Religion & Philosophy

Ahmadinejad: Champion of Holocaust denial — or the spiritual?


In December 2006 Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kicked off a two-day conference dedicated to examining whether the Holocaust took place.

In October 2008 he addressed the audience the International Congress on the 800th birth anniversary of Rumi.

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi, of course, was the Sufi teacher whose wildly ecstatic poetry has achieved as profound a resonance in readers and listeners down through the centuries as any poet who ever lived.

Ironic, isn’t it, that, as his most successful translator Coleman Barks pointed out in 2001, an Iranian was America’s bestselling poet. His popularity, especially with those who consider themselves hip, has only grown since.


Does that mean Ahmadinejad has seen the light? Um, maybe not.

Two weeks later, in response to ongoing oppression since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Sufis in western Iran attacked a Shiite mosque. In response, police and paramilitary troops demolished parts of a Sufi monastery with bulldozers.

There’s no love lost between Shiites, many of whom are prone to intolerance, and the freewheeling Sufis. Ahmadinejad’s appearance at the conference then was probably just a formality.

Still, can you imagine George Bush giving the keynote speech at a Walt Whitman celebration?

5 replies »

  1. Lost In Translation: Ahmadinejad And The Media By Ali Quli Qarai

    “. . . . Mr Bollinger’s hostility towards President Ahmadinejad had obviously been fed by devious translations and interpretations of his earlier—also world-famous—remarks about Israel and the Holocaust. As if, as one commentator has remarked, the professor had been watching only CNN and Fox News.

    · Unfortunately for more than an year these remarks have given a ready-made excuse to his critics to demonize him and attack Iran’s foreign policies. Although he has made some attempts (unjustifiably belated, I think, and not quite adequate) to clarify himself, we who hear these remarks have also an intellectual duty to ourselves and others to see exactly what he exactly meant.

    It is a basic linguistic principle of civilized discourse that so long as there is an acceptable and upright interpretation for someone’s remark, it should not be given a devious meaning. Moreover, as one of my teachers often says, it is easy to reject and denounce the statements of others, but the worthy task of every intelligent seeker is to try to understand people who hold different opinions. This is particular necessary when such statements originate in a different linguistic and cultural domain.

    When Ahmadinejad repeated Ayatullah Khomeini’s words that “Israel baayad az bayn beravad,” (which literally means that Israel should cease to exist), what is critically important for understanding is to see how Iranian people understand these words of their president. I don’t think any mature Iranian with some awareness of regional politics has ever thought that the late Leader of Iran, or the present president of the country, were advocating some kind of military objectives against Israel. By citing the example of the Soviet Union and the Apartheid regime in South Africa Ahmadinejad, too, has clarified what he meant by ‘Israel ceasing to exist.’ By the rules of civilized discourse, every speaker’s clarification concerning what he means is authoritative as he is entitled, before all others, to state and clarify what he means by his statements. In this case, Ahmadinejad has also clarified as to how he thinks that my happen: a general referendum in undivided Palestine with the participation of its Arab, Jewish and Christian population.

    As for his statement that the Holocaust in a myth, we all know that the word “myth” has several meanings in the dictionary. One of its meanings is “A fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). Thus a myth is not something necessarily untrue and Ahmadinejad has not denied outright that the Holocaust did occur, although he seems to have—what he considers to be legitimate—doubts about its exact extent, doubts which are prone to be strengthened, rightly or otherwise, by attempts to persecute or prosecute scholars whose research leads them to conclusions different from main-current historiography. What he basically appears to question is that the Holocaust should be made an ideological tool for the pursuit of unfair and inhuman objectives—something which most of us acknowledge has happened in the case of Palestine. Why should the people of Palestine be made to pay the price for the guilt and failings of Europe? He asks. I think that is a legitimate question.

    The savants of the media are free to interpret Ahmadinejad’s statement with the purpose of demonizing him and excoriating Iran, but there are better and alternate paths for those who strive for understanding and peace between nations, and to an objective like this should institutions like universities, including Columbia, contribute. . . . “

  2. Does Iran’s President Want Israel Wiped Off The Map – Does He Deny The Holocaust? By Anneliese Fikentscher and Andreas Neumann
    Translation to English: Erik Appleby

    ” . . . .
    Does Iran’s President wants Israel wiped off the map? . . . .

    An independent translation of the original (like the version published by ISNA) yields that Ahmadinejad does not use the term ‘map’. He quotes Ayatollah Khomeini’s assertion that the occupation regime must vanish from this world – literally translated: from the arena of times. Correspondingly: there is no space for an occupation regime in this world respectively in this time. The formulation ‘wipe off the map’ used by the ‘New York Times’ is a very free and aggravating interpretation which is equivalent to ‘razing something to the ground’ or ‘annihilating something’. The downwelling translation, first into English (‘wipe off the map’), then from English to German – and all literally (‘von der Landkarte löschen’) – makes us stride away from the original more and more. The perfidious thing about this translation is that the expression ‘map’ can only be used in one (intentional) way: a state can be removed from a map but not a regime, about which Ahmadinejad is actually speaking.

    Again following the independent translation: “I have no doubt that the new movement taking place in our dear Palestine is a spiritual movement which is spanning the entire Islamic world and which will soon remove this stain of disgrace from the Islamic world”.
    . . . .

    Does Iran’s President deny the Holocaust? . . . .

    The assertion that Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust thus is wrong in more than one aspect. He does not deny the Holocaust, but speaks of denial itself. And he does not speak of denial of the Holocaust, but of denial of the Myth of Holocaust. This is something totally different. All in all he speaks of the exploitation of the Holocaust. The Myth of Holocaust, like it is made a subject of discussion by Ahmadinejad, is a myth that has been built up in conjunction with the Holocaust to – as he says – put pressure onto somebody. We might follow this train of thoughts or we might not. But we cannot equalize his thoughts with denial of the Holocaust. . . . “

  3. Thanks very much for those articles, Dom.

    I know Ahmad. . . didn’t call for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth.

    But to come within even a time zone of the subject of questioning Holocaust numbers is only asking for trouble. By anyone, much less the leader of a state which Israel already thinks is out to obliterate it.

  4. The US should have had better sense than to set up an outpost in the Middle East back in 1948 and call it Israel. I would have relocated it to the middle of Africa, put a wall around it so they couldn’t bother the natives, and then cut off their annual welfare checks after they attacked the USS Liberty.

  5. “But to come within even a time zone of the subject of questioning Holocaust numbers is only asking for trouble. By anyone, much less the leader of a state which Israel already thinks is out to obliterate it.” what do you think of David Irving who lost his libel action in a British Court…where everything was laid out for anyone to read…