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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Stand with Burmese People

Stand with the Burmese People

I was listening to the Public Broadcasting on the subject, and am saddened with our civilization, particularly, our role in the world. Respect for human life is declining; the terrorists are one side killing hundreds and the civilized nations on the other hand killing millions.

We still have dictatorships, monarchies, fascists, communist and theocracies around. Shouldn't we declare a war on ignorance? Shouldn't we spend the money on education rather than destruction?

What is happening in Burma is sad, the sparkle of goodness is that the Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others are standing by in the support of the Monks. The least we can do is sign a petition of support.

I have just signed the petition, it is your turn now at 272,000, we need 500,000 signatures

Here are a few Burma Stories:
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1. Beyond Rangoon - Washingtonnote.com
2. Burma Special - Newsweek - UN envoy will stay
3. India's Burma Silence
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Beyond Rangoon: Stories Beneath the Surface of Myanmar Reporting
http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/

As all eyes turn to Myanmar with brutal crackdowns by the military junta (including reports of a Japanese reporter murdered and school children being fired upon), international condemnations, speculation of a "saffron revolution," and China caught between a policy of noninterference and brutal crackdown on its borders that could turn into a public relations disaster, there are stories at the micro-political level that deserve to be highlighted for the inspiration they might offer.

First, the role that technology has played in both mobilizing and broadcasting this information to the rest of the world through cell phones and the internet. News reports abound on the process of gathering reports in Myanmar as much as the actual reports of the brutal crackdowns by the military junta. The Democratic Voice of Burma has been praised for its role at the helm of collecting, hosting, and distributing information from the myriad of reports electronically smuggled out of the country. Despite the internet crackdown which The New York Times The Lede is reporting on, information is still apears to be making its way through to blogs like Global Voices and the Cbox aggregator of on-the-ground reports.

Just like the protests against a chemical plant organized by text messages in China a few months ago, this is not the story of technological triumphalism, but rather, of little victories that are applying pressures and compelling governments and international actors to move in certain, sometimes constructive ways.

The second story that needs be told (and I hope gets reported on more) is the bonds of solidarity formed between the monks and local residents. The lead editorial of the Asahi Shimbun reads:

Sharp increases in the prices of gasoline and other items on Aug. 15 sparked the demonstrations. The price hikes caused bus fares and other fees to soar, hitting the pocketbooks of ordinary citizens. Monks who rely on alms stood up in protest on behalf of the citizens. (...)
In Myanmar, it is customary for men to enter the priesthood at least once during their lifetime. As writer Michio Takeyama (1903-1984) described in his novel "Biruma no Tategoto" (The Harp of Burma), Buddhism is the spiritual mainstay of the people. The fact that monks, who distance themselves from mundane affairs, stood up in protest shows just how precarious everyday civilian life has become.

In return, DVB is reporting that local residents of all religions have been defending Bhuddist monks and thwarting attacks on monasteries, which have been targeted by the military:

In Rangoon, troops encountered resistance from local residents as they approached Sasana Alin Yaung, Sanana Wuntha and Min Nanda monasteries in Daw Pon and Tharkayta townships.
At Min Nanda monastery, which backs on to Pazuntaung creek, troops tried to approach from both land and water but retreated when they saw the strength of local resistance.

"There were not only Buddhist people but also Muslims, Christians and Hindus defending the monasteries," said a resident of Tharkayta township.

A similar story has been played out in other townships in Burma, as residents take action to resist government raids on monasteries.

Despite the much ballyhooed cedar, rose, and orange revolutions that turned out to be far more complex power struggles rather than purely democratic revolutions, there appears to be something qualitatively different about what is happening in Myanmar right now -- a much more organic galvanization of the population -- though I think we lack sufficient information to substantiate it. Nevertheless, the accounts above should provide sufficient cause to hope that a new social contract will arise out the battle unfolding in the country.

--Sameer Lalwani
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Mystery surrounds the generals’ absence from yesterday’s talks
Ibrahim Gambari, UN special envoy, was due to make a second attempt today to meet Burma's two top junta generals, Than Shwe and his deputy, Maung Aye, who avoided a meeting yesterday in their remote, sealed-off capital, Naypyidaw, on Sunday. No reason was given for their absence, writes Edward Loxton.

"Than Shwe and Maung Aye have been accused of snubbing Gambari, the United Nations and the world community, but it could be more complicated than that," said one prominent exile leader, who requested anonymity.

Mystery surrounds the generals’ absence from yesterday’s talks, writes edward loxton
Ibrahim Gambari, UN special envoy, was due to make a second attempt today to meet Burma's two top junta generals, Than Shwe and his deputy, Maung Aye, who avoided a meeting yesterday in their remote, sealed-off capital, Naypyidaw, on Sunday. No reason was given for their absence.

"Than Shwe and Maung Aye have been accused of snubbing Gambari, the United Nations and the world community, but it could be more complicated than that," said one prominent exile leader, who requested anonymity.

"Look at it this way: if there is disagreement between Than Shwe and Maung Aye over how to handle the crisis, the appearance of one or the other at a vital meeting with Gambari would send important signals.

"If Than Shwe appears alone, Maung Aye is out of the picture and Burma descends into deeper disorder and even greater isolation. If Maung Aye appears alone, Than Shwe has been deposed and a newer, more pragmatic policy could emerge."

The UN has indicated that Gambari will insist on staying in Burma until he has seen the two men. He met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a government guesthouse in Rangoon on Sunday, but no details have emerged of their 90-minute encounter.

Reports hardened today that the army's divisional commanders of Rangoon and Mandalay have been sacked because of their opposition to the use of force on anti-government protesters, particularly monks.

"There's clearly dissatisfaction at the effect the bloodshed will have on Burma's image," said the exile leader. "We are hoping that the dissatisfaction will spread through army ranks and lead to the overthrow of Than Shwe."

Rangoon and other cities were relatively quiet this morning. Thousands of troops were deployed around most monasteries, where monks were virtually being held prisoner.

Burma is closed to foreign reporters. Edward Loxton is reporting for The First Post from Chiang Mai in neighbouring Thailand.
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Junta ‘shows disdain for international opinion’; resident talks of bloodbath in Rangoon
Burma’s two junta leaders, General Than Shwe and his deputy, General Maung Aye, both snubbed UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari when he flew to their sealed-off capital, Naypyidaw, today for talks to solve the crisis now shaking the country, writes Edward Loxton from Thailand.Observers said the absence of the two leaders from talks Gambari held with lower-ranking military officers did not necessarily represent evidence of a split in the regime. “It’s a snub,” said Burma expert Bertil Lintner, author of several books on the country. “The regime is showing its utter disdain for international opinion.”
Burma’s two junta leaders, General Than Shwe and his deputy, General Maung Aye, both snubbed UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari when he flew to their sealed-off capital, Naypyidaw, today for talks to solve the crisis now shaking the country, writes Edward Loxton from Thailand.Observers said the absence of the two leaders from talks Gambari held with lower-ranking military officers did not necessarily represent evidence of a split in the regime. “It’s a snub,” said Burma expert Bertil Lintner, author of several books on the country. “The regime is showing its utter disdain for international opinion.”

Gambari also met in Rangoon with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was taken from her home, where she has spent a total of 11 years under house arrest, to a government guesthouse for the encounter. No details emerged on their talks.Meanwhile, a Burmese businesswoman back in Thailand from a visit to her parents in Mandalay, said it was rumoured that two key generals, including Mandalay’s commander, Kin Zaw, and a Rangoon divisional commander, Hla Htay Oo, had been relieved of their duties. Both were said to have opposed the use of force against monks.In continuing raids on the country’s Bhuddist monks, troops stormed several waterside monasteries from naval vessels patrolling the Rangoon River. “The violence and the looting is on a dreadful scale,” said one resident. “Troops are breaking their way in and lashing out indiscriminately. It’s a bloodbath. When is the world going to act to stop it?”
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India's Burma Silence
We expect China to go easy on thuggish dictatorships such as Burma's because China is a dictatorship itself. But what about Asia's other rising power India, the world's biggest democracy? Surely Delhi has joined the rest of the world in condemning Burma's violent crackdown on anti-government protesters over the past few days.
Well, no. Despite pressure from Europe and the U.S. for India to use its influence with Burma to help end the bloodshed, Delhi has taken a softly, softly approach to the current crisis for the same reasons China has: potential trade with and influence over the energy-rich Southeast Asian nation. "We are concerned at the situation in Myanmar and are monitoring it closely. It is our hope that all sides will resolve their issues peacefully through dialogue," said External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the single short public statement he has made on the subject so far. "As a close and friendly neighbor, India hopes to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Myanmar, where all sections of the people will be included in a broad-based process of national reconciliation and political reform. Myanmar's process of national reconciliation initiated by the authorities should be expedited."

That's a long way from the days when India backed the pro-democracy movement of Aung San Suu Kyi, the celebrated opposition leader who, in 1993, Delhi awarded the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award. Within years, India had begun wooing Burma's junta, a relationship publicly cemented when strongman Than Shwe visited India in 2004.

Delhi's strategy is threefold. Its initial overtures to Burma's military leaders came as India faced a growing insurgency in its northeast. Many of the rebel groups in that region are based and train across the border in Burma. As India has grown friendlier with Burma's generals the two countries have worked together — with some limited success — on eradicating the northeastern insurgents.
Like China, power-hungry India is also keen on exploiting Burma's huge oil and gas resources. This month it signed a production deal for three deep-water exploration blocks off the Rakhine coast. It is also searching for gas in two other blocks. Access to Burma's resources will help boost India's power supplies but it is important for geopolitical reasons as well. The new production deal comes only months after Beijing beat Delhi on securing a deal to build a pipeline through to Burma's gas fields. The race for resources has helped make Burma the frontline in a larger struggle for influence in Southeast Asia. The threat of unfettered Chinese influence in Burma is one of Delhi's main ripostes when western allies question India's ties with Rangoon.

Will such a stance hurt India's democratic credentials? India's former Defense Minister George Fernandez, a longtime supporter of Burmese democracy activists, thinks so, calling such quiet diplomacy "disgusting." "This government is not concerned with what is happening in its own neighborhood," he says. In one of the few Indian newspaper opinion pieces to question India's stance Karan Thapar asked in the Hindustan Times last week whether a "Cat got our tongue?" "Indian democracy has shrunk because of its unwillingness to speak out," he wrote.

But don't expect to hear Delhi start shouting any time soon. "We have already reacted with a statement and that's all we have to say," an Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman told TIME two days after his minister's only four sentences on the crisis. "We are monitoring the situation and if the situation develops we will act appropriately. But I can't get as to when."
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Reason and Revelation

Reason and Revelation
by Enver Masud

Moderator's Notes follow;

[Speech given by Mr. Masud at the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of Washington, DC fund-raising dinner in Rockville, MD.]

When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) passed away in 632 A.D., he was the effective leader of all of southern Arabia. By 711 A.D., Arabs had swept across North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. In less than 100 years, the Bedouin tribesmen, inspired by the Word of God, had carved out an empire stretching from the borders of India to the Atlantic Ocean - the largest empire that the world had yet seen.

Muslims conquered lands as was the custom of the day, but Islam was not spread by the sword. Indonesia is a prime example. Indonesia, with 6000 inhabited islands, today has the largest Muslim population. No Muslim armies landed in Indonesia.

Muslims offered an appealing message: There is One God; mankind is one; goodness is the only measure of a person's worth. Man was urged to care for the poor, the infirm, the orphan, to respect all faiths, and to search for knowledge.

200 years later Muslims are divided; the path forward is less clear.

In the Baghdad of 813 A.D., Caliph al-Mumun struggling to build a nation, is caught between the ideas of literalists and those of religious thinkers, and he has a dream.

He sees a figure of light and gold standing before him.

"Who are you?" asks a frightened al-Mamun.

"I am Aristotle", the spirit says. "I have come to answer your question".

"And what is my question?" al-Mamun asks - he knows but wants the spirit to say it.

"Your question is, What is better for the affairs of man and the affairs of society, reason or revelation?"

Al-Mamun nods, and asks, "And what is your answer to the riddle?"

"My son," says Aristotle, "they are not in opposition. But to find true revelation, man must first choose reason, because reason is the doorway to revelation."

Of course, the dream is imaginary. Author Michael Hamilton Morgan describes it in his book "Lost History" (p. 47).

So great was al-Mamun's love of knowledge that after defeating the Byzantine emperor, he asks not for caskets of gold but a a copy of the Almagest - Ptolemy's book on astronomy written around 150 A.D.

Al-Mamun goes on to establish the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Later al-Hakim will build the House of Knowledge in Cairo.

Revelation won hearts and minds

Reason gave Muslims the superior strategy and technology that helped win battles. Revelation taught Muslims the principles of just-war, and of mercy and compassion.

Muslims taught and practiced a degree of tolerance remarkable for their time. The Quran reminded them: "For each we have appointed a divine law and traced out the way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community." (5:48)

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was twice president of the Indian National Congress, a renowned scholar, and India's first Education Minister (my father was his private secretary), wrote:

"The unity of man is the primary aim of religion. The message which every prophet delivered was that mankind were in reality one people and one community, and that there was but one god for all of them, and on that account they should serve Him together and live as members of one family."

By providing opportunities based on merit to all, Muslims won the hearts and minds of the conquered people. Muslims worked side by side with Jews, Christians, Hindus, and others to create the centers of learning and cultural expansion in Iraq, Iran, Spain, Egypt, and India.

Knowledge lifted civilization

The Quran is replete with verses inviting man to use his intellect, to ponder, to think and to know, for the goal of human life is to discover the Truth. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) tells us: "The first thing created by god was the Intellect." And that: "One learned man is harder on the devil than a thousand ignorant worshippers." His words exhort us to: "Go in quest of knowledge even unto China." And to: "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave."

The love of knowledge helped create cities that drew scholars from across the world.

Will Durant in his Story of Civilization (vol. IV, p. 237) writes:

"When Baghdad was destroyed by the Mongols it had thirty-six public libraries. Private libraries were numberless. It was a fashion among the rich to have an ample collection of books. A physician refused the invitation of the Sultan of Bokhara to come and live at his court, on the ground that he would need 400 camels to transport his library. Al-Waqidi, dying, left 600 boxes of books, each box so heavy that two men were needed to carry it. Princes like Sahab ibn Abbas in the 10th century might own as many books as could be found in all the libraries of Europe combined."

Muslims built a civilzation that would lift Europe out of darkness.

HRH, The Prince of Wales, in his October 27, 1993 speech titled, "Islam And The West", said:

"Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilization, it also interpreted and expanded upon that civilization, and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour -- in science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music.

"Cordoba in the 10th century was by far the most civilized city of Europe. . . . Many of the traits on which Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, alternative medicine, hospitals, all came from this great city of cities. Mediaeval Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians to practice their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, copied for many centuries in the West.

"[Islam] has contributed so much towards the civilization which we all too often think of, wrongly, as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and present, in all fields of human endeavor. It has helped to create modern Europe. It is part of our own inheritance, not a thing apart."

End of Empire, beginnings of Aligarh University

The Christian reconquest of Spain in 1492 under Ferdinand and Isabella was the beginning of the end of the Muslim era. By 1858, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zaffar, who ruled little more than the city of Delhi, was exiled by the British to Burma.

In 1875, Sir Syed, seeking to improve literacy among Indian Muslims, founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College. This college became Aligarh University. It nurtured many leaders of India and Pakistan. You, the alumni of Aligarh University, are continuing the tradition by funding scholarships for those less fortunate than yourselves.

Today, as it was for Muslims in the early 7th century, the key to successfully negotiating the path ahead, for yourselves and for generations to come, remains reason and revelation.

MORE at http://www.twf.org/News/Y2007/0929-Aligsdc.html

THE WAR ON ISLAM -- Recipient Human Rights Foundation Gold Award
FREE BOOK from http://www.twf.org/Library/woi3aL.pdf
Moderator's Notes:
Indeed, Islam is universal and all embracing approach to life. There is no compulsion in matters of faith, and the Qur'aan, repeatedly adds knowledge - the very basic for co-existence, to remove arrogance in humans. It is accomplished through prayers on one hand and acknwledging the existence of other ways of living. If God had willed, all of us would have been alike.

The loving God welcomes all those who do good deeds, deeds thatbenefit the humankind in general.
5:18 And [both] the jews and the Christians say, "We are God'schildren, [30] and His beloved ones." Say: "Why, then, does He cause you to suffer for your sins? Nay, you are but human beings of Hiscreating. He forgives whom He wills, and He causes to suffer whom Hewills: for God's is the dominion over the heavens and the earth andall that is between them, and with Him is all journeys' end."
Qur'an, Al-An'am, Surah 6:163-164: I ask whether I should seek anygod besides God--when he is the Lord of all things. All people willreap the harvest of their own deeds; no one will bear another's burden. Ultimately, all of you will return to your Lord, and he willresolve your disputes.
49:13 O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and afemale, [15] and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. [16] Verily, the noblest of you inthe sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him.Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.

4:124 whereas anyone - be it man or woman - who does [whatever hecan] of good deeds and is a believer withal, shall enter paradise,and shall not be wronged by as much as [would fill] the groove of adate-stone.
5:42 those who eagerly listen to any falsehood, greedily swallowing all that is evil! [54] Hence, if they come to thee [for judgment], [55] thou mayest either judge between them or leave them alone: for, if thou leave them alone, they cannot harm thee in any way. But if thou dost judge, judge between them with equity : [56] verily, God knows those who act equitably.
God care if you are a good being or not, by submitting to his will, you'd be good to his creation ; humans and environment and that is Islam and following it is Muslim.

9/11 is over – NY Times

9/11 is over – NY Times
Letter to the Editor NY Times
Mike Ghouse

Indeed, 9/11 is over, it is time to turn things around. The American Muslims have taken the initiative to turn 9/11 tragedy into a day of Unity called “Unity day USA."

On this Unity Day USA, we, the people of the United States of America; of every faith, race, ethnicity, culture and background, gather to pray for peace, prosperity, unity and security of our nation.

As Americans we uphold, protect, defend and celebrate the values enshrined in our constitution. All our faiths reinforce the creed of "One Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."

Thomas Friedman is right on the money for a change when he says "...We are about 9/12; we are about the Fourth of July — ". Let me add, we are about leading the world through example of our democracy, of our respect for peace and our respect for human dignity and certainly not alienating and creating enemies around the globe".

Mike Ghouse
World Muslim Congress
Foundation for Pluralism
(214) 325-1916

NYTimes
September 30, 2007

Op-Ed Columnist

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/30/opinion/30friedman.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

9/11 Is Over
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

Not long ago, the satirical newspaper The Onion ran a fake news story that began like this:

“At a well-attended rally in front of his new ground zero headquarters Monday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani officially announced his plan to run for president of 9/11. ‘My fellow citizens of 9/11, today I will make you a promise,’ said Giuliani during his 18-minute announcement speech in front of a charred and torn American flag. ‘As president of 9/11, I will usher in a bold new 9/11 for all.’ If elected, Giuliani would inherit the duties of current 9/11 President George W. Bush, including making grim facial expressions, seeing the world’s conflicts in terms of good and evil, and carrying a bullhorn at all state functions.”

Like all good satire, the story made me both laugh and cry, because it reflected something so true — how much, since 9/11, we’ve become “The United States of Fighting Terrorism.” Times columnists are not allowed to endorse candidates, but there’s no rule against saying who will not get my vote: I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.

What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don’t. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.

Before 9/11, the world thought America’s slogan was: “Where anything is possible for anybody.” But that is not our global brand anymore. Our government has been exporting fear, not hope: “Give me your tired, your poor and your fingerprints.”

You may think Guantánamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba for Al Qaeda terrorists. A lot of the world thinks it’s a place we send visitors who don’t give the right answers at immigration. I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans. Guantánamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty.

Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association, told me that the United States has lost millions of overseas visitors since 9/11 — even though the dollar is weak and America is on sale. “Only the U.S. is losing traveler volume among major countries, which is unheard of in today’s world,” Mr. Dow said.

Total business arrivals to the United States fell by 10 percent over the 2004-5 period alone, while the number of business visitors to Europe grew by 8 percent in that time. The travel industry’s recent Discover America Partnership study concluded that “the U.S. entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is turning away foreign business and leisure travelers and hurting America’s image abroad.” Those who don’t visit us, don’t know us.

I’d love to see us salvage something decent in Iraq that might help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive pathway. That was and is necessary to improve our security. But sometimes the necessary is impossible — and we just can’t keep chasing that rainbow this way.

Look at our infrastructure. It’s not just the bridge that fell in my hometown, Minneapolis. Fly from Zurich’s ultramodern airport to La Guardia’s dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. I still can’t get uninterrupted cellphone service between my home in Bethesda and my office in D.C. But I recently bought a pocket cellphone at the Beijing airport and immediately called my wife in Bethesda — crystal clear.

I just attended the China clean car conference, where Chinese automakers were boasting that their 2008 cars will meet “Euro 4” — European Union — emissions standards. We used to be the gold standard. We aren’t anymore. Last July, Microsoft, fed up with American restrictions on importing brain talent, opened its newest software development center in Vancouver. That’s in Canada, folks. If Disney World can remain an open, welcoming place, with increased but invisible security, why can’t America?

We can’t afford to keep being this stupid! We have got to get our groove back. We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy. Al Qaeda is about 9/11. We are about 9/12, we are about the Fourth of July — which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ahmedinejad's NYspeech

TRANSCRIPT OF AHMADINEJAD'S REMARKS AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
By Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Published in: The Israel Project September 24, 2007
http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=2917

MODERATOR: JOHN COATSWORTH, ACTING DEAN, SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, COLUMBIA, UNIVERSITY INTRODUCTION BY LEE BOLLINGER, PRESIDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
1:50 P.M. EDT, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 20071:50 P.M. EDT, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2007


FULL TEXT:

(Note: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments are through interpreter.)

MR. BOLLINGER: I would like to begin by thanking Dean John Coatsworth and Professor Richard Bulliet for their work in organizing this event and for their commitment to the School of International and Public Affairs and its role -- (interrupted by cheers, applause) -- and for its role in training future leaders in world affairs. If today proves anything, it will be that there is an enormous amount of work ahead of us. This is just one of many events on Iran that will run throughout the academic year, all to help us better understand this critical and complex nation in today's geopolitics.

Before speaking directly to the current president of Iran, I have a few critically important points to emphasize. First, in 2003 the World Leaders Forum has advanced Columbia's long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues. It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas or our weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naivety about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open our public forum to their voices; to hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.

Second, to those who believe that this event should never have happened, that it is inappropriate for the university to conduct such an event, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as reasonable. The scope of free speech in academic freedom should itself always be open to further debate. As one of the more famous quotations about free speech goes, it is an experiment as all life is an experiment. I want to say, however, as forcefully as I can that this is the right thing to do, and indeed it is required by the existing norms of free speech, the American university and Columbia itself.

Third, to those among us who experience hurt and pain as a result of this day, I say on behalf of all of us that we are sorry and wish to do what we can to alleviate it.

Fourth, to be clear on another matter, this event has nothing whatsoever to do with any rights of the speaker, but only with our rights to listen and speak. We do it for ourselves. We do it in the great tradition of openness that has defined this nation for many decades now. We need to understand the world we live in, neither neglecting its glories nor shrinking from its threats and dangers. It is inconsistent with the idea that one should know thine enemy -- I'm sorry -- it is consistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies, to have the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil, and to prepare ourselves to act with the right temperament. In the moment, the arguments for free speech will never seem to match the power of the arguments against, but what we must remember is that this is precisely because free speech asks us to exercise extraordinary self-restraint against the very natural but often counterproductive impulses that lead us to retreat from engagement with ideas we dislike and fear. In this lies the genius of the American idea of free speech.

Lastly, in universities we have a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth. We do not have access to the levers of power, we cannot make war or peace, we can only make minds, and to do this, we must have the most fulsome freedom of inquiry.

Let me now turn to Mr. Ahmadinejad.

First, on the brutal crackdown on scholars, journalists and human rights advocates. Over the past two weeks, your government has released Dr. Haleh Esfandiari and Parnaz Azima and just two days ago, Kian Tajbakhsh, a graduate of Columbia with a PhD in Urban Planning. While our community is relieved to learn of his release on bail, Dr. Tajbakhsh remains in Tehran under house arrest, and he still does not know whether he will be charged with a crime or allowed to leave the country.

Let me say this for the record, I call on the president today to ensure that Kian will be free to travel out of Iran as he wishes. (Applause.) Let me also report today that we are extending an offer to Kian to join our faculty as a visiting professor in Urban Planning here at his alma mater in our Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and we hope he will be able to join us next semester. (Applause.)

The arrest and imprisonment of these Iranian Americans for no good reason is not only unjustified, it runs completely counter to the very values that allow today's speaker to even appear on this campus, but at least they are alive.

According to Amnesty International, 210 people have been executing In Iran so far this year, 21 of them on the morning of September 5th alone. This annual total includes at two children, further proof, as Human Rights Watch puts it, that Iran leads the world in executing minors.

There is more. Iran hanged up 30 people this past July and August during a widely reported suppression of efforts to establish a more democratic society. Many of these executions were carried out in public view, a violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. These executions and others have coincided with a wider crackdown on student activists and academics accused of trying to foment a so-called "soft revolution." This has included jailing and forced retirement of scholars. As Dr. Esfandiari said in a broadcast interview since her release, she was held in solitary confinement for 105 days because the government believes that the United States is planning a velvet revolution in Iran.

In this very room, last year we learned something about velvet revolutions from Vaclav Havel, and we will likely hear the same from our World Leaders Forum speaker this evening, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile. Both of their extraordinary stories remind us that there are not enough prisons to prevent an entire society that wants its freedom from achieving it.

We at this university have not been shy to protest the challenge -- and challenge the failures of our own government to live by our values, and we won't be shy about criticizing yours. Let's then be clear at the beginning. Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator. And so I ask you -- (applause) -- and so I ask you, why have women, members of the Baha'i faith, homosexuals and so many of our academic colleagues become targets of persecution in your country? Why, in a letter last week to the secretary-general of the U.N., did Akbar Ganji, Iran's leading political dissident, and over 300 public intellectuals, writers and Noble Laureates express such grave concern that your inflamed dispute with the West is distracting the world's attention from the intolerable conditions in your regime within Iran, in particular the use of the press law to ban writers for criticizing the ruling system? Why are you so afraid of Iranian citizens expressing their opinions for change?

In our country, you are interviewed by our press and asked to speak here today. And while my colleagues at the law school -- Michael Dorf, one of my colleagues, spoke to Radio Free Europe, viewers in Iran a short while ago on the tenants of freedom of speech in this country -- I propose further that you let me lead a delegation of students and faculty from Columbia to address your universities about free speech with the same freedom we afford you today. (Applause.)

Secondly, the denial of the Holocaust. In a December 2005 state television broadcast, you described the Holocaust as "a fabricated legend." One year later, you held a two-day conference of Holocaust deniers. For the illiterate and ignorant, this is dangerous propaganda.

When you have come to a place like this, this makes you, quite simply, ridiculous. You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated. You should know -- (applause) -- please -- you should know that Columbia is the world center of Jewish studies -- us a world center, and now in partnership with the -- Institute of Holocaust Studies.

Since the 1930s, we provided an intellectual home for countless Holocaust refugees and survivors and their children and grandchildren. The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history. Because of this, and for many other reasons, your absurd comments about the debate over the Holocaust both defy historical truth and make all of us who continue to fear humanity's capacity for evil shudder at this closure of memory, which is always virtue's first line of defense. Will you cease this outrage?

The destruction of Israel. Twelve days ago you said that the state of Israel cannot continue its life. This echoed a number of inflammatory statements you have delivered in the past two years, including in October 2005, when you said that Israel "should be wiped off the map", quote-unquote. Columbia has over 800 alumni currently living in Israel. As an institution, we have deep ties with our colleagues there. I have personally spoken -- personally, I have spoken out in most forceful terms against proposals to boycott Israeli scholars (in/and ?) universities, saying that such boycotts might as well include Columbia. (Applause.)

More than 400 -- more than 400 -- more than 400 college and university presidents in this country have joined in that statement.

My question then is, do you plan on wiping us off the map too? (Applause.)

Funding terrorism: According to reports of the Council on Foreign Relations, it's well-documented that Iran is a state sponsor of terror that funds such violent groups as Lebanese Hezbollah, which Iran helped organize in the 1980s, Palestinian Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. While your predecessor government was instrumental in providing the U.S. with intelligence and base support in the 2001 campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, your government is now undermining American troops in Iraq by funding, arming and providing safe transit to insurgent leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr and his forces. There are a number of reports that you also link your government with Syria's efforts to destabilize the fledgling Lebanese government through violence and political assassination.

My question is this: Why do you support well-documented terrorist organizations that continue to strike at peace and democracy in the Middle East, destroying lives and the civil society of the region?

The proxy war against the United States troops in Iraq -- in a briefing before the National Press Club earlier this month, General David Petraeus reported that arms supplies from Iran, including 240- millimeter rockets and explosively formed projectiles, are contributing to, quote, "a sophistication of attacks that would by no means be possible without Iranian support." A number of Columbia graduates and current students are among the brave members of our military who are serving or have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They, like other Americans with sons, daughters, fathers, husbands and wives serving in combat, rightly see your government as the enemy.

Can you tell them and us why Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq by arming Shi'a militia targeting and killing U.S. troops?

And finally Iran's nuclear program and international sanctions: This week, the United Nations Security Council is contemplating expanding sanctions for a third time, because of your government's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program. You continue to defy this world body by claiming a right to develop a peaceful nuclear power, but this hardly withstands scrutiny when you continue to issue military threats to neighbors. Last week, French President Sarkozy made clear his lost patience with your stall tactics, and even Russia and China have shown concern.

Why does your country continue to refuse to adhere to international standards for nuclear weapons verification, in defiance of agreements that you have made with the U.N. nuclear agency? And why have you chosen to make the people of your country vulnerable to the effects of international economic sanctions, and threaten to engulf the world in nuclear annihilation? (Applause.)

Let me close with a comment. Frankly -- I close with this comment 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 mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do. Fortunately I am told by experts on your country that this only further undermines your position in Iran, with all the many good-hearted, intelligent citizens there.

A year ago, I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements in this country, as at one of the meetings at the Council on Foreign Relations, so embarrassed sensible Iranian citizens that this led to your party's defeat in the December mayoral elections. May this do that and more. (Applause.)

I am only a professor, who is also a university president.

And today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better. Thank you. (Cheers, extended applause.)

MR. COATSWORTH: Thank you, Lee.

Our principal speaker today is His Excellency the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. President. (Applause.)

INTERPRETER: The president is reciting verses from the Holy Koran in Arabic. (Not translated.)

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Oh, God, hasten the arrival of Imam al- Mahdi and grant him good health and victory, and make us his followers and those who attest to his (rightfulness ?).

Distinguished Dean, dear professors and students, ladies and gentlemen. At the outset, I would like to extend my greetings to all of you. I am grateful to the Almighty God for providing me with the opportunity to be in an academic environment, those seeking truth and striving for the promotion of science and knowledge.

At the outset, I want to complain a bit on the person who read this political statement against me. In Iran, tradition requires that when we demand a person to invite us as a -- to be a speaker, we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment, and we don't think it's necessary before the speech is even given to come in -- (applause) -- with a series of claims and to attempt in a so-called manner to provide vaccination of some sort to our students and our faculty.

I think the text read by the (dear ?) gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here, present here. In a university environment, we must allow people to speak their mind, to allow everyone to talk so that the truth is eventually revealed by all. Most certainly he took more than all the time I was allocated to speak. And that's fine with me. We'll just leave that to add up with the claims of respect for freedom and the freedom of speech that is given to us in this country.

In many parts of his speech, there were many insults and claims that were incorrect, regretfully. Of course, I think that he was affected by the press, the media and the political sort of mainstream line that you read here, that goes against the very grain of the need for peace and stability in the world around us.

Nonetheless, I should not begin by being affected by this unfriendly treatment.

I will tell you what I have to say, and then the questions he can raise and I'll be happy to provide answers. But for one of the issues that he did raise, I most certainly would need to elaborate further so that we for ourselves can see how things fundamentally work.

It was my decision in this valuable forum and meeting to speak with you about the importance of knowledge, of information, of education. Academics and religious scholars are shining torches who shed light in order to remove darkness and the ambiguities around us in guiding humanity out of ignorance and perplexity. The key to the understanding of the realities around us rests in the hands of the researchers, those who seek to undiscover (sic) areas that are hidden, the unknown sciences. The windows of realities that they can open is done only through efforts of the scholars and the learned people in this world. With every effort, there is a window that is opened and one reality is discovered.

Whenever the high stature of science and wisdom is preserved and the dignity of scholars and researchers are respected, humans have taken great strides towards their material and spiritual promotion. In contrast, whenever learned people and knowledge have been neglected, humans have become stranded in the darkness of ignorance and negligence. If it were not for human instinct, which tends towards continual discovery of the truth, humans would have always remained stranded in ignorance and no way would have discovered how to improve the lives that we are given. The nature of man is, in fact, a gift granted by the Almighty to all. The Almighty led mankind into this world and granted him wisdom and knowledge as his (kind ?) gift, enabling him to know his God.

In the story of Adam, a conversation occurs between the Almighty and his angels. The angels called human beings an ambitious and merciless creature and protested against his creation, but the Almighty responded, quote, "I have knowledge of what you are ignorant of," unquote. Then the Almighty told Adam the truth, and on the order of the Almighty, Adam revealed it to the angels.

The angels could not understand the truth as revealed by the human beings.

The Almighty said to them, quote, "Did not I say that I am aware of what is hidden in heaven and in the universe?" unquote. In this way, the angels prostrated themselves before Adam.

In the mission of all divine prophets, the first sermons were of the words of God, and those words "piety," "faith" and "wisdom" have been spread to all mankind. Guiding the holy prophet Moses -- may peace be upon him -- God says, quote, "And he was taught wisdom, the divine book, the Old Testament and the New Testament. He is the prophet appointed for the sake of the children of Israel, and I rightfully brought a sign from the Almighty. Holy Koran -- (inaudible word) -- sura," unquote.

The first words which were revealed to the holy prophet of Islam call the prophet to read, quote, "Read, read in the name of your God, who supersedes everything," unquote. The Almighty, quote again, "who taught the human being with the pen," unquote; quote, "the Almighty taught human beings what they were ignorant of," unquote.

You see in the first verses revealed to the holy prophet of Islam words of reading, teaching and the pen are mentioned. These verses in fact introduce the Almighty as the teacher of human beings, the teacher who taught humans what they were ignorant of. And another part of the -- (inaudible word) -- on the mission on the holy prophet of Islam -- it is mentioned that the Almighty appointed someone from amongst the common people as their prophet in order to, quote, "Read for them the divine verses," unquote; and, quote again, "and purify them from ideological and ethical contaminations," unquote; and, quote again, "to teach them the divine book and wisdom," unquote.

My dear friends, all the words and messages of the divine prophets, from Abraham and Isaac and Jacob to David and Soliman and Moses to Jesus and Mohammed, delivered humans from ignorance, negligence, superstitions, unethical behavior and corrupted ways of thinking with respect to knowledge and a path to knowledge, light and rightful ethics.

In our culture, the word "science" has been defined as "illumination." In fact, the "science" means "brightness" and the real science is a science which rescues the human being from ignorance to his own benefit. In one of the widely accepted definitions of science, it is stated that it is the light which sheds to the hearts of those who have been selected by the Almighty; therefore, according to this definition, science is a divine gift, and the heart is where it resides.

If we accept that "science" means "illumination," then its scope supersedes the experimental sciences, and it includes every hidden and disclosed reality. One of the main harms inflicted against science is to limit it to experimental and physical sciences; this harm occurs even though it extends far beyond this scope.

Realities of the world are not limited to physical realities. And the material is just a shadow of supreme realities, and physical creation is just one of the stories of the creation of the world. Human being is just an example of the creation that is a combination of the material and the spirit.

And another important point is the relationship of science and purity of spirit, life, behavior and ethics of the human being. In the teachings of the divine prophet, one reality shall always be attached to science. The reality of purity of spirit and good behavior, knowledge and wisdom is pure and clear reality. It is -- science is a light. It is a discovery of reality, and only a pure scholar and researcher, free from wrong ideologies, superstitions, selfishness and material trappings, can discover the reality.

My dear friends and scholars, distinguished participants, science and wisdom can also be misused, a misuse caused by selfishness, corruption, material desires and material interests, as well as individual and group interests. Material desires place humans against the realities of the world. Corrupted independent human beings resist acceptance of reality and even if they do accept it, they do not obey it.

There are many scholars who are aware of the realities but do not accept them. Their selfishness does not allow them to accept those realities. Did those who in the course of human history wage wars not understand the reality that lives, properties, dignity, territories and the rights of all human beings should be respected? Or did they understand it but neither have faith in nor abide by it?

My dear friends, as long as the human heart is not free from hatred, envy and selfishness, it does not abide by the truth, by the illumination of science and science itself. Science is the light and scientists must be pure and pious. If humanity achieves the highest level of physical and spiritual knowledge, but its scholars and scientists are not pure, then this knowledge cannot serve the interest of humanity, and several events can ensue.

First, the wrongdoers reveal only a part of the reality which is to their own benefit and conceal the rest, as we have witnessed with respect to the scholars of the divine religions in the past too. Unfortunately today we see that certain researchers and scientists are still hiding the truth from the people.

Second, scientists and scholars are misused for personal, group or party interests. So in today's world, ruling powers are misusing many scholars and scientists in different fields, with the purpose of stripping nations of their wealth.

And they use all opportunities only for their own benefit.

For example, they deceive people by using scientific methods and tools. They, in fact, wish to justify their own wrongdoings, though, by creating nonexistent enemies, for example, and have insecure atmosphere. They try to control all in the name of combatting insecurity and terrorism. They even violate individual and social freedoms in their own nations under that pretext. They do not respect the privacy of their own people. They tap telephone calls and try to control their people. They create an insecure psychological atmosphere in order to justify their warmongering acts in different parts of the world.

As another example, by using precise scientific methods and planning, they begin their onslaught on the domestic cultures of nations, the cultures which are the result of thousands of years of interaction, creativity and artistic activities. They try to eliminate these cultures in order to separate the people from their identity and cut their bonds with their own history and values. They prepare the ground for stripping people from their spiritual and material wealth by instilling in them feelings of intimidation, desire for imitation and mere consumption, submission to oppressive powers, and disability.

Making nuclear, chemical and biological bombs and weapons of mass destruction is yet another result of the misuse of science and research by the big powers. Without cooperation of certain scientists and scholars, we would not have witnessed production of different nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Are these weapons to protect global security? What can a perpetual nuclear umbrella threat achieve for the sake of humanity? If nuclear war wages between nuclear powers, what human catastrophe will take place? Today we can see the nuclear effects in even new generations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima residents which might be witness in even the next generations to come. Presently, effects of the depleted uranium used in weapons since the beginning of the war in Iraq can be examined and investigated accordingly. These catastrophes take place only when scientists and scholars are misused by oppressors.

Another point of sorrow, some big powers create a monopoly over science and prevent other nations in achieving scientific development as well.

This, too, is one of the surprises of our time. Some big powers do not want to see the progress of other societies and nations. They turn to thousands of reasons, make allegations, place economic sanctions to prevent other nations from developing and advancing, all resulting from their distance from human values, moral values and the teachings of the divine prophet. Regretfully, they have not been trained to serve mankind.

Dear academics, dear faculty and scholars, students, I believe that the biggest God-given gift to man is science and knowledge. Man's search for knowledge and the truth through science is what it guarantees to do in getting close to God, but science has to combine with the purity of the spirit and of the purity of man's spirit so that scholars can unveil the truth and then use that truth for advancing humanity's cause.

These scholars would be not only people who would guide humanity, but also guide humanity towards the future, better future. And it is necessary that big powers should not allow mankind to engage in monopolistic activities and to prevent other nations from achieving that science. Science is a divine gift by God to everyone, and therefore it must remain pure. God is aware of all reality. All researchers and scholars are loved by God.

So I hope there will be a day where these scholars and scientists will rule the world and God himself will arrive with Moses and Christ and Mohammed to rule the world and to take us towards justice.

I'd like to thank you now, but refer to two points made in the introduction given about me, and then I will be open for any questions.

Last year, I would say two years ago, I raised two questions. You know that my main job is a university instructor. Right now as president of Iran I still continue teaching graduate and Ph.D.-level courses on a weekly basis. My students are working with me in scientific fields. I believe that I am an academic myself, so I speak with you from an academic point of view.

And I raised two questions. But instead of a response, I got a wave of insults and allegations against me, and regretfully, they came mostly from groups who claimed most to believe in the freedom of speech and the freedom of information. You know quite well that Palestine is an old wound, as old as 60 years.

For 60 years, these people are displaced; for 60 years, these people are being killed; for 60 years, on a daily basis, there's conflict and terror; for 60 years, innocent women and children are destroyed and killed by helicopters and airplanes that break the house over their heads; for 60 years, children in kindergartens in schools, in high schools are in prison being tortured; for 60 years, security in the Middle East has been in danger; for 60 years, the slogan of expansionism from the Nile to the Euphrates has been chanted by certain groups in that part of the world.

And as an academic, I ask two questions, the same two questions that I will ask here again. And you judge for yourselves whether the response to these questions should be the insults, the allegations and all the words and the negative propaganda, or should we really try and face these two questions and respond to them? Like you, like any academic, I, too, will keep -- not get -- become silent until I get the answers, so I am awaiting logical answers instead of insults.

My first question was, if, given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives? Our friends refer to 1930 as the point of the departure for this development; however, I believe the Holocaust, from what we read, happened during World War II after 1930 in the 1940s. So, you know, we have to really be able to trace the event.

My question was simple. There are researchers who want to push the topic from a different perspective. Why are they put into prison? Right now there are a number of European academics who have been sent to prison because they attempted to write about the Holocaust, so researchers from a different perspective, questioning certain aspects of it -- my question is, why isn't it open to all forms of research? I have been told that there's been enough research on the topic. And I ask, well, when it comes to topics such as freedom, topics such as democracy, concepts and norms such as God, religion, physics even or chemistry, there's been a lot of research, but we still continue more research on those topics. We encourage it. But then why don't we encourage more research on a historical event that has become the root, the cause of many heavy catastrophes in the region in this time and age? Why shouldn't there be more research about the root causes? That was my first question.

And my second question -- well, given this historical event, if it is a reality, we need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not. After all, it happened in Europe. The Palestinian people had no role to play in it. So why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price of an event they had nothing to do with?

The Palestinian people didn't commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II. They were living with the Jewish communities and the Christian communities in peace at the time. They didn't have any problems. And today, too, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in brotherhood all over the world, in many parts of the world. They don't have any serious problems.

But why is it that the Palestinians should pay a price, innocent Palestinians? For 5 million people to remain displaced or refugees of war for 60 years are -- is this not a crime? Is asking about these crimes a crime by itself? Why should an academic, myself, face insults when asking questions like this? Is this what you call freedom and upholding the freedom of thought?

And as for the second topic, Iran's nuclear issue -- I know there's time limits, but I need time. I mean, a lot of time was taken from me.

We are a country. We are a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. For over 33 years we were a member state of the agency. The bylaw of the agency explicitly states that all member states have the right to the peaceful nuclear fuel technology. This is an explicit statement made in the bylaw. And the bylaw says that there is no pretext or excuse, even the inspections carried by the IAEA itself -- that can prevent member states' right to have that right.

Of course, the IAEA is responsible to carry out inspections. We are one of the countries that's carried out the most amount of -- level of cooperation with the IAEA. They've had hours and weeks and days of inspections in our country. And over and over again, the agency's reports indicate that Iran's activities are peaceful, that they have not detected a deviation, and that Iran has -- they've received positive cooperation from Iran. But regretfully, two or three monopolistic powers, selfish powers, want to force their word on the Iranian people and deny them their right. They keep saying -- one minute. (Laughter, applause.)

They tell us you don't let them -- they won't let them inspect. Why not? Of course we do. How come is it anyway that you have that right and we can't have it? We want to have the right to peaceful nuclear energy. They tell us, "Don't make it yourself. We'll give it to you."

Well, in the past, I tell you, we had contracts with the U.S. government, with the British government, the French government, the German government and the Canadian government on nuclear development for peaceful purposes. But unilaterally, each and every one of them canceled their contracts with us, as a result of which the Iranian people had to pay the heavy cost in billions of dollars.

Why do we need the fuel from you? You've not even given us spare aircraft parts that we need for civilian aircraft for 28 years, under the name of the embargo and sanctions, because we are against, for example, human rights or freedom? Under that pretext you deny us that technology?

We want to have the right to self-determination towards our future. We want to be independent. Don't interfere in us. If you don't give us spare parts for civilian aircraft, what is the expectation that you'd give us fuel for nuclear development for peaceful purposes?

For 30 years we've faced these problems; for over $5 billion to the Germans and then to the Russians, but we haven't gotten anything, and the worst have not been completed. It is our right, we want our right, and we don't want anything beyond the law, nothing less than what international law. We are a peaceful-loving nation. We love all nations. (Applause, cheers, booing.)

MR. COATSWORTH: Mr. President, your statements here today and in the past have provoked many questions which I would like to pose to you on behalf of the students and faculty who have submitted them to me.

Let me begin with the question to which you just --

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: (In English.) It is one by one, one by one.

MR. COATSWORTH: One by one, it is, yes. (Applause.)

The first question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people. There are many Jews in Iran living peacefully with security. You must understand that in our constitution, in our laws, in the parliamentary elections, for every 150,000 people we get one representative in the parliament. For the Jewish community, one-fifth of this number they still get one independent representative in the parliament. So our proposal to the Palestinian plight is a humanitarian and democratic proposal.

What we say is that to solve the 60-year problem we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself. This is compatible with the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it. We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum. Whatever they choose as a nation everybody should accept and respect. Nobody should interfere in the affairs of the Palestinian nation. Nobody should sow the seeds of discord. Nobody should spend tens of billions of dollars equipping and arming one group there.

We say allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself. This is what we are saying as the Iranian nation. (Applause.)

MR. COATSWORTH: Mr. President, I think many members of our audience would be -- would like to hear a clearer answer to that question, that is -- (interrupted by cheers, applause).

The question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state? And I think you could answer that question with a single word, either yes or no. (Cheers, applause.)

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: And then you want the answer the way you want to hear it. Well, this isn't really a free flow of information. I'm just telling you where I -- what my position is. (Applause.)

I'm asking you, is the Palestinian issue not an international issue of prominence or not? Please tell me, yes or no. (Laughter, applause.)

There's a plight of a people.

MR. COATSWORTH: The answer to your question is yes. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, thank you for your cooperation.

It is -- we recognize there is a problem there that's been going on for 60 years. Everybody provides a solution, and our solution is a free referendum. Let this referendum happen, and then you'll see what the results are. Let the people of Palestine freely choose what they want for their future. And then what you want in your mind to happen, it will happen and will be realized. (Applause.)

MR. COATSWORTH: Which was posed by President Bollinger earlier and comes from a number of other students. Why is your government providing aid to terrorists? Will you stop doing so and permit international monitoring to certify that you have stopped?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, I want to pose a question here to you. If someone comes and explodes bombs around you, threatens your president, members of the administration, kills the members of the Senate or Congress, how would you treat them? Would you award them or would you name them a terrorist group? Well, it's clear. You would call them a terrorist.

My dear friends, the Iranian nation is a victim of terrorism. For -- 26 years ago, where I work, close to where I work, in a terrorist operation, the elected president of the Iranian nation and the elected prime minister of Iran lost their lives in a bomb explosion. They turned into ashes.

A month later, in another terrorist operation, 72 members of our parliament and highest ranking officials, including four ministers and eight deputy ministers, bodies were shattered into pieces as a result of terrorist attacks. Within six months, over 4,000 Iranians lost their lives, assassinated by terrorist groups, all this carried out by the hand of one single terrorist group. Regretfully that same terrorist group, now, today, in your country, is being -- operating under the support of the U.S. administration, working freely, distributing declarations freely. And their camps in Iraq are supported by the U.S. government. They're secured by the U.S. government.

Our nation has been harmed by terrorist activities. We were the first nation that objected to terrorism and the first to uphold the need to fight terrorism. (Applause.)

MR. COATSWORTH: A number of questioners, sorry, a number of people have asked.

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: We need to address the root causes of terrorism and eradicate those root causes.

We live in the Middle East. For us, it's quite clear which powers sort of incite terrorists, support them, fund them. We know that. Our nation, the Iranian nation, through history has always extended a hand of friendship to other nations. We're a cultured nation. We don't need to resort to terrorism.

We've been victims of terrorism ourselves, and it's regrettable that people who argue they're fighting terrorism, instead of supporting the Iranian people and nation, instead of fighting the terrorists that are attacking them, they're supporting the terrorists and then turn the fingers to us. This is most regrettable.

MR. COATSWORTH: A further set of questions challenge your view of the Holocaust. Since the evidence that this occurred in Europe in the 1940s as a result of the actions of the German Nazi government, since that -- those facts are well-documented, why are you calling for additional research? There seems to be no purpose in doing so, other than to question whether the Holocaust actually occurred as an historical fact. Can you explain why you believe more research is needed into the facts of what are -- what is incontrovertible?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Thank you very much for your question. I am an academic, and you are as well. Can you argue that researching a phenomenon is finished forever, done? Can we close the books for good on a historical event? There are different perspectives that come to light after every research is done. Why should we stop research at all? Why should we stop the progress of science and knowledge? You shouldn't ask me why I'm asking questions. You should ask yourselves why you think that it's questionable.

Why do you want to stop the progress of science and research? Do you ever take what's known as absolute in physics? We had principles in mathematics that were granted to be absolute in mathematics for over 800 years, but new science has gotten rid of those absolutism, gotten -- forward other different logics of looking at mathematics, and sort of turned the way we look at it as a science altogether after 800 years. So we must allow researchers, scholars to investigate into everything, every phenomenon -- God, universe, human beings, history, and civilization. Why should we stop that?

I'm not saying that it didn't happen at all. This is not (the ?) judgment that I'm passing here. I said in my second question, granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people? This is a serious question. They're two dimension. In the first question, I --

MR. COATSWORTH: Let me just -- let me pursue this a bit further. It is difficult to have a scientific discussion if there isn't at least some basis -- some empirical basis, some agreement about what the facts are. So, calling for research into the facts when the facts are so well-established represents for many a challenging of the facts themselves and a denial that something terrible occurred in Europe in those years. (Applause.)

Let me move on to -- (pause).

Mr. President, another student asks, Iranian women are now denied basic human rights, and your government has imposed draconian punishments, including execution on Iranian citizens who are homosexuals. Why are you doing those things?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Those in Iran are genuine true freedoms. The Iranian people are free. Women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedoms. We have two deputy vice -- well, two vice presidents that are female at the highest levels of speciality; specialized (roles ?) in our parliament and our government and our universities, they are present in our biotechnological fields and our technological fields. There are hundreds of women scientists that are active in the political realm as well.

It's not -- it's wrong for some governments, when they disagree with another government, to sort of -- try to spread lies that distort the full truth. Our nation is free. It has the highest level of participation in elections. In Iran, 80 percent -- 90 percent of the people turn out for votes during the elections, half of which -- over half of which are women, so how can we say that women are not free? Is that the entire truth?

But as for the executions, I'd like to raise two questions. If someone comes and establishes a network for illicit drug trafficking that affects the (use ?) in Iran, Turkey, Europe, the United States by introducing these illicit drugs and destroys them, would you ever reward them? People who lead the lives -- cause the deterioration of the lives of hundreds of millions of youth around the world, including in Iran, can we have any sympathy to them? Don't you have capital punishment in the United States? You do, too. (Applause.)

In Iran, too, there's capital punishment for illicit drug traffickers, for people who violate the rights of people.

If somebody takes up a gun, goes into a house, kills a group of people there, and then tries to take ransom, how would you confront them in Iran with -- in the United States? Would you reward them? Can a physician allow microbes, symbolically speaking, to spread across a nation? We have laws. People who violate the public rights of the people by using guns, killing people, creating insecurity, sell drugs, distribute drugs at a high level are sentenced to execution in Iran, and some of these punishments -- very few are carried in the public eye, before the public eye. It's a law based on democratic principles. You use injections and microbes to kill these people, and they are executed or they're hung, but the end result is killing.

MR. COATSWORTH: (Off mike) -- and drug smugglers. The question was about sexual preference and women. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country. (Laughter.) We don't have that in our country. (Booing.) In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it. (Laughter.)

But as for women, maybe you think that being a woman is a crime. It's not a crime to be a woman. Women are the best creatures created by God. They represent the kindness, the beauty that God instills in them. Women are respected in Iran. In Iran, every family who's given a girl is given -- in every Iranian family who has a girl, they're 10 times happier than having a son. Women are respected more than men are. They are exempt from many responsibilities. Many of the legal responsibilities rest on the shoulders of men in our society because of the respect culturally given to women, to the future mothers. In Iranian culture, men and sons and girls constantly kiss the hands of their mothers as a sign of respect, a respect for women, and we are proud of this culture.

MR. COATSWORTH:(Off mike) -- one is, what did you hope to accomplish by speaking at Columbia today?

And the second is, what would you have said if you were permitted to visit the site of the September 11th tragedy?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, here I'm your guest. I've been invited by Columbia, an official invitation given for me to come here, but I do want to say something here.

In Iran, when you invite a guest you respect them. This is our tradition required by our culture, and I know that American people have that culture as well.

Last year, I wanted to go to the site of the September 11th tragedy to show respect to the victims of the tragedy, show my sympathy with their families, but our plans got overextended. We were involved in negotiations and meetings `till midnight, and they said it would be very difficult to go visit the site at that late hour of the night. So I told my friends then that we need to plan this for the following year, so that I can go and visit the site and to show my respects. Regretfully, some groups had very strong reactions, very bad reactions. It's bad for someone -- to prevent someone to show sympathy to the families of the victims of the September 11 event -- tragic event.

This is a respect from my side. Somebody told me this is an insult. I said: What are you saying? This is my way of showing my respect. Why would you think that? Thinking like that, how do you expect to manage the world and world affairs? Don't you think that a lot of problems in the world come from the way you look at issues because of this kind of way of thinking, because of this sort of pessimistic approach towards a lot of people because of certain level of selfishness, self-absorption that needs to be put aside so that we can show respect to everyone, to allow an environment for friendship to grow, to allow all nations to talk with one another and move towards peace?

I wanted to speak with the press. There is 11 September -- September 11 tragic event was a huge event. It led to a lot of many other events afterwards. After 9/11, Afghanistan was occupied and then Iraq was occupied, and for six years in our region there is insecurity, terror and fear. If the root causes of 9/11 are examined properly -- why it happened, what caused it, what were the conditions that led to it, who truly was involved, who was really involved -- and put it all together to understand how to prevent the crisis in Iraq, fix the problem in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

MR. COATSWORTH: A number of questions have asked about your nuclear program. Why is your government seeking to acquire enriched uranium suitable for nuclear weapons? Will you stop doing so?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Our nuclear program, first and foremost, operates within the framework of law, and second, under the inspections of the IAEA, and thirdly, they are completely peaceful. The technology we have is for enrichment below the level of 5 percent level, and any level below 5 percent is solely for providing fuel to power plants. Repeated reports by the IAEA explicitly say that there is no indication that Iran has deviated from the peaceful path of its nuclear program. We're all well aware that Iran's nuclear issue is a political issue; it's not a legal issue.

The International Atomic Energy Organization -- Agency has verified that our activities are for peaceful purposes. But there are two or three powers that think that they have the right to monopolize all science and knowledge. And they expect the Iranian people, the Iranian nation, to turn to others to get fuel, to get science, to get knowledge that's indigenous to itself -- to humble itself. And then they would of course refrain from giving it to us too.

So we're quite clear on what we need. If you have created the fifth generation of atomic bombs and are testing them already, what position are you in to question the peaceful purposes of other people who want nuclear power? (Applause.) We do not believe in nuclear weapons, period. It goes against the whole grain of humanity.

So let me just tell a joke here. I think the politicians who are after atomic bombs or are testing them, making them -- politically they are backward, retarded. (Applause.)

MR. COATSWORTH: I know your time is short and that you need to move on.

Is Iran prepared to open broad discussions with the government of the United States? What would Iran hope to achieve in such discussions? How do you see, in the future, a resolution of the points of conflict between the government of the United States and the government of Iran?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: From the start, we announced that we are ready to negotiate with all countries. Since 28 years ago, when our revolution succeeded and we established -- we took freedom and democracy that was held at bay by a pro-Western dictatorship, we announced our readiness that besides two countries, we are ready to have friendly relations and talks with all countries of the world. One of those two was the apartheid regime of South Africa, which has been eliminated, and the second is the Zionist regime. For everybody else around the world, we announced that we want to have friendly, brotherly ties.

The Iranian nation is a cultured nation. It is a civilized nature. It seeks, it wants, new talks and negotiations. It's for it. We believe that in negotiations and talks, everything can be resolved very easily. We don't need threats; we don't need to point bombs or guns; we don't need to get into conflict if we talk. We have a clear logical about that.

We question the way the world is being run and managed today. We believe that it will not lead to viable peace and security for the world, the way it's run today. We have solutions based on humane values and for relations among states. With the U.S. government, too, we will negotiate. We don't have any issues about that, under fair, just circumstances with mutual respect on both sides.

You saw that in order to help the security of Iraq, we had three rounds of talks with the United States. And last year, before coming to New York, I announced that I am ready, in the United Nations, to engage in a debate with Mr. Bush, the president of the United States, about critical international issues. So that shows that we want to talk, having a debate before the world public -- before all the audience, so that truth is revealed, so that misunderstandings and misperceptions are removed, so that we can find a clear path for brotherly and friendly relations. I think that if the U.S. administration -- if the U.S. government puts aside some of its old behaviors, it can actually be a good friend for the Iranian people, for the Iranian nation.

For 28 years they've consistently threatened us, insulted us, prevented our scientific development, every day under one pretext or another. You all know Saddam the dictator was supported by the government of the United States and some Europeans countries in attacking Iran. And in -- he carried out an eight-year war, a criminal war. Over 200,000 Iranians were -- lost their lives. Over 600,000 Iranians were hurt as a result of a war. He used chemical weapons; thousands of Iranians were victims of chemical weapons that he used against us. Today, Mr. Nobal Vinh (ph), who is a reporter, an official reporter, international reporter, who was covering U.N. reports in U.N. for many years, he is one of the victims of the chemical weapons used by Iraq against us.

And since then, we've been under different propaganda sort of embargoes, economic sanctions, political sanctions. Why? Because we got rid of a dictator? Because we wanted the freedom and democracy that we got for ourselves? But we can't always tell. We think that if the U.S. government recognizes the rights of the Iranian people, respects all nations, and extends a hand of friendship with all Iranians, they too will see that Iranians will be one of its best friends.

Will you allow me to thank the audience a moment?

I -- well, there are many things that I would have liked to cover, but I don't want to take your time any further. I was asked, would I allow the faculty and Columbia students here to come to Iran? From this platform, I invite Columbia faculty members and students to come and visit Iran, to speak with our university students. You are officially invited. (Applause).

University faculty and the students that the university decides are the student association's chosen select are welcome to come. You're welcome to visit any university that you choose inside Iran. We'll provide you with a list of the universities. There are over 400 universities in our country, and you can choose whichever you want to go and visit.

We'll give you the true platform. You can -- we'll respect you 100 percent. We will have our students sit there and listen to you, speak with you, hear what you have to say.

Right now in our universities on a daily basis, there are hundreds of meetings like this. They hear, they talk, they ask questions, they welcome it.

In the end, I'd like to thank Columbia University. I had heard that many politicians in the United States are trained in Columbia University, and there are many people here who believe in the freedom of speech, in clear, frank conversations; I do like to extend my gratitude to the managers here in the United States -- at Columbia University -- I apologize -- the people who so well-organized this meeting today. I'd like to extend my deepest gratitude to the faculty members and the dear students here. I ask Almighty God to assist all of us to move hand in hand to establish peace and future filled with friendship and justice and brotherhood. Best of luck to all of you. (Applause.)

MR. BOLLINGER: I'm sorry that President Ahmadinejad's schedule makes it necessary for him to leave before he's been able to answer many of the questions that we have or even answer some of the ones that we posed to him. (Laughter, applause.) But I think we can all be pleased that his appearance here demonstrates Columbia's deep commitment to free expression and debate. I want to thank you all for coming to participate. (Applause.)

Thank you.

END.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Let's leave Ram Sethu Alone

Let’s leave Ram Sethu alone
Mike Ghouse, September 27, 007


On the faith side, Ram Sethu is a bridge built by Hanuman and his friends; this was the bridge that Rama crossed over to go to Sri Lanka.
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It is not only an Indian heritage; it is a world heritage site. We may need to explore this and learn about the science and art of bridge making during the times of Rama. How did they fill the dirt in the ocean, what materials did they use? Will it bring an understanding of Ramayana?
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Scientists on the other hand claim that the bridge is a natural formation of sand dunes when two oceans collide, they may need to find a parallel to prove it or determine if it is a unique phenomenon?
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Why was Lanka, a far away land mentioned in the Ramayana? Did they travel from Ayodhya to Lanka? Who were the occupants of the stretch of the land that is at least 1000 miles in between? We may learn a lot more history by being open to exploration.

We will see continuous debates on the issue, mostly politically motivated. The Sangh Parivar has lost its sails and wants to make a political capital out of it, where as the industry captains want to capitalize on the canal as well, and CM Karunanidhi is not far behind to strengthen his party’s hold on Tamil Nadu.

The ships have been going around Sri Lanka for over 5 centuries, cutting the route short may not bring much of an economic gain, whether there is a gain or not matters less as the cost is absorbed in the current cost structure.

However, cutting through the bridge will hurt the sentiments of the believers, and mind you, the belief did not spring out of thin air, it has been around for centuries and it must be honored. After all, what is life without faith? The faith that gives hope, helps one understand the death and mysteries of nature, we are yet to comprehend. The faith that gives a sense of relief knowing that every one’s actions will be accounted for in this life or in a presumed life hereafter. Hope that there will be justice, the justice that is the basic human craving.

Let’s leave Ram Sethu alone, and put our energies on things that will produce without hurting any one.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He is the founding president of the World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: "Good for Muslims and good for the world." His personal Website is www.MikeGhouse.net and his articles can be found on the Websites mentioned above and in his Blogs: http://MikeGhouseforAmerica.Blogspot.com and http://MikeGhouse.Sulekha.com Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. He can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com - For a full bio: http://www.mikeghouse.net/ProfileMikeGhouse.asp

I am merely collecting the following articles and sharing with you to understand the gamut of the issue.

1. Ram Sethu row
2. Faith upon the earth
3. A humorous version – just laugh it off.

Ram Sethu row

Amulya Ganguli [IANS, 23 September 2007]

The Bharatiya Janata Party must have realised by now that the Ram Sethu controversy will not be a rerun of the Ram temple issue of a decade-and-a- half ago which propelled the party from the margins of Indian politics to centre-stage.

The reason is that there is no anti-Muslim angle in the Sethu dispute. As such, it will not be possible for the party to exploit communal sentiments, as it did in the 1990s, to build up political support.

In contrast, the BJP must have noted with dismay that there is a distinct possibility of the Sethu affair leading to Hindu vs Hindu clashes, as has already been evident in the attack on the Bangalore house of the daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, following the latter's anti-Ram comments.

Any such development, reminiscent of caste conflicts, will be hugely damaging to all the parties involved. In the present instance, it is the BJP and the DMK, which have squared off for a fight over what many people will consider an esoteric issue.

It is perhaps to avoid such clashes — which claimed two lives when a bus from Tamil Nadu was set on fire probably by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists near Bangalore — that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has intervened. The suggestion of this paterfamilias of the saffron brotherhood is to set up a panel — the Ramesswaram Ram Sethu Raksha Manch — to conduct a movement to 'save' the Sethu, thereby denying the BJP the leadership role.

The move is in tune with the earlier exhortations by the VHP to the BJP not to politicise the dispute. In making this appeal, the VHP may have had in mind the fate of the 'politicised' temple agitation, which has faded out.

The decision of the RSS will partly check the BJP's attempts to make political capital out of the issue — something which will not please L.K. Advani, the party's senior leader, who was said to have been contemplating embarking on yet another rath yatra (chariot ride), recalling such a journey he made in 1990 to launch the Ram temple agitation.

While the success of that movement made the BJP eager to seize on the Ram Sethu dispute, its enthusiasm is not shared this time by some of its allies. The Janata Dal-United (JD-U), for instance, which is in power in Bihar along with the BJP, has dismissed the subject as a non- issue, declaring that other matters, such as poverty and unemployment, were more important.

This indifference of even the BJP's partners is probably due to the perception that the repeated use of religious symbols to boost political prospects can breed cynicism even among their traditional supporters about their motives.

As is known, the BJP's Ayodhya agitation was based on the propagation of the belief that the Mughal emperor, Babur, had built the Babri masjid at the site where Lord Ram was born. Similarly, the Ram Sethu issue is based on the conviction that this 'natural formation' comprising coral reefs and sand banks, which is also known as the Adam's bridge in the Palk Strait, is the mythical bridge built by Ram's simian militia when the Hindu deity went to Sri Lanka to rescue
his abducted wife, Sita, from the demon king, Ravan.

However, as the DMK's response has shown, there is also a north-south divide on the subject, precluding the possibility of the Hindutva camp building up a national movement. If sections in the south are lukewarm about the issue, if not positively hostile, the reason is the tradition of anti-brahmin and anti-north Indian stance, which the Dravidian parties have adopted to consolidate their mainly backward and lower caste support base.

The DMK and some of its allies also like to project the Ram-Ravan war as a reflection of the Aryan vs Dravidian conflict following the 'arrival' of the Aryans in North India around 1500 BC.

Although Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK is currently supportive of the BJP, this attitude is typical of both the DMK and the AIADMK, which are always in opposing camps, whatever the issue. Even then, Jayalalithaa will be aware that she is going against the grain of atheistic Dravidian politics, which can undermine her political position.

Again, it is evidently to highlight his difference from the AIADMK that the Tamil Nadu chief minister has been unusually aggressive in his refusal to accept Ram as a historical figure.

It is a stance that will be endorsed by a wide section of historians. For instance, in her book Early India , well-known historian Romila Thapar says that "the conflict between Ram and Ravan probably reflects an exaggerated version of local conflicts, occurring between expanding kingdoms of the Ganges plain and the less sedentary societies of the Vindhyan region ... the transference of events to a more southerly location may have been the work of editors (of the
Ramayana) of a later period, reflecting an expanded geography, as was possibly also the case in the depiction of Lanka itself as a city of immense wealth".

The Manmohan Singh government and the Congress have been caught between the 'rationality' of the DMK and the Hindutva brigade's emotive politics. They can neither be too critical of the DMK, which is a constituent of the ruling coalition at the centre, nor reject its contention for fear of offending Hindu sentiments.

The Congress also has to guard against such sentiments since its president, Sonia Gandhi, is an Italian by birth. This issue is also being cynically exploited by the BJP, as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's comment that the people have to choose between Ram and Rome shows.

On the other hand, the Congress is also aware that the community of scientists and historians will be outraged if the party endorses the saffron brotherhood' s assertion that the 1.7 million-year- old 'bridge' is man-made — or monkey-made.

Religion and ecology

Faith upon the earth
Sep 20th 2007 DELHI AND ILULISSAT, GREENLAND
From The Economist print edition
Daniel Heaf

In many parts of the world, religious groups and environmental scientists are teaming up—albeit sometimes reluctantly

“THERE was a functioning bridge until 1470 AD,” says Praveen Togadia, a Hindu fundamentalist, smoothing out his dhoti. “Due to natural calamities, it was disturbed, and parts went into the sea.” To modern, secular eyes, at least, the “bridge” is a 30-mile (48km) chain of sandy shoals across the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka. But millions of Hindus see the shoals as physical proof of their beliefs. The Ramayana, a Hindu text, says a bridge was built by monkeys at the behest of a Hindu god, Ram—who duly crossed over to wrest his wife Sita from a Sri Lankan demon. The shoals are known in India as “Ram Setu”, or “Ram's Bridge”.

Now take a deep breath and consider the conflict over a plan by India's Congress-led government to dredge the strait for a shipping canal. While Hindus loathe the project on spiritual grounds, ecologists have different objections. At the junction of the deep, cold Indian Ocean and the shallow, temperate Arabian Sea, the strait is an ecological prize. So far, 377 endemic species have been found in nearby waters.

On this issue at least, the devoutly religious and the greens are on the same side. But the former, it seems, have more clout than the latter. On September 12th the government told the Supreme Court that the Ramayana was not proof of the existence of Lord Ram; and that science suggested the shoals were made by sedimentation, not monkeys. On the same day, the World Hindu Council, headed by Dr Togadia, staged protests across the country. On September 14th the government, at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, the (Catholic) leader of Congress, put the canal plan on hold: a setback for a government which wanted to save ships from a 24-hour loop round Sri Lanka. With elections due next year, Congress feared giving its Hindu foes in the Bharatiya Janata Party a new slogan.

India's greens have little love for their accidental allies. “I'm not protesting against this project for religious reasons but for environmental ones,” says Kushal Pal Singh Yadav, of the Centre for Science and the Environment, a Delhi think-tank.

In many other parts of the world, secular greens and religious people find themselves on the same side of public debates: sometimes hesitantly, sometimes tactically, and sometimes fired by a sense that they have deep things in common.

One more case from India: ornithologists who want to save three species of vulture (endangered because cattle carcasses are tainted by chemicals) see their best ally as the Parsees, who on religious grounds use vultures to dispose of human corpses. In China, organised religion is much weaker and conservationists also feel more lonely. But Pan Yue, the best-known advocate of green concerns within the Chinese government, says ancient creeds, like Taoism, offer the best hope of making people treat the earth more kindly.

Other tie-ups between faith and ecology are less obvious. In Sweden, the national Lutheran Church, working with Japanese Shintos, recently held a multi-faith meeting on forestry. They agreed to set a new standard for the care of forests owned or managed by religious bodies—in other words, they said, 5% of the world's woods.

This month, representatives of many faiths, including a local Lutheran bishop and a shivering Buddhist monk (see above) gathered in Greenland to talk to scientists and ecologists. Patriarch Bartholomew, the senior bishop of the Orthodox Church, led his impressively robed guests in a silent supplication for the planet.

The terms of the transaction between faith and ecology vary a lot. In places like Scandinavia, where religion is weakish, a cleric who “goes green” may reach a wider audience; in countries like India, where faith is powerful, spiritual messages touch more hearts than secular ones do. That doesn't stop some environmental scientists from saying they are being hijacked by clerics in search of relevance. But Mary Evelyn Tucker, of America's Yale University, says secular greens badly need their spiritual allies: “Religions provide a cultural integrity, a spiritual depth and moral force which secular approaches lack.” Martin Palmer, of the British-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation, says faiths often have the clearest view of the social and economic aspects of an environmental problem. In Newfoundland, he notes, conservationists put curbs on cod fishing—and left the churches to care for families whose living was ruined.

Still, one selling point often used by the religious in their dialogue with science—the fact that faith encourages people to think long-term—may be a mixed blessing. The most pessimistic scientists say mankind has a decade at most to curb greenhouse gases and fend off disastrous global warming; that doesn't leave much time to settle the finer points of metaphysics.

TN bus torched in Bangalore , 2 killed

Note: The Cheif Minister of Tamil Nadu said Lord Rama was mythological figure, and some of the extremist Hindus in Bangalore torched the bus heading to Tamil Nadu state. Such is the intolerance -burning two people.

TN bus torched in Bangalore , 2 killed
September 19, 2007

Two people were charred to death after a Tamil Nadus SETC (State Enterprise Transport Corporation) bus was torched near Bommahalli on Hosur Road on Tuesday night.

The incident occurred at around 9.30 pm, when the TN registered bus, with 26 passengers on board, bound to Chennai from Majestic (Kempegowda Bus Station) was stopped at Bommanahalli junction near the Oxford Dental College by four miscreants and torched.
Occurring within a span of two hours after the attack on the residence of the daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi, the incident sent shockwaves in the Bommanahalli area.

Madiwala police said eyewitness accounts mentioned that the miscreants halted the bus that left Majestic at 8.30 pm, made the commuters get down, poured petrol and torched it. Two passengers, who were sleeping in the bus were charred to death.

The driver of the bus Abdul Majeed and conductor Devadas immediately alerted the SETC office and the Madiwala police.

The bodies of the passengers were shifted to Victoria Hospital mortuary. Police added that their identity could not be established as they were charred beyond recognition. Traffic movement came to a stand-still on Hosur Road as the burning bus had blocked the road, resulting in a massive traffic jam that led to chaos.

Madiwala police said the identity of the miscreants was not known and its relation to the attack on the residence of Karunanidihi’s daughter could not be confirmed. Investigations are on to trace the culprits and the organisation to which they belonged to.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports also said more than 20 miscreants were involved in the incident. Some eyewitnesses said a short-circuit could have caused the fire.

Sangh Parivar poured petrol and torched a train boggie in Gujarath to ignite communal tension, which caused the death of eight thousand.

MK DAUGHTER’S HOUSE ATTACKED

Bangalore , DHNS: Miscreants pelted stones and glass bottles at the residence of the daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi at J P Nagar 9th Block near the Ragigudda Temple Main Road on Tuesday evening.

The incident occurred at 8:30 pm at the residence of Selvi and husband Murasoli Selvam. However, there were no inmates except the watchman and a maid servant.

The attack comes in the wake of the controversial statements made by the chief minister questioning whether Lord Ram was a civil engineer to construct the Ramar Sethu. Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Alok Kumar who visited the area said the identity of the miscreants was not known. “Two to three window panes were broken. The watchman was injured. We have posted two constables at the house after the incident,” he said. The watchman, an eye-witness to the incident, said about 15 to 20 people aged between 20-25 years came and shouted anti-Karunanidhi slogans and handed over a letter/leaflet threatening that the Tamil Nadu chief minister would face dire consequences and that Union Minister T R Baalu should tender his resignation and be arrested

A BRIDGE TOO FAR – Humorous Version.

The Lord surveyed the Ram Setu and said "Hanuman, how diligently and strenuously you and your vanara sena had built this bridge several centuries back. It is remarkable that it has withstood the ravages of the climatic and geographical changes over centuries. It is indeed an amazing feat especially considering the fact that a bridge at Hyderabad built by Gammon using latest technology collapsed the other day even before they could stick the posters on its pillars."

Hanuman with all humility spoke "Jai Sri Ram, it is all because of your grace. We just scribbled your name on the bricks and threw them in thesea and they held. No steel from TISCO or cement from Ambuja or ACC was ever used. But Lord, why rake up the old issue now."

Ram spoke "Well, Hanuman some people down there want to demolish the bridge and construct a canal. The contract involves lot of money and lot of money will be made. They will make money on demolition and make more money on construction. "

Hanuman humbly bowed down and said "Why not we go down and present our case ? "

Ram said "Times have changed since we were down there. They will ask us to submit age proof and we don't have either a birth certificate or school leaving certificate. We traveled mainly on foot and some times in bullock carts and so we don't have a driving license either. As far as the address proof is concerned the fact that I was born at Ayodhya is itself under litigation for over half a century, If I go in a traditional attire with bow and arrow, the ordinary folks may recognize me but Arjun Singh may take me to be some tribal and, at the most, offer a seat at IIT under the reserved category. Also, a God cannot walk in dressed in a three-piece suit and announce his arrival. It would make even the devotees suspicious. So it is dilemma so to say."

"I can vouch for you by saying that I personally built the bridge."

"My dear, Anjani putra, it will not work. They will ask you to produce the lay-out plan, the project details, including financial outlay and how the project cost was met and the completion certificate. Nothing is accepted without documentary evidence in India. You may cough but unless a doctor certifies it, you have no cough. A pensioner may present himself personally but the authorities do not take it as proof. He has to produce a life-certificate to prove that he is alive. It is that complicated."

"Lord can't understand these historians. Over the years you have given darshan once every hundred years to saints like Surdas, Tulsidas, Saint Thyagaraja, Jayadeva, Bhadrachala Ramdas and even Sant Tukaram and still they disbelieve your existence and say Ramayana is a myth. The only option, I see, is to re-enact Ramayana on earth and set the government records straight once for all."

Lord smiled "It isn't that easy today. Ravan is apprehensive that he may look like a saint in front of Karunanidhi. I also spoke to his mama Mareecha, who appeared as a golden deer to tempt Sita maiyya when I was in the forest and he said that he won't take a chance of stepping on earth as long as Salman Khan is around."