May 19, 2006

What The Hell?

Let's see if I have this straight. Iran's president goes on record declaring that the Holocaust was a myth.

And now Iran's parliament votes to make the country's non-Muslim citizens wear insignia indicating they're Jewish, Christian or Zoroastrian.

I mean, it's one thing to call out the Jews and Christians, but can't you just leave those poor Zorastrians alone? What did Ahura Mazda ever do to Iran?

UPDATE, IN ORDER TO PRESERVE MY JOURNALISTIC STREET CRED: The non-Muslim insignia news report is likely bullshit. My most humblest apologies for posting something in error. I must now go flog myself 56 times as penance.

I can't believe I knew about Ahura Mazda without Googling.

Posted by Ryan at May 19, 2006 11:50 AM | TrackBack

So I guess I have to stipulate that I don't agree with what Iran's doing and all that. So stipulated.

Just by way of context, however, I'll point out that sumptuary laws have existed in pretty much every culture for most of human history and that Christians used them to identify religious minorities through most of the Renaissance. The Nazis did almost nothing original (as I'm sure you know, Mr. Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich), up to and including the little yellow stars.

As far as that goes, Rabbi Heir's bit about Hitler--

"The world should not ignore this," said Rabbi Hier. "The world ignored Hitler for many years -- he was dismissed as a demagogue, they said he'd never come to power -- and we were all wrong."

--is ridiculous to the point of being irresponsible. I'm always appalled when Jews say shit like this. I expect a little historical confusion from goyim, but Jews should have more respect.

Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dangerous? Of course he is. His whole country's dangerous; we made them that way, but that's only relevant to certain questions. The smart play would be to impose massive sanctions now and get the other Arab countries in the region to back them up-- because Libya, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinians and so on are mostly Sunni, I think they would recognize Iran's developing nuclear technology as an immediate threat to their border security (the kind of weapons Iran's going to be able to build are unlikely to have much range). Unfortunately, it seems spectacularly unlikely that the US could ever hope to set something like that up given the current political climate (again, our fault, but there won't be much we can do about that until November 2008).

It all reminds me of a piece I recently read in the New York Times about alligators:

Mr. Mazzotti agreed with Mr. Puz and said he was worried about people's reactions to the alligators.

"People either want them killed or want to get close to them," Mr. Mazzotti said. "They don't exhibit the in-between behavior, which is respect them, don't get close. It's just good common sense to exercise extra caution."

Nobody seems to just be able to look at a country like Iran for what it is: dangerous, but probably not very dangerous.

Posted by: Joshua at May 19, 2006 04:11 PM

I know The Rise and Fall has been updated a few times since the version of my Dad's I read, but I don't recall it going into detail about the history of such religious labeling. Then again, I also read that book eight years ago, so it's also likely I just forgot. I don't have your skill for retaininig material.

What I don't understand is that, on the one hand, you say you don't agree with what Iran is doing, but then you sort of turn around and say "but it's been common practice throughout history," as if almost making a backdoor, secret handshake excuse for the Iranian decision to call out religious minorities.

I agree that, on a danger scale, Iran right now isn't likely VERY, but the postering of its president over the last several months seems a little over the top (granted, they have the U.S. occupying the country next door, so some jitters are understandable).

Posted by: Ryan at May 19, 2006 07:11 PM

What I don't understand is that, on the one hand, you say you don't agree with what Iran is doing, but then you sort of turn around and say "but it's been common practice throughout history,"

I think the disconnect may be that I don't perceive it to be a, "turn around." What I mean to suggest is simply that when people talk about something as being, "Just like what the Nazis did," they seem to forget that much of what the Nazis did was part of a fairly consistent historical narrative. Americans (mostly) broke with that narrative in the 18th Century, but it's instructive to remember, for example, that the monarchs that ruled Germany and Russia at the start of World War I were both called Caesar.

World War II brought about a massive shift in the philosophical underpinnings of Western government and society, and that shift necessitated the vilification of much of what had gone before. Very little of what was common practice in government or society before 1945 is taken seriously in the U.S., Japan, Europe and Russia today. But not everybody experienced that shift because, for one thing, not everybody was as directly involved in the war. Also, not everyone's cultural symbols were as thoroughly tainted by it. Consequently, many cultures are still trying to recreate their past glories (see above re: Caesar).

The Golden age of Islam was basically the 8th Century to the 13th Century. During that time, the Arab empire was arguably the most technologically and philosophically advanced civilization on the face of the planet. They were also considered extremely tolerant for their day: Jews in Moslem Spain were much better treated than Jews in Christian Spain and, prior to the antagonism caused by friction with Zionism (1890-1917 or thereabouts) most Jews considered the period of Moslem rule around the Mediterranean to be the golden age of their culture as well.

Part of Moslem culture during that golden age was sumptuary laws; non-Moslems were required to wear special clothing and insignias to distinguish them from Moslems. But that was Religion Lite at the time-- just across the border, Christians created the Spanish Inquisition to force Jews to convert, steal their children and raise them as Christians, and then follow them around and make sure they weren't being Jewish in secret; they were burning people at the stake. Westerners use World War II (or, depending on who you talk to, the Protestant Reformation) as the firewall that separates us from that history, but Moslem culture doesn't have a catastrophe like that forcing them to repudiate their own history. To Moslems, that Golden Age was a period of great achievement, when God was on their side and everything was right with heaven and earth-- and the proof of that is found in their achievements during that time. So when a Moslem hears "sumptuary laws," they doesn't necessarily think, "Hitler." They might think "Maimonides," or, "Ibn Khaldun."

None of which is to say that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn't trying to fuck religious minorities over with his sumptuary laws. I just mean to say it's a mistake to assume that the implications of what he's doing are the same to him-- or other Moslems --as they are to us. As far as that goes, I'm inclined to believe that Ahmadinejad is probably using sumptuary laws fairly cynically, in an effort to consolidate support by evoking images of that Golden Age. But inferring that he's actually trying to evoke Nazism strikes me as a mistake under the circumstances-- one that could lead to ill-advised action down the line.


but the postering of its president


Posted by: Joshua at May 20, 2006 05:43 AM

That story is probably false, as well. Here is the first report I could find questioning its veracity, from a Montreal news station. There are others. Which sort of recasts the original story as inflamatory propaganda.

I think this might be a case where some fact-checking is in order. I'm not sure is a reliable source.

Posted by: flamingbanjo at May 20, 2006 10:54 AM

Amusingly, CBS News sat on this story pending confirmation.

Unlike Ryan, who I assumed had checked this before posting it-- especially in light of his strenuously declared commitment to journalistic excellence. But of course this is just his blog and blogs don't matter so why should Ryan check something like this before posting it. After all, if it was good enough for FOX News and MSNBC, it's certainly good enough for Ryan.

Don't mind me. I'm probably just grumpy about having written so extensively in consideration of something that turned out to be bullshit. That'll teach me.

Posted by: Joshua at May 20, 2006 11:32 AM

Flogging? Please, let's have some consistency here-- you have to be drummed out of your blog and forced into early retirement.

C'mon. Let's see some drumming here.

Posted by: Joshua at May 21, 2006 08:11 PM

Ah, but you see, Joshua, I issued a correction. I mentioned that the story I posted earlier may, in fact, be in error. That absolves me of all taint.

Posted by: Ryan at May 22, 2006 07:52 AM

Heh. Taint.

Posted by: DG at May 22, 2006 02:13 PM
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