On Friday evening, Associate Professor of Religon Robert Morrsion shook hands with one of the most controversial figures in the world—Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. The two met briefly during a ceremony in Tehran that recognized winners of Iran's International Book of the Year Awards.
Morrison, who was one of several winners in his field of Islamic Studies, was recognized for his book "Islam and Science: The Intellectual Career of Nizam al-Din al-Nisaburi."
Morrison said that during the ceremony "you get to chat, but its chit-chat," with the officials who give the awards.
"I was saying things like 'I am so thankful, your generosity is something I will never forget,'" Morrison said.
The award, which was given by the Iranian government and the ministry of culture, entitled Morrison to a complimentary trip to Tehran for the ceremonies. Morrison stayed in Tehran from February 4 to 10.
"It was exhausting, it's a lot of grip and grin. I enjoyed having a free day in Tehran on Monday," Morrison said.
In the United States and internationally, statements Ahmadinejad has made have been highly contested. In addition to his stance on Iran's nuclear weapons program, alleged comments he has made supporting of Israel's annihilation and calling the Holocaust a "myth," have made him disliked.
"He's made some controversial statements, for example about Israel and the Holocaust," Morrison said. "They're controversial in areas that don't pertain to my field."
"Given all the political tensions, I think there was a genuine atmosphere of exchange and appreciation," Morrison said.
Morrison said that he thought the other books that won awards in his field of Islamic studies "really are good books."
"They do take Islam rather seriously there," Morrison said of Iranians.
"I thought they were very hospitable," Morrison said. "It was a tremendous honor."