Saturday, September 29, 2007

Who was Ahmadinejad trying to convince?

Not us. Most Western attention on the Man from Iran was directed either at the funnies or his comments on the issues that we spend newsprint on. I know that is all I read. And, frankly, the idea of reading an entire speech of his attracts me about as much as an initiation address by the Most Excellent Master of the Grand High Lodge.

Caroline Glick reckons we should have listened harder even if the intended audience was quite an Other. And his topics were similar to those of Pope Benedict.

At Columbia University, Ahmadinejad devoted the majority of his speech to a discussion of the role of science in human affairs. While most coverage surrounded his refusal to renounce his call to annihilate Israel, his central message, that he rejects the right of people to be free to choose their paths in life, was ignored. His remarks on the issue were dismissed as "weird" or "unintelligible." Yet they were neither.

Speaking as "an academic," Ahmadinejad said that from his perspective, the role of science is to serve Islam and that any science that does not serve Islamic goals is corrupt. As he put it, "Science is the light, and scientists must be pure and pious. If humanity achieves the highest level of physical and spiritual knowledge but its scholars and scientists are not pure, then this knowledge cannot serve the interests of humanity." Elaborating on this notion, he argued that Western scientists serve corrupt governments who reject the pure and pious path of Islam and therefore are used as agents for corruption.

Tellingly, Ahmadinejad moved directly from his assault on non-Islamic scientists and regimes to a defense of Iran's nuclear program. The message was clear: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is done in the name of Islam and therefore it is inherently legitimate. As far as he is concerned, refusing to allow Iran to pursue nuclear weapons is tantamount to an assault on God.

Though there is a hint of Benedict's Regensberg themes here (less classy language, but the idea of science guided by a higher idea is the same), the conclusions are a little different. And so is the end-game.

Thankfully for Ahmadinejad, this "corrupted" world order will soon be swept away. Either the "corrupted" powers will "return from the path of arrogance and obedience to Satan to the path of faith in God," or "the same calamities that befell the people of the distant past will befall them as well."

Concluding his UN remarks Ahmadinejad pledged, "Without any doubt, the Promised One who is the ultimate Savior... will come. In the company of all believers, justice-seekers and benefactors, he will establish a bright future and fill the world with justice and beauty. This is the promise of God; therefore it will be fulfilled."

There's the 12th Imam again. That man is a patience! Do you think Ahmadinejad will eventually react like the Neapolitans do when the blood of St Januarius doesn't liquify on time and start cursing him?

So, we didn't get this message. Who did?

Ahmadinejad is not interested in convincing the US government or even the majority of Americans to convert to Islam. He is interested in convincing adherents of totalitarian Islam and potential converts to the cause that they are on the winning side.

There's an ideological war being waged, and we hardly seem to notice it.  In this conflict zone, we're not only coming second, we suck.

Technorati tags: , ,

1 comment:

Hazar Nesimi said...

West is reading too much into Ahmadinejad. I am a Shia, and I know this kind of newspeak in Iran goes all the time. They even created religious heavy metal, etc. Belief in Mahdi is crucial but NOT essential element of Shia faith - perseverance in faith facing aggression is however (Kerbala and death of Hussein). Now admittedly he is much more messianic than the clergy, precisely because he is a layman and free to interpret as he wishes, and amongst pious and poor belief in immediate Messiah is very strong. His roots are very the same. However his will not convince anyone in Islamic world. For Salafi Jihadis his talk is Heresy, and even for cheering Arab street, they change their tune when they get face to face with our Shia rituals. So it is Iran against the World again, and not Islam against the World.