“God’s Warriors” begins tonight on CNN. But on Saturday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (everyone’s favorite) let us know who he thinks is Satan’s warrior: “The Zionist regime is the standard bearer of invasion, occupation and Satan.”
In honor of Ahmadinejad’s statement, Slate posted a two-year-old explanation of what the Muslim Satan is like.
What does he look like? Muslims don’t have a clear iconography for Iblis, and there’s no Shaitanic counterpart to the red-skinned, pitchfork-wielding demon of Christianity. During the hajj, Shaitan is represented by a featureless stone pillar or wall. Pilgrims “stone Satan” by throwing rocks at the wall.
In Iran, where the Ayatollah Khomeini first dubbed the United States “the Great Satan” in the late 1970s, the words might evoke the divs, or devils, of Persian mythology. These were often depicted as gnarly-looking creatures with horns, dark skin, and protruding teeth. (Ancient literature describes the invasion of Persia by a particularly nasty monster called the White Div.) Posters from the Iranian revolution sometimes depicted Jimmy Carter or Uncle Sam in a demonic guise. In this one, a figure representing Israel and America stands over the shah, who is intertwined with a serpent.