Mr Khatami is a Muslim cleric whose main interest is political philosophy. I found his prepared speech, which ran for half an hour, academic and rather dry. For another 2 hours however he took good-natured, though often pointed questions from his audience with grace, animation and (most of all) an erudite humor that had even the stern-faced security guards in stiches of laughter. It was the largest public meeting I have attended at LTU with about 1300 in attendance - the audience filled 3 lecture theatres to capacity.
A most enjoyable evening which touched on the conservatives in Iran, fanatical Muslims, fanatical neocons, Iranian nuclear power, Palestine, Barack Obama.
Khatami's public presence did not support the Jewish Community Council of Victoria's image of him as a Jew-hating supporter of terrorism. In his public statements tonight he expressed religious solidarity with the Jews - in terms of a common religious heritage - but opposition to their occupation of Palestine, total opposition to religious fundamentalism and absolute opposition to terrorism. He saw Obama as a positive force that was nevertheless likely to be thwarted by US pressure groups. He skillfully promoted the Iranian national image - no mean feat given the press it receives.
The JCCV condemned LTU for inviting him but in my view we should listen. In human terms I've got to say that I feel some bond with people such as Khatami. I probably would not agree with some of his specific religious views but to be honest, if I was organising a barbie, I'd like him to come. Maybe I am gullible and falling for a skilled propagandist! Maybe not.