Northern Valley Beacon

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Friday, October 28, 2005

 

Wiping out Israel and reading "Lolita"

During the homecoming weekend for NSU last month, a big topic of discussion was the book Reading Lolita in Tehran. Former students had told me I could not call myself literate unless I read it. They have a point.

The book is by Azar Nafisi who taught English literature at universities in Iran and now teaches at John Hopkins. Prof. Nafisi was expelled from the University of Tehran because the Islamic rulers did not find her subservient enough. The book is account of her teaching experiences, the most important of which occured when she and a group of women students met for two years every Thursday morning in her home to discuss works of literature.

The works included Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, which may seem like a risky choice to be reading in the immensely oppressive revolutionary Iran. Prof. Nafisi relates how important literature is and how it works as the intellectual material and catalyst to obtain pespectives and form values about political and social issues. She restores the purpose and function of literature in a way much needed in our time when fundamentalist militants have repressive designs for all of us.

Perhaps one of the most important things the book does is delineate the violent oppression that has held Iran in its grip since the revolution of 1979. The American press has let us know of how repressive the Taliban regime was in Afghanistan, but it has not told the free world that the same thing is going on in Iran, often worse. For a professor from America to hear how students are arrested and executed for slight exhibitions of individual personality or being associated with any circumstance that displeases the Islamic tyrants, it is jolting. The accounts given in Reading Lolita in Tehran indicate that the repressions and killing are as ruthless and atrocious as anything we have heard and read about in the former Soviet Union.

That Iran bases its pogrom against its people on religion instead of politics does not mitigate the crimes it commits against its people. Still, the press seems to regard what takes place there as an expression of freedom of religion.

Even after 9-11, Americans are inclined to treat Islamic criminals against humanity differently than Marxist or fascist terrorists. Christianity is based on peace and good will, even though few of its denominations preach or practice its fundamental principles. Islam is not a religion of peace and good will. And nothing illustrates that fact better than the president of Iran repeating Khomeini's charge to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

Iran is no different than Nazi Germany and its holocaust. It is no different than the Soviet Union during its most violent repressions under Stalin.

The world needs to know and understand Iran. There is no better beginning than Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran. And the free world, at least that portion of it that still endorses peace and good will as worthy attributes to pursue and project, needs to come to terms with what threats are posed to the rest of the world by the Islamic hate jihad.

Doing what we have done in Iraq is obviously no answer. It is time for America to martial its brain power, not its military bluster. It's what we did in 1776. And 1865. And during and following World War II.

If we don't, Israel may well be wiped off the face of the earth. And us, too.

The brains are out there. Maybe somebody somewhere can find the brains to use them.

Comments:
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David:

I want to make sure I understand this correctly. Are YOU saying that Islam is not a relision of peace and good will or are you quoting someone else?

"Even after 9-11, Americans are inclined to treat Islamic criminals against humanity differently than Marxist or fascist terrorists. Christianity is based on peace and good will, even though few of its denominations preach or practice its fundamental principles. Islam is not a religion of peace and good will. And nothing illustrates that fact better than the president of Iran repeating Khomeini's charge to Israel off the face of the earth."

That is an extraordinary statement, one I would not expect from someone of your sensitivity, educaton and open mindedness. Am I remiss in this analysis?

Todd Epp
SD Watch
http://thunewatch.squarespace.com
 
Todd:

I am trying to examine why the president of Iran can publicly call for the extermination of Israel, why 9-11 terrorists are driven to do what they did, why Sunnis can kill Shiites with such abandon. I am compressing too much into the statement as a means of stressing the importance and context of the book.

I should not single out Christianity as being based upon fostering peace and good will as basic theological premises. Most religions do. The Islam religion has no Christ who is proscribing hatred and violence and prescribing love, generosity, and healing. In the form it takes as the law of the Islamic Republic, it emphasizes that those who do not embrace the Muslim faith are an army of infidels against which it is right and proper to wage terrorism and war, and to give up one's own life in the process.

Islam as a theological system does not advocate hatred and violence. However, as a religion intepreted by fundamentalist clerics today there is no mention of peace and good will as attributes of a faithful Muslim. The emphasis is on exterminating those the dominant clerics term as being against Islam.

I don't think there is any question of what has happened in the world as a result of Islamic fundamentalists taking up the war against the West, Israel, and all the others deemed as infidels. When national regimes take this up, as in Iran which is clinging to its nuclear capabilities, we have to look at the source of hatred and violence directed toward us and so much of the rest of the world. And the source is in Mosques. And my point is that we can take measures against Marxist groups, for example, as political enemies who threaten us. We are reluctant to label Islamic sects as enemies of the same kind because to do so is interpreted as a religious discrimination--which is apparently what raised your concern about by comments.

However, my point is that we need to apply brain power, not force, to dealing with the hatred and violence directed against us. We need to help those clerics who say that the Muslim theology is one of peace and good will to find their voice in the strident calls to kill us off.

I appreciate your challenge to my glibness, and I hope this provides a more considered perspective on the import of my remarks.
 
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