Monday, January 30, 2006

Ayatollah Assahollah

"You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby, and you're gonna daaiieeee!"*

With all this heightened fuss and bother for the past few months over Iran's atomic energy/nuclear weapons program I thought I'd better get up to speed on the latest public info out there, and so just before Christmas I strolled down to the Reading Corner here in Rockland and picked up a copy of The Persian Puzzle by Kenneth M. Pollack.

Pollack, a former CIA and NSC staffer, has written a pretty good book; a bit orientalist perhaps and less than well received by Iranian scholars but nonetheless thought provoking (and besides, since when should any book be taken as gospel? Not even the gospels should be taken as gospel). The point he raises that I have often overlooked in my amateur mental rambles through Persia concerns the tradition of matyrdom in Shia Islam that dates to its very establishment with the killing of Husayn (grandson-in-law of Mohammed, and son of Ali, from which the name Shia- Shi'at Ali, meaning "party of Ali"- comes from). To whit:

"Martydom and the story of Husayn dominate Sh'i theology...throughout his brief time in power Mossadeq (1950s prime minister forced out by supporters of the Shah with CIA/MI6 support) himself doubtless found it easy to assume that role... This tendency would be resurrected to an even greater extent during Ayatollah Khomeini's reign, when Iran almost seemed to be seeking its own destruction by taking on the whole world and hewing to causes that had long been lost."

And now of course the late Ayatollah's man Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holds the presidency of Iran, with the blessing of the powerful clerical autocracy, and he's johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to decisions about their nuclear program. Will this deep seated aspect of Shia belief influence this very devout man?

(*This man is actually sunni but shia clerics don't do action photos often).


Anonymous said...


weasel said...

I shall no doubt be attacked by a crack squad of Danish muslims for the picture.