Former New York City Mayor Bloomberg gave an impassioned graduation speech at The University of Michigan on Saturday, where he railed against colleges that cave to pressure for “safe spaces” because of “microaggressions.”
At one point, he turned his attention to graduating senior Omar Mahmood to commend him for not caving to political correctness.
“I know that one of today’s graduates, Omar Mahmood, has faced threats and intimidation because he dared to write political satire about being left-handed in the Michigan Daily and he refused to apologise for it,” Bloomberg said during the speech.
“Omar, wherever you are out there, I’m glad you stood your ground,” he continued.
In 2014, Mahmood, who identifies as “deeply culturally Muslim,” wrote a piece of political satire — the one Bloomberg mentioned in his speech — for The Michigan Review called “Do the Left Thing.”
The piece centres on Mahmood taking an imaginary fall on the steps of the library and a “cis-gendered hetero upper-class man” offered to help him up. But Mahmood “waved his hand aside and got up of my own accord.”
He shouted after me, “I was just trying to do the right thing!” The right thing… The right thing… I became so aware at that moment of the left hand that I had thrust out before falling, and suddenly my humanity was reduced to my handydnyss.
Mahmood, who wrote the piece in 20 minutes, says he was guided by a desire to push back at extreme political correctness.
“I had been frustrated by the culture of stifling debate on campus through the guise of political correctness, of over sensitivity,” he said. “I sought to make fun of it in a light hearted way.”
He still characterises his words as tame, but many students on campus were outraged.
To start, the door to Mahmood’s room was vandalised with hate messages. And Mahmood says writing the piece also cost him his job at The Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan’s student-run paper, where Mahmood also worked, in addition to the The Michigan Review, an independent paper where he published the story. The Daily did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“I’ve always stood for open dialogue, always questioning our assumptions and thinking critically about everything, and always pursuing the truth no matter how it makes us feel,” said Mahmood, who holds both conservative and liberal opinions.
And although Mahmood says he loved the theme of Bloomberg’s speech, the former mayor wasn’t spared Mahmood’s snark.
“A couple friends and I were sipping 7-11 Big Gulps during the mayor’s address in a cheeky protest against his ban on large sodas,” he said.
Being singled-out in front of thousands of classmates may have been intimidating for some students, especially since Mahmood had no forewarning that the former mayor had written him into his speech. But he took the commendation in stride.
“I was very humbled and moved by his words to me,” he said. “He spoke about bridging gaps. He spoke about how we need to open doors not build walls. He called out Trump. He called out Bernie. He called out demagoguery.
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