Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

The Madness of Moral Equivalence

October 22, 2007


We must acknowledge our roots, to understand ourselves. And only then can we begin to understand people with different roots. The person who denies his own origins can understand nothing. (David Warren, Ottawa Citizen, October 7, 2007) 

Refugees escaping to the free West from the soul-destroying tyrannies must have a difficult time understanding the self-loathing attitude among the western elite. Their difficulty is further complicated when they discover that the latter’s foremost target of contempt is the United States of America.  

This contempt is also alive and well among the Canadian media elite and can regularly be seen on the CBC and in the pages of the print media. A revealing demonstration of that mindset is Rick Salutin’s article in the Globe and Mail of September 28, 2007, entitled “So, really, who’s the buffoon?” 

Fatal Misdiagnosis

Rick Salutin, who is known as “a strong advocate of left wing causes,” outdid himself in playing the game of moral equivalence. He dismissed the critics of those who gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a platform at the UN and at Columbia University as “acting way over the top.”  

He describes the introduction of Ahmadinejad by Columbia University president Lee Bollinger as a “fairly brazen way to welcome a campus guest.”  Salutin reports that the president accused his guest of exhibiting signs of being a petty, cruel and fanatical dictator. But he thinks that such criticisms can also be made of the West, and of the U.S. President.  He lists among the sins of the U.S. “human rights outrages such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib” as well as “state sponsorship of terror.” 

Salutin places the Iranian president’s speeches in a world perspective in which the West has been the bully to the rest of the world. He says that there is a new game in which the role gets reversed. Now it is the turn of Ahmadinejad - and Hugo Chavez, who praised Noam Chomsky at the UN last year, while demonizing the U.S. President – to “laugh at the inane Western bully.” 

Salutin is convinced that the important issue is not “some fictitious war of civilizations,” but who gets to define reality. In this conflict, he reasons that the power of the West is not based on higher civilizational values but on its ability to dominate, economically, militarily, and culturally. In other words, on brute force. 

He concludes therefore that the issue is not who is right or wrong (the western democracies or their enemies) but the fact that “the civilizational playing field is finally being leveled.” He makes sure to couch this insight into the most offensive and demeaning terms: 

Criticisms like those made against the Iran leader can easily be made of the West, and George Bush, and often are…. It’s not a question which leader is the real buffoon. Both qualify. It’s about who gets to draw the line…. 

This is an astoundingly perverse redefinition of the conflict between a civilization ruled by sharia law where every aspect of life is rigidly and often brutally controlled, versus the West where the basic freedoms of belief, speech and association are imbedded in law and custom. To reduce this conflict to a fight between two equally laughable, buffoonish leaders is moral equivalence gone mad. 

Western democracies are far from perfect, but they have attained a level of shared prosperity, decency and civility that is unprecedented and that has attracted millions of refugees and immigrants, including large numbers from Iran. 

Fortunately for Salutin, he has never lived in a country such as Iran.  If he did and spouted the ideas he freely dispenses in Canada, he would soon find himself rotting in prison, or worse.  

The Call to Jihad

The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded by the widely revered Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1900 –1989) who preached a radical version of the Islamic religion with a world-embracing ambition. Here is the reason and methods of such a regime in the words of the Ayatollah himself: 

…Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males…to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world…. But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world…. People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors!… Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim. (Quoted in Amir Taheri, Holy Terror: Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism, pp. 241-243) 

Columbia University’s invitation to Ahmadinejad was an insult not only to what the university historically represents, such as notions of truthfulness, honour and freedom. It is no less an insult to those Iranians who have been imprisoned, tortured and killed, and those who are now suffering under this brutal regime. 

The current Islamist rulers of Iran are determined to acquire nuclear power, and Ahmadinejad has pledged to destroy Israel – and America.  Furthermore, Iran is supporting terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, enabling them to spread terror in the Middle East and destabilizing Israel and Lebanon. There is good reason to believe that it is also actively supporting the killers in Iraq with their murderous campaign against American soldiers and defenceless Iraqi citizens. 

Instead of treating Iran as a country that violates every pledge of its membership of the UN, Ahmadinejad was invited to address the UN as if he were a representative of a member state in good standing. But the reality is very different.  

A good source of information on this score is the Iranian-born authorAmir Taheri, who has authored several books and currently is a regular columnist for a number of publications. (His material is also available on the Benador Associates website.) 

“Cleansing” the Universities

In his column dated September 7, 2007, Taheri explains that president Amadinejad is following in the footsteps of the Ayatollah Khomeini who masterminded the first “Islamic Cultural Revolution.” In 1980, Khomeini charged a committee, including the current  Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei and two former presidents, with “cleansing” all centres of higher education.  

This committee did not take half measures. It closed all universities and related institutions for two years, during which it purged over 6000 university professors and lecturers. Dozens of them were executed and many fled the country. 

When the universities reopened they were staffed by loyal adherents to Khomeinism, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The works of many authors were banned, including those of Taheri, and textbooks were re-written.

Despite these drastic attempts to reshape education, they did not prevent Iranian universities from becoming centres of opposition to Khomeinist ideology.  

To eliminate that opposition, Ahmadinejad has started the second “Islamic Cultural Revolution” by appointing what Taheri calls a “semi-literate mullah” as Chancellor of Tehran University, Iran’s oldest and largest centres of higher education. Other measures to insure that the “enemies of Islam” are defeated included the following:

- Over 20 college deans have been replaced, and scores of professors and lecturers have been fired, while dozens of academics were arrested.  

- Thirty privately owned colleges have been closed and their assets seized, while 13 others are under investigation, possibly interrupting the studies of some 100.000 students. 

- An unknown number of students has been arrested. Student leaders have “disappeared,” including 150 in Tehran. The families of two known students claim that they may have died under torture. 

- A special force commanded by an IRGC veteran has been assigned the task of “ensuring a peaceful atmosphere” at centres of higher learning, where armed guards are posted to prevent anti-regime demonstrations. 

You need not take the word of this veteran Iran expert alone to believe this sad tale of abuses against the people of Iran. On March 12, 2007, an international coalition of human rights groups called on nine European government ministers to rebuke Iran for its repression of women, dissidents and religious and ethnic minorities.  

Human Rights Trampled

The coalition appealed to the governments of Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, France, Liechtenstein, and Norway, to use all its influence at the UN Human Rights Council to “speak out strongly against Iran’s gross violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights….”  

The coalition referred to the UN General Assembly Resolution of December 19, 2006, which cited Iran for these gross violations of human rights:  violence against women; harassment and intimidation of journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents, and workers’ advocates; absence of due process; torture; public execution; increasing discrimination, including violent crackdowns, and other human rights violations against” a number of listed minorities. 

In Iran the legal age for marriage is nine for girls. In 2000, the Iranian Parliament voted to raise the minimum age for girls to fourteen, but a legislative oversight body dominated by clerics vetoed this move. (Ayatollah Khomeini married a ten-year-old girl.) 

In 2004, a sixteen-year-old girl, Atefeh Rajabi was hanged in a public square in Iran for being charged with adultery – which probably meant that she was raped. Eight women are now in prison on Iran awaiting death by stoning. And let’s never forget the torture and murder of the Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi in July 2003. 

Iran is not alone in its barbaric treatment of women. All sharia-ruled countries treat women as people without rights, often isolated in their own homes, the victims of so-called honour killings and of divorce unilaterally decided by men, and subjected to genital mutilation and other forms of abuse. 

Yet Ahmadinejad had the gall to depict America as a place of oppression, while bragging about the benefits of Islamic rule and the complete freedom enjoyed by the women of Iran. And he got away with it because no one had the insight and courage to expose the blatant lies of this imposter to his face.  

The authorities responsible for providing a forum for this charlatan in the heart of the free West bleat about the value of dialogue and the free flow of ideas.  None of that took place. Rather, the enemies of freedom scored a major propaganda victory, and they are now celebrating their victory all over the Islamic world with this message: “Our intrepid hero entered the lions’ den and he exposed the lions to be fools and cowards.”  

That Rick Salutin trivializes the real war between freedom and tyranny is bad enough. But that he does so while calling the American president a buffoon is a deeply offensive abuse of his freedom as a Canadian citizen. It seems to have escaped him that in doing so he is abetting those who are determined to cut short his journalistic career, too.  

David Warren is right. Those who deny their own roots understand nothing.

Middle East Politics
Politics -West
Review Articles
What Happens to Truth