Iran’s descent into barbarism

By SHMULEY BOTEACH

Ex The Jerusalem Post
9 August 2010

My father was born in Iran and remains firmly attached to his Iranian heritage. He loves the food, the music, the language and the culture. It’s something I have witnessed with most Iranian exiles. Their country travels with them.

And why not? Iran was once one of the world’s greatest civilizations and the Middle East’s most highly educated state.

Then came Ruhollah Khomeini, and the slow descent into barbarism began.

To see what Shi’ite technocrats have done to Iran is tragic. I do not speak only of the violent clown Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, who can look an Ivy-League audience in the eye and say there are no homosexuals in Iran. Rather, I speak of a country so riddled with hate that it thinks nothing of producing cartoons, available on a website promoted by the semi-official Fars news agency, denying the Holocaust and portraying Jews as hook-nosed vermin. Have the Iranians been taught to hate Jews so much that they can caricaturize the gassing of one million children?

When I visited Poland I walked into a clearing near Tarnow where 800 Jewish orphans had been murdered, mostly by having their brains dashed against trees. The Iranians would make fun of this as well? What level of humanity must be compromised before one feels that wholesale slaughter is a matter of comic relief? I forced myself to watch all of The Stoning of Soriah M by Iranian director Cyrus Nowrasteh.

Based on a true story, it’s final scene – depicting an innocent woman buried up to her neck and having her skull slowly crushed by average men including her own father, husband and son throwing stones large enough to injure but not to immediately kill – is easily one of the most brutal events ever depicted on film.

If only it were an exaggeration.

The world is currently focused on the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old woman awaiting death by stoning in the Iranian town of Tabriz after a sham conviction for adultery.

International pressure has so far granted her a reprieve, but is that what it takes – outside objectors persuading Iranian villagers that it’s wrong to pick up a stone, take out a woman’s eye and turn her brain into mush? How can these men have lost the universal voice of conscience? Can any of us even conceive of picking up a stone and throwing it as hard as we can at a helpless woman dug into a pit? Only the truly barbaric, those who have become utterly detached from humanity could behave this way.

THE 2001 case of Maryam Ayubi is particularly gruesome. Another alleged adulteress, she fainted during the ritual washing that preceded her execution. No matter. They stoned her to death while she was strapped to a stretcher. If I met any of the men who participated I would simply stare into their eyes, pondering how the light of humanity could have been so thoroughly extinguished.

I believe the West is largely to blame for this continued barbarity. Why is there an Iranian embassy in the middle of London? Does its presence not silently condone this continuing barbarity against women? Where are the women’s groups to protest Western interactions with a country that can mutilate females in the most monstrous ways? I have a friend whose husband is a physician called upon to treat a member of the Saudi royal family.

They offered him a king’s ransom to fly to Riyadh. His wife objected. “If a woman isn’t allowed to drive a car in that kingdom, then you’re not going to treat its leadership,” she told him. He forfeited a fortune, but she made her point.

The saddest thing about all this is the absence of vocal Muslims condemning Iran’s descent into barbarism. It seems that many are too busy condemning Israel. I believe that Israel’s military actions against Hamas and Hizbullah are necessary measures of self-defense, but if any Israeli cartoonist were to caricaturize Arabs as grotesque subhumans, the way Jews are regularly portrayed in Iran, I would call it an abomination.

IN HIS speech last week from Governor’s Island about why the ‘Ground Zero’ mosque ought to be built, Mayor Mike Bloomberg said the 9/11 attacks were committed by ‘fanatics.’ He refused to mention even once that the attackers were Muslims. Are we doing our Islamic brothers and sisters a favor when we whitewash crimes committed by Islam, or should we be encouraging them to cut out the stubborn cancer in global Islam? It may be tough love, but is it not more helpful to be honest about the growing brutality in the name of Islam so that those who love and practice this great world religion and wish to restore it to its former glory can reclaim it from the killers and fanatics?

Fareed Zakaria just returned a humanitarian prize he received from the ADL because the organization came out against the Ground Zero mosque. He explained that the mosque organizers are Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare because they are moderates who repudiate violence. How patronizing. That’s the most we can expect from Muslims, that they not support terrorism? Islam was once the most educated and forward-looking civilization in the world. It degrades itself and is betrayed by so-called friends who tell it to aspire to nothing more than not being Osama bin Laden.

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Copyright by the author who hosts ‘The Shmuley Show’ on 77 WABC in NYC. He is the founder of This World: The Values Network and has just published Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life. www.shmuley.com

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