Respect is earned, not forced at gunpoint
Few things make my blood boil as much as remembering the assassination of Theo Van Gogh for his documentary “insulting” Islam or the threats against the Danish cartoonist Lars Vilks for his “disrespectful” depiction of Mohammad, or the Turkish family in Italy burying alive a 16-year old girl who had committed the abominable crime of talking to boys. Get over it, people. Honor is an ugly concept good for primitive societies, washing offenses in blood is uncivilized. You consider yourself insulted? Take it to the courts. I know, I know. The courts are biased against Muslims, Iranians, Middle Easterners in general, they get their marching orders from Jewish lobbies or from governments only out to get our oil, etc., etc. In which case you may want to move back to countries such as Iran where the rule of law is vigorously upheld. After all, why live in these Western countries that lack essential values, that have no civilization and no culture (remember, they were still wading in marshes when we were building empires) and that not only exploit you but insult all your moghadassat— all that you hold sacred?
I once attended—I can’t remember why—a rambling and incoherent disquisition by Abdol Karim Soroush (that such a charlatan would acquire followers says as much about us as it does about him). During the Q&A, I asked him what he thought about the fatwa on Salman Rushdie (this was a while back). Eyes cast down and voice low in proper akhound mien, he replied that because he, Soroush, believed in free will and choices, he respected Rushdie’s choice to die, which was what the author had done by insulting Mohammad. The jaw-dropping argument was wildly applauded by the audience.
The part of the world we come from should not condemn us to lack of logic and idiotic knee-jerk responses. In 1999, an Egyptian pilot with serious mental problems committed suicide by downing Egyptair flight 990, killing the 217 people on board. After a two-year investigation, the U.S. NTSB reported that the crash was caused by pilot “flight control inputs.” Immediately, Egypt was up in arms, accusing Americans of having insulted not only their national honor but that of Muslims in toto. Wow!
We Iranians buy into the same kind of absurdity when we argue nonstop that we are being insulted, our honor violated, our values trampled on. I remember the hoopla over the film “300” that Iranians took as an insult to all things Persian (One irate viewer told me that, taking exception to the depiction of Iranians as barbarians, he had written to various papers to “educate viewers about the greatness of Persian civilization.”) This about an unpretentious romp based on a graphic novel with an audience that didn’t care a hoot about where the villains came from. When Shohreh Aghdashloo played the part of a terrorist in “24,” remember the accusations that she was making audiences buy into the myth that all Iranians are terrorists? The furor was such that our most talented actress couldn’t make herself heard when she countered that no one thought Anthony Hopkins was a cannibal for having played Hannibal Lecter.
I recently visited an elderly Iranian exile, a much discussed and controversial figure even now. We talked about the numerous fake memoirs published in Iran and attributed to him, the inventions about him on the internet, the discussions about whether he had written this or that. He said that he never responded to or cared to deny anything that came out of Iran, a futile exercise, but that he didn’t mind taking to court people who make up things about him in the West. I was impressed. Foaming at the mouth and washing offenses in blood, no. Quiet dignity and trust in the rule of law, when warranted, absolutely.
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