Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced appropriate scorn when he told that audience at Columbia that “we don’t have homosexuals in this country … we don’t have this phenomenon.” Now he’s saying that he was the victim of bad translating, and that he meant to say that “compared to American society, we don’t have many homosexuals.” Like so many other politicians, he sent his press person out to make the excuses.
It’s far more important to focus on what is done to gays in Iran than it is to parse Ahmadinejad’s words – especially since as President he has relatively little executive power. Both he and the ayatollahs who really run Iran continue to do terrible things, including the public execution of two gay teenagers in 2005.
That’s why the “Invention of an Anti-Christ,” as John Stokes calls the demonization of Ahmadinejad, is such a tragic error. There is an active democratic movement in Iran, an active underground — and real live gay people. From the Times:
Tehran has several famous areas, like Karim-Khan Street, or Mellat, Laleh and Daneshjoo parks, where gays meet and where gay prostitutes seek customers. “It does not take them even 10 minutes to get picked up,” said Amir, 24, a graphic designer who is gay. “There are men from every class,” he said. “Some of them are bisexual and call it being naughty.”
The demonization of a man who is relatively unpopular, and who holds very little real power, only serves to increase his popularity and weaken the nascent democratic and civil rights movements.
In fact, Middle East analysts like Juan Cole believe that Bush’s public statements helped Ahmadinejad win his initial surprise victory over more moderate opponents. Cole said at the time that “it seems most likely that Bush administration pressure on Iran, naming it as an axis of evil, making clear a desire to overthrow its government, and militarily surrounding it in Afghanistan and Iraq, pushed the Iranian electorate to the right.”
Ahmadinejad does, of course, make a perfect foil the American Right’s claim of an “existential threat” to our way of life – a claim used to justify the ongoing abrogation of our own civil rights in the name of national security. Not that we’re necessarily thinking conspiratorially – but it certainly gives them no reason to worry that their propaganda blitz might in fact be helping the career of an odious man.
And it’s not like the American Right is going to go toe-to-toe with Ahmadinejad over gay rights. After all, they’re in basic agreement about homosexuality. So the job is left instead to comedians and singers like those in the SNL video clip up above (including Maroon 5’s Adam Levine).
“You be the Jews and I’ll be your Jim Caviezel,” the song says. Sounds like the relationship between conservatives and Ahmadinejad, especially as we learn of Ann Coulter’s latest outburst. Jews need to be “perfected,” says Ann, and this would be a better country if everyone were Christian.
The Right and Mahmoud – they were made for each other.