August 10, 2010 | 11:20 pm
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
My father was born in Iran and remains firmly attached to his Iranian heritage. He loves the food, the music, the language and the culture. It is something that I have witnessed with most Iranian exiles. They have internalized their country so much that it travels with them wherever they go.
And why not? Iran was once one of the world’s greatest civilizations and the Middle East’s most highly educated nation.
Then came Khomeini, and the slow descent into barbarity began.
To see what Shia Islamic technocrats have done to Iran is tragic. I do not speak only of the violent clown Ahmadinejad who can look an Ivy League audience in the eye and say there are no homosexuals in Iran, which is still a lot better than mowing down his voters with machine guns. Rather, I speak of a country so suffused with hate that it can think nothing of producing cartoons, now available on a dedicated Web site promoted by the semi-official Fars news agency, denying the Holocaust and portraying Jews as hook-nosed vermin. Have the Iranians been taught to hate Jews so much that they can caricature the gassing of 1 million children? When I visited Poland, I walked into a clearing in the woods near Tarnow, where 800 Jewish orphans were murdered, mostly by having their brains dashed against trees. The Iranians would make fun of this as well? What level of one’s humanity must be compromised before one feels that wholesale human slaughter is a matter for comic relief?
I forced myself to watch all of “The Stoning of Soriah M” by Iranian director Cyrus Nowrasteh. Based on a true story, its final scene — depicting an innocent woman buried up to her neck and having her skull slowly crushed by average, everyday men throwing stones large enough to injure but not to immediately kill, including her own father, husband and son — is easily one of the most brutal and haunting events ever depicted on film. If only it were an exaggeration.
The world is currently focused on the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old woman awaiting death-by-stoning in the Iranian town of Tabriz after an unjust trial and sham conviction for adultery. International pressure has so far granted her a reprieve. But is that what it takes, outside objectors persuading Iranian villagers that it’s wrong to pick up a stone and take out a woman’s eye and turn her brain into mush? How can these men have lost the universal, inner voice of conscience that would prevent them from inflicting such unspeakable cruelty upon a helpless woman? Can any of us Western men even conceive of picking up a stone and throwing it as hard as we possibly can at a helpless woman dug into a pit? Only the truly barbaric, those who have become utterly detached from any semblance of humanity, could behave this way.
The 2001 case of Maryam Ayubi is particularly gruesome. Another alleged adulteress, she fainted during the ritual washing that preceded her execution. No matter. They stoned her to death while she was strapped to a stretcher. If I met any of the men who participated, I would have little to say and would simply stare deeply into their eyes pondering how the light of humanity could have been so thoroughly extinguished within.
I believe the West is largely to blame for this continued barbarity. Why is there an Iranian Embassy in the middle of London, and does its presence not silently condone this continued barbarity against women? Where are the women’s groups to protest Western governments’ interactions with a country that can mutilate women in the most monstrous way?
I have a friend whose husband is a renowned physician who was called upon to treat a member of the Saudi royal family. They offered him a king’s ransom to fly to Riyadh. His wife objected: “If a woman isn’t allowed to drive a car in that kingdom, then you’re not going to treat the leadership,” she told him. He forfeited a fortune, but she made her point. How can any of these abuses against women change if we are all indifferent?
The sad thing about all this is the absence of a vocal majority of our Muslim brothers and sisters condemning Iran’s descent into barbarism. It seems that many are too busy condemning Israel to notice how Iranian morality has descended into hell. I am a strong supporter of Israel and believe Israel’s military actions against Hamas and Hezbollah are necessary measures of self-defense. But if any Israeli cartoonist were to caricature Arabsas grotesque subhumans, the way Jewsare regularly portrayed in Iran, I would callit an abomination against Jewish morality andvalues. They would attain a pariah status throughout Israel and the global Jewishcommunity.
In his speech last week from Governor’s Island about why the Ground Zero mosque ought to be built, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the 9/11 attacks were committed by “fanatics.” He refused to say even once that the attackers were Muslims, thereby offending history and common sense. Are we doing our Islamic brothers and sisters a favor when we whitewash crimes committed by Islam, or should we be encouraging them to condemn and cut out the growing cancer in global Islam? It may be tough love, but is it not more helpful to be honest about the growing brutality in the name of Islam so that those who love and practice this great world religion and wish to restore it to its former glory can reclaim it from the killers and the fanatics?
Fareed Zakaria just returned a humanitarian prize he received from the Anti-Defamation League because the organization came out against the Ground Zero mosque. He added that the mosque organizers are Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare because they are moderates who repudiate violence. How patronizing. That’s the most we can expect from Muslims, that they not support terrorism? Islam was once the most educated and forward-looking civilization in the world, and it degrades itself and is betrayed by so-called friends who tell it to aspire to nothing more than not being Osama bin Laden.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hosts “The Shmuley Show” on 77 WABC in New York City. He is the founder of This World: The Values Network and has just published “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley or visit him at shmuley.com.
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