Saturday, April 28, 2007

Another Side of Iranian Society

I wrote last year about a piece in the New York Times on growing up as a Jew in Iran, and the Christian Science Monitor has a great article today on the Islamic Republic's small but ancient Jewish community. Now numbering 25,000 but guaranteed civic and religious freedoms that might come as a surprise to those that see Iran only as the fulcrum of the Axis of Evil, the community sees no contradiction between their religion and their nationality. Recently-deposed Israeli president Moshe Katsav is a native of Isfahan, and there is one Jewish member of the Iranian Assembly. It might be pointed out that there are also many Iranian Muslims that have no truck with the decrepit theocracy that reigns in the country. President Ahmadinejad is, of course, a nasty piece of work and he doesn't stint on the anti-semitism but Iran is a complex country where constituencies overlap - a large sector of the Shia clergy is liberal and pro-reform - and the country, for all its faults, has a remarkable culture and civic society that towers over the wretched pro-West dictatorships of the Arabian peninsula. There are many in the West, like John McCain that think that a bombing of Iran might sort its problems out for good, but as Ciamak Moresadegh, the Chairman of the Tehran Jewish Committee points out, 'if a war were to start, we would also be a target. When a missile lands, it does not ask if you are a Muslim or a Jew. It lands.'

The Christian Science Monitor is a paper that is not very well known outside the US and its excellent online edition and RSS feeds are well worth bookmarking as it is one of the few genuinely independent American news sources.