Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ahmadinejad is no Shah and wears no turban

Iran va Jahan - For heaven’s sake to compare Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a shah (king) with a turban not only reveals Mr Friedman’s blindspot but also his apparent lack of understanding of Iran’s historical and religious makeup. Firstly, the new president is, despite his messianic tendencies and conversations with the Hidden Imam, a non-cleric. Even if he were a cleric, no true Islamic theologian would allow him to wear religious garb let alone carry the turban of a holy man. Secondly, comparisons to the Shah, is an unfair attempt to downplay the key role played by Iranian monarchs in the past 25 centuries. Whilst lacking in democratic virtues, many shahs characterized their rule by establishing their authority and the stability required for the flourishing of art, religion, education and material and cultural advancement.

But perhaps, Mr Friedman was drawing comparisons with the last Shah of Iran whose 37 year rule has so easily been written-off as has his positive accomplishments. This too, is misleading. True, at worst, the proud Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi may be criticised for his ambitious dreams for a modern Iran and falling from power, but he will also be remembered for promoting a civil society and a culture of tolerance practiced by his ancestors.