Marquette Warrior: Iranian Cleric, Former President, Visits America

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Iranian Cleric, Former President, Visits America

From Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe, the scoop on former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, who is on a speaking tour of the United States.
When he became president in 1997, Khatami was reputed to be a moderate democratic reformer. If he had lived up to that reputation, his arrival in America might well be worth celebrating. True, his style was not as incendiary as that of his successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But he was just as committed to Khomeini’s radical revolution and its goal of worldwide Islamist rule. If there is one thing Khatami’s presidency made clear, it is that the man was no moderate.

His election as president came only after religious authorities disqualified 234 potential competitors they considered too liberal. In his own writings, Khatami has insisted that “only those who have attended religious seminaries should have a voice in government.” Separation of church and state? Not for this theocrat.

And he is no more opposed to terrorism than he is to theocracy. As minister of culture and Islamic guidance in the 1980s, Khatami oversaw the creation of Hezbollah, the deadly terrorist group that would kill more Americans prior to 9/11 than any other terrorist organization on earth. During the recent war in Lebanon, he hailed Hezbollah as “a shining sun that illuminates and warms the hearts of all Muslims.” Throughout Khatami’s term of office, the US State Department identified Iran as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. It was on his watch that President Bush named Iran a part of the “Axis of Evil.”

In 1998, Khatami’s intelligence agents brutally murdered Darioush Forouhar and his wife Parvaneh, two well-known leaders of Iran’s liberal opposition. The following year, government thugs attacked student dissidents at Tehran University. Several students were killed. Hundreds were arrested and tortured.

Many Iranians had hoped that Khatami’s accession to office would mean more freedom of speech and of the press. But he presided over the shutting down of at least 85 newspapers and the prosecution of numerous journalists. Reporters Without Borders called Iran under Khatami “the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East.” It was a prison as well for Iran’s religious minorities, all of which were severely persecuted. In a letter protesting the National Cathedral’s invitation to Khatami, the chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Felice Gaer, notes that during Khatami’s tenure “Jews, Christians, Sunni and Sufi Muslims, Baha’is, dissident Shia Muslims, and others . . . faced systematic harassment, discrimination, imprisonment, torture, and even execution based on their religious beliefs.”
Jacoby strongly objects to the fact that the State Department gave Khatami a visa to enter the country. He cites, and then objects to, the State Department’s explanation of its decision to let him in. First, the State Department:
We recognize that former President Khatami headed a regime that is a leading sponsor of terrorism (and) human rights abuses, and presided over Iran’s secret nuclear program which is now the focus of possible UN action. After careful deliberation, however, we determined that issuing Mr. Khatami a limited visa, and allowing Mr. Khatami to present his views directly to the American people, will demonstrate to Iran that the United States upholds its commitment to freedom and democracy.
Jacoby claims that “Only in Foggy Bottom could people get paid to concoct such arguments.”

We disagree with Jacoby on that.

Based on his first few talks, he seems to be striking a conciliatory tone. But talk is cheap, and his unsavory record is more important than nice-sounding rhetoric about interfaith cooperation.


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