Columbia University Welcomes Antisemitic Malaysian PM for Speech

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad attends an iftar, the fast-breaking event during Ramadan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday, May 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)
AP/Sadiq Asyraf

Columbia University is facing criticism for inviting the antisemitic prime minister of Malaysia to speak on campus.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad once said that Jewish people are “hooked nosed” and that they “rule the world by proxy.” Now, Mohamad is being welcomed as a guest lecturer at Columbia University.

According to a report by the New York Post, Mohamad is scheduled to speak at the prestigious New York City university on Wednesday.

Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, said that he is shocked by the university’s decision to host Mohamad.

“It is nothing short of astounding that a university that prides itself on being a place of tolerance and inclusion will be handing the microphone over to a leader who has … been quoted saying that the ‘Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them,'” Lauder said in a short comment to the Post.

Despite the backlash and academia’s usual willingness to prioritize the concern’s of students over free expression principles, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger defended the university’s decision to host Mohamad.

“This form of open engagement can sometimes be difficult, even painful. But to abandon this activity would be to limit severely our capacity to understand and confront the world as it is, which is a central and utterly serious mission for any academic institution,” Bollinger said in a short comment.

“I find the anti-semitic statements of Prime Minister Mahathir to be abhorrently contrary to what we stand for, and deserving condemnation. Nevertheless, it is in these times that we are most strongly resolved to insist that our campus remain an open forum and to protect the freedoms essential to our university community,” Bollinger added.

In a column published on Tuesday, the New York Post‘s editorial board argued that Columbia University will welcome hateful speakers to campus as long as they are antisemitic.

Jennifer Hirsh, a public health professor at Columbia University, once called Linda Sarsour “an American social justice hero.” Sarsour was removed from her leadership position in the Women’s March organization because of repeated accusations that Sarsour was anti-semitic.

TIME magazine named Mohamad to its list of top 100 “most influential” people for 2019.

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