The Ayatollah Begs to Differ
Written: Aug 11, 2010 (Updated Aug 11, 2010)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Quick read, some good anecdotes, Iranian perspective
Cons:No real solutions presented, suppression during 2009 election barely addressed
The Bottom Line: Worth a read if you are fascinated with the subject and want to get a better perspective from the “other” side, but no real solutions or in-depth analysis
I have long been fascinated with politics, and I believe there are several important elements in being able to predict future events in our complicated world. The predictor has to understand their history, and be able to draw parallels to current events. One has to understand the complexities of relationships between the different political entities, and how each entity affects each other. And, of course, one has to have a very good understanding of the entities themselves in order to have any kind of an accurate prediction. I have witnessed many times how Americans completely misinterpret the actions or words of Russian (and previously Soviet) politicians, sometimes predicting their actions, but never fully comprehending the reason behind them.
Obviously one of the big events happening right now is the struggle between the U.S., France, and Israel (among other countries) and Iran with China and (somewhat) Russia on its side. Because of my own background, I am very against the current government and their pursuit of nuclear weapons. But I want to understand what is causing them to pursue this, and have read several different books that shone light on the matter. I have heard many different reasons, such as pride, defensive needs, or even the official excuse that no nuclear weapons are being pursued (even though plenty of contrary evidence as well as Iran’s actions pretty much make this laughable).
The author of the book is Hooman Majd, a writer who has come from a wealthy and affluent Iranian family, but has spent most of his life in New York and Britain. He has also been an advisor and a translator for two Iranian presidents, Khamani and Ahmadinejad.
Even though Majd has many ties to the regime, he quickly distances himself from the more extreme of its statements, such as Holocaust denial and other controversial subjects. As you read the book, you realize that Majd might have started off trying to gather Iran’s response to the conflict, but the book evolved into more a study of Iranian culture. He describes different customs and traditions, such as tal’moud (an idea that two men have to belittle themselves while praising the other, with a anecdotal saying of “Urinate on the floor and I will dive in” being an extreme case). He describes how he smokes opium with a family, how partying and alcohol continues to flow freely for the right people, and attempts at explaining the self-flagellation that is associated with Shi’a Islam.
Majd presents many interesting concepts on the culture, and tries to describe some of the political conversations that he has had, but I found missing exactly what I was looking for, which was real concrete suggestions. Maybe my expectations from the book were unreasonable, but I wanted to see concrete steps on how the divide can be bridged, and I found none of those. I found nothing to suggest any concrete actions that can be taken to narrow the gap between the nuclear crisis, or to bring Israel and Iran (once close allies) together and get them to start working on improved relations. The book was written prior to the 2009 crackdown on dissidents, and the crackdown makes a lot of the authors theories invalid now. He does go over this in the preface, but some of the points of the book vanish by current events and the actions of the Iranian leadership. His argument that there is a form of democracy in Iran is non-existent, and some of the people (i.e. Rafsanjani) that he praises in the book have since spoken out against the brutal crackdowns and even went as far as to say that the current oppression is worse than that during the Shah’s regime.
The book is a fun read, and has plenty of amusing anecdotes and stories, but offers no real solutions or suggestions.
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