Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

I found this blurb in The Week very interesting. I have often been intrigued by President Ahmadinejad, despite some of the seemingly radical points of view he holds. I find it interesting that a couple of the most off-the-wall things he supposedly said - the ones that get played over and over again by our media to make us believe Iran is an awful threat - are possibly just flat-out bad translations. I guess Mahmoud just needs to learn English...


Author of the week: Hooman Majd

Hooman Majd admits that he has repeated some hateful things in recent years, said James Toback in Interview. As an occasional live translator for Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the New York–based journalist parroted Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theories just last month. “It was hard to keep a straight face,” Majd wrote in Salon.com, when Ahmadinejad used a September U.N. speech to repeat claims from the long-discredited Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

But Majd claims that many Americans’ ideas about Ahmadinejad are wrong and that they spring from ignorance about Iran. Majd has aimed to bridge the divide with his first book, The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, a highly personal portrait of the country he was born in.

Majd’s work as a translator has given him a unique perspective on the Iranian president. Simply the fact that the regime lets him do it indicates a tolerance for differing opinions: The son of a pre-revolution Iranian diplomat, Majd is an open supporter of Ahmadinejad’s predecessor and political rival, Mohammad Khatami. But he defends Ahmadinejad on certain scores.

Majd says the man never claimed there were no homosexuals in Iran, as has been reported. “I can’t believe that was translated the way it was,” he says. What Ahmadinejad meant, Majd says, was that Iran has no open gay culture. As for the Ahmadinejad’s infamous declaration that Israel “must be wiped off the map,” Majd claims that the original Farsi implied no true threats. “Very few things a Persian says,” he adds, “should ever be taken literally.”

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