The XX Factor

Insights From Ahmadinejad

One thing that’s reliably true is that fundamentalists have no sense of irony. When NBC’s Andrea Mitchell recently interviewed Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, she pointed out that his government is ginning up anti-American protests over the controversy about the World Trade Center mosque and the nonburning of the Quran by a Christian fundamentalist kook. Ahmadinejad explained to Mitchell that he knew that anything anti-Muslim in the U.S. is strictly the work of “Zionists.”  It’s these shady, nefarious people-“they have no religion,” Ahmadinejad further explained-who are stirring up all the trouble. So in Ahmadinejad’s worldview, when a fringe Christian pastor in America threatens to burn the Quran, it’s the work of Jews. What’s so chilling about his remarks is that packaged in a slightly more “polite” form, they are widely held and expressed by many people in the West. I spent some time at a fellowship at Cambridge University in the past few years, and I was shocked to hear how often Israel comes to the mind of these elites-even when the subject is not the Middle East-and is mentioned as a short-hand for evil-doing.  No other country, not Sudan, North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Congo, Saudi Arabia-the list of murderous and oppressive regimes goes on and on-gets mentioned in the same way, if at all, or with such contempt.