of seeming hate speech was from the president of Columbia University. With anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head across our nation and beyond, President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University chose deliberately to tolerate the intolerant....

The intolerance of tolerance — America has gone too far