Tina K. Russell

June 24, 2009

Missing the point

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:20 pm

Op-Ed Contributor – The Koran and the Ballot Box – NYTimes.com
Yet in the current demonstrations we are witnessing not just the end of the first stage of the Iranian democratic experiment, but the collapse of the structural underpinnings of the entire Islamic approach to modern political self-rule. Islam’s categorical imperative for both traditional and fundamentalist Muslims —“commanding right and forbidding wrong” — is being transformed.

This imperative appears repeatedly in the Koran. Historically, it has been understood as a check on the corrupting, restive and libidinous side of the human soul. For modern Islamic militants, it is a war cry as well — a justification of the morals police in Saudi Arabia and Iran, of the young men who harass “improperly” attired Muslim women from Cairo to Copenhagen. It is the primary theological reason that Ayatollah Khamenei will try to stop a democratic triumph in his country, since real democracy would allow men, not God and his faithful guardians, the mullahs, to determine right and wrong.

Oh, shut your pie hole already! Khamenei isn’t transparently grasping at power for religious reasons; it’s because he’s a cynical despot who’s abandoned his legitimacy for the faint hope of longevity. Indeed, a fundamental tenant of Shiism is the concept of a divine mandate to rule; opposition to Iran’s rulers shouldn’t be interpreted automatically as opposition to the Islamic system. I would imagine that in the minds of many protestors, Khamenei just lost his divine right to rule. (After all, I doubt those shouting “Allahu Akbar!”—God is great—in defiance of the government are secular liberals.)

I doubt Khamenei is acting out of fear for the future of Islam; I think he’s acting out of fear for the future of Khamenei.

September 27, 2008

“Foreign meddling” is relative to Ahmadinejad

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:03 am

The New York Times interviews President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. (Ellipses are mine.)

An Interview With President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – Text – NYTimes.com

NYT: Could you talk about how you perceive the U.S. election. Do you see any difference between the two candidates?

President Ahmadinejad: … We do not interfere in domestic affairs here in the United States. … But we hope that whoever is elected will start a new path on their exchanges with others. We do believe whoever comes to office has to take care of two issues.

The first is to restrict the scope of America’s interventions abroad to the geography of this country alone. These interventions have caused instability and insecurity around the globe. And place enormous financial pressure on the American people as well as people around the world. … Look at the neglect of these American concerns that have been replaced by an over concern by what goes on abroad and the country’s military budget is increasing every year. Maybe if the American government had not gotten so involved abroad there would have been more peace and security in the world and more welfare for the American people today. … So we believe that whoever becomes president must focus on removing the problems here at home and focus on achieving the welfare of the American people.

The second issue they must give attention to is to fix relations with Iran. That answers your question. We hope whoever is elected brings about real fundamental changes.

NYT: On the question of fixing problems at home instead of working abroad, sometimes in Iran you hear criticism—particularly when I was there after the earthquake in 1990 and in Bam after the earthquake. Iranians always say, “Why are we sending money to Palestine, why are we sending money to Hamas and Hezbollah? We should be rebuilding our houses at home.” So does what applies to the United States also apply to Iran?

President Ahmadinejad: I really want to thank you for caring so much for the Iranian people …. I am an Iranian. I live with the Iranian people. Iranians know best how to fix their problems.

If you didn’t catch that, Ahmadinejad said quite rightly that America would be in a better domestic and international position if we focused on rebuilding at home rather than attempting to fix the world through military power. He said that the United States should not be meddling in the affairs of other countries. The interviewer, not missing a beat, asked him about his support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, neither of which, you may note, are Iran. Ahmadinejad quickly changed the subject.

The interview is frustrating as a perfect example of how someone can be an enormous hypocrite (as well as a bigot, a crank, and a bully) and still be right. Ahmadinejad’s clock stopped long ago, so it’s frustrating to see it be correct so many times a day. I hope we commit ourselves to not ceding a millimeter of moral high ground to him, even if he is an unpopular leader at home saddled with an economic crisis that he is largely responsible for while heading into an election that is mainly a referendum on the status quo. (We have a lot in common with Iran. After all, by putting down their first popular revolution and re-installing the Shah, we helped create the conditions for the rise of the fundamentalist clerical government that rules today. We go way back… in fact, come to think of it, if it hadn’t been for our foreign meddling, Ahmadinejad wouldn’t be President today, wouldn’t be able to point to America’s bad foreign policy as a way of distracting us from his own failures. Spooky…)

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