The anti-war protestors risk condoning Iran by Peyvand Khorsandi

Below is an article in the Evening Standard of Monday the 20th of February 2012. I like it very much.


The anti-war protestors risk condoning Iran

by Peyvand Khorsandi

What would possess a privileged, young American man to go to Iran and convert to Shia Islam?

Oliver Stone’s 27-year-old son Sean went there in September to research a documentary about the Persian poet Rumi and returned this month for a film festival. Then, following a religious ceremony last week, he became a Muslim, adopting the name Ali.

The festival had wanted to invite Angelina Jolie too but a backlash ensued, with the conservative film-maker, Farajolah Salahshor, branding her a “whore actress”. This is the sort of company Stone keeps in Iran – news websites carry a picture of him being greeted by Salahshor.

Stone follows in the footsteps of Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth, who went native when she visited Iran in 2010 and now wears a hijab. Looking to Booth might provide clues as to what inspired him.

Iran, after all, is where gay people are hanged and women accused of adultery might well be stoned – a curious backdrop for the spiritual tourist to reach enlightenment.

“I felt what Muslims feel when they are in true prayer,” wrote Booth of her experience in a mosque. “A bolt of sweet harmony, a shudder of joy in which I was grateful for everything.”

That gratitude may well have been in part for her job as a presenter for Press TV, the Iranian-owned channel based in Ealing, which recently lost its UK broadcasting licence.

Like Booth, beyond any call of duty as a Muslim, Stone’s relationship with the Islamic Republic amounts to an endorsement of political Islam. Key to this is Iran’s backing of Hamas – Israel is a “cancerous tumour”, the supreme leader declared earlier this month.

Speaking to a US film website in September, Stone has even defended president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “There’s a lot of mistranslation, literally, I’ve seen it,” he said. As a fluent Persian speaker I would beg to differ.

Like Booth, Stone sees Ahmadinejad as a strongman in the struggle against Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians. “Israel has nuclear weapons, Iran has the right to them,” he has said.

Unfortunately, many agree with him: Israel operates a policy of “ambiguity” over its nuclear weapons, which are not subject to international checks, so why shouldn’t Iran, they argue.

That there are double standards is undeniable. But no self-respecting artist should wish the Islamic Republic to be any more empowered than it is.

Walking past a bookshop in Southwark the other day, I was heartened by a placard the owner had put in the display: “Don’t Attack Iran” – with that distinctive splodge of red from when the “n” was a “q”.

No to war – I couldn’t agree more. But I cannot take part in Stop The War Coalition events and rallies because if I wanted to listen to friends of political Islam such as George Galloway make speeches, I’d go back to Iran.

Peter Tatchell put it succinctly in a Facebook post: “Why is the anti-war movement silent about human rights abuses by the clerical dictatorship in Tehran? Silence is collusion.”

Instead of highlighting the plight of imprisoned filmmaker Jafar Panahi, Stone has us believe that “Iran is ruled by law”. Criticising the clerics, he believes, is “like someone coming to your house and saying the father shouldn’t hit the kids.”

Um, just a suggestion, Sean – perhaps the father shouldn’t hit the kids?

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