Iran's been in the news again lately. As I write this their promised release of an ill American prisoner is apparently on hold, as is their sentence of stoning for a woman found guilty of adultery. International pressures do work, but Iran is like the willful child who will take punishment rather than admit he's wrong, and then when he does make concessions they are small, but seen as "progress".
Britain's The Economist has an interesting article on Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his close advisor and relative by marriage, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai. Mashai, like the proverbial willful child I mentioned, was taken to the woodshed by Ayatollah Khameni, the religious leader of Iran, and chewed out after he "renounced hostility for the people of Israel." That has to make Israel feel like they have some sort of credibility in Iran, for all of the hate-talk and saber-rattling that normally goes on. Mashai is seen as being in line for the presidency after Ahmadinejad's term is over.
Yesterday I watched President Obama at a press conference tell everyone to accept Islam as a religion, and to respect it. I'm pretty sure he's talking about a more Americanized Islam, which doesn't look on its Christian neighbors as "infidels". (As to how American Muslims look on their Jewish neighbors I don't know...probably the same way their Jewish neighbors look at them.) As we've seen in over thirty years of rule by hardliners in Iran, and with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the ancient clashes with the new. Iran has a dress code for women, runs their state by a religious code from centuries past, and yet has nuclear capability. Talk about a schizoid situation! No wonder everyone is worried about Iran; the combination of nuclear weapons and religious zealotry is alarming to anyone who thinks about it.
In the Economist article there's a quote that immediately jumped out at me:
“If someone turns away from Islam,” warned Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, a longtime leading government supporter, “we warn him, and then, if that does not work, we beat him.”
It's hard to reconcile that kind of thinking with the American way. In our country taking someone out and beating them because they aren't behaving by a religious code is just plain battery. And I've yet to meet anyone who believes in a religion after being beaten, or even beaten verbally (isn't that sometimes called a "come to Jesus" meeting?) I'll bet in Iran, besides the opposition Green Party, there are a lot of people who have taken their beatings and hide their lumps, no longer so ardent about the Iranian version of Islam. Maybe one of these days they'll take their country back, put the imams back in their mosques and out of government.
Today is the anniversary of the attack of 9/11, and I don't hold it against even the most religious Muslims, just the terrorist Muslims, who, unlike the call from our president, don't believe in religious freedom or religious tolerance. They believe in their freedom to kill us. I think our government is careful at sorting out terrorists from traditional Islam, even though the public isn't. That's the kind of thinking that leads to some pipsqueak pastor from a tiny church in Florida holding us all hostage with his threat to burn someone's holy books. In his own way he's as bad as those who call us infidels.
One thing I've heard nothing about in all this talk lately is our relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is a strict Islamic state, and which provided most of the 9/11 terrorists. Bin Laden is a Saudi. We have a symbiotic relationship with that country, which supplies a lot of oil, and apparently religion is put on the back burner when money and oil are involved.