Monday, July 07, 2003

I've returned to Iran. I have some vignettes to share...

One day I was talking with Brendan McKay who is visiting Iran in August. Professor McKay has done much work explaining the "Bible Code" phenomenon to people in lectures and over the Internet. He's given many lectures in Israel explaining that the phenomenon can be found in any large text, for example "Moby Dick". Now, he suggested that he could talk about "Koran Codes" in Iran - how the number 19 occurs in strange ways, for example. But he was joking and I didn't realise it! It is unfortunately completely impossible and absolutely verboten to talk about things like that in Iran and leave alive - just look at Aghajari for example. It is not possible to say things like "the Koran changed over time" or to investigate it scientifically or properly. It's much worse than the New York Times article from last year describing the situation in the USA...

"Between fear and political correctness,
it's not possible to say anything other than sugary
nonsense about Islam," said one scholar at an American
university who asked not to be named, referring to the
threatened violence as well as the widespread reluctance on
United States college campuses to criticize other cultures.

"The Muslims have the benefit of hindsight of the
European experience, and they know very well that once you
start questioning the holy scriptures, you don't know where
it will stop," the scholar explained.

You can talk about how the Torah changed in Israel, but not how the Koran changed in Iran. It's a religious development issue, and when it's possible to discuss everything freely Iran will be a stronger society. Just look at the societies where these issues can be discussed.

Christopher de Bellaigue is writing a book about Iran! He is the Economist correspondent in Iran and is quite level-headed, unlike the (cough, cough) so-called American "correspondents" I fulminate regularly against.

Hoder asked how people could learn more about Iran and its people. I have a good suggestion - I've mentioned it here before. There's a book I bought in the UK called Persepolis about a girl born in 1969 growing up in Tehran. It's a magnificently illustrated cartoon book and has both hilarious and poignant dialogue. If you want to know more about Iran go out and buy it. Now.

Now it's time to go and answer all that email!

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