Voices from the Arab press: new faces and new fears in Tehran


Asharq al-Awsat, London, November 3

What do you do when you feel the need to do something but are ashamed to do it at the same time? This is the exact question faced by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, this week, as he contemplated how to deal with one of his annual rituals celebrating the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the seizure of of hostages of US diplomats on November 4, 1979.

During President Hassan Rouhani’s eight-year tenure, the celebration of this occasion softened into a small symbolic gathering on the site of the former embassy, ​​consisting of some camera shots taken for state television.

In the last two years, in particular, many of the prominent elements that have always been associated with such a celebration have disappeared.

For example, the annual “A World Without America” symposium, attended for decades by anti-American professionals from around the world (including the United States itself), was removed entirely from the program. People like Louis Farrakhan, Oliver Stone, Sean Penn and other self-hating Americans weren’t invited to make their annual pilgrimage to Tehran.

Similarly, Iranian readers were spared another translation of Noam Chomsky’s latest hate speech against America.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, on March 11, 2021 (Credit: OFFICIAL KHAMENEI WEBSITE / BROCHURE VIA REUTERS)

Among the other events that were missing was the “The End of Israel” symposium that brought together Holocaust deniers from around the world, and the accompanying international exhibition of anti-Semitic cartoons.

However, with the rise to power of President Ebrahim Raisi, there was a widespread expectation that some of these virulent rituals would revive.

However, surprisingly this did not happen. Even stranger, it appears that the new Iranian leadership chose to reduce the annual celebration even further.

Officials tried to do this in a number of ways. Among them was an attempt to attach other slogans to the “November 4 events” that were supposed to celebrate “the humiliation of the Great American Satan.” Among the new names given to the events were: “the anniversary of the exile of Imam Khomeini” in 1964 (although this happened on the fifth of November, not the fourth). Another title was “the day of the massacre perpetrated by the shah against primary and secondary school students and children” in 1976, although none of that happened at all.

It is clear that Raisi is almost as determined as his predecessor to tone down his administration’s anti-American rhetoric.

The question is why? After all, a large part of the current regime’s discourse revolves around the claim that the previous administration abandoned its jihad against the “Great Satan” in exchange for empty promises from former President Barack Obama.

One explanation is that the new regime believes that the “Great Satan” has already been significantly weakened, as was clearly evident in its recent evacuation from Afghanistan. According to Ayatollah Tayeb, political-religious commissar of the Revolutionary Guard, the United States today is like “the corpse of a dead donkey that does not even need to be skinned.”

However, such arrogant and ostentatious comments often outweigh the actual fear.

In this context, the first fear is that the Biden administration is unwilling to repeal the “maximum pressure” policy followed by former President Donald Trump, which brought the Islamic Republic to the brink of bankruptcy.

Another fear is that Biden, even if he wanted to, might not be able to lift sufficient sanctions on Iran, especially since lifting most sanctions requires the approval of the United States Congress, which Biden cannot take for granted.

Another concern is that Biden may have given Israel the green light to carry out “limited but decisive action” against Iran’s nuclear sites. Such a move would force the regime to cross the red line it has adhered to for four decades by providing a real response to military action against it.

Consequently, Biden’s next step will be decisive. If the president gives in too easily, he can breathe new life into the demons of “old Tehran.” If you choose to make empty statements, you may miss out on helping those seeking real regime change in Tehran. – Amir Taheri


Al-qabas, Kuwait, November 4

There is a huge gap between the Jews and their enemies or, more precisely, between the Jews and the Arab world. This gap is represented not only by Israel’s military superiority over its neighbors, but also by its more progressive culture and consciousness.

On the map, Israel looks as if its neighbors could easily swallow it in a matter of seconds. However, it is clear that it is going nowhere. Although the Arabs have lived in this region for thousands of years, what separated them has always been greater than what brought them together. By contrast, in Israel, where the vast majority of the population immigrated from countless ethnic and cultural backgrounds, a unifying culture has formed. The Israelis were able, with limited resources and under the harshest conditions, to build a national identity that is nothing short of a miracle.

So what is Israel’s secret?

The Muslim Brotherhood is considered by many to be the only ideological and political organization capable of uniting people throughout the Middle East under a joint identity, similar to what the Zionist movement tried to do at the first Zionist Congress held in Basel in 1897. Half a century, the Zionist movement achieved its dream and established a modern state capable of imposing itself on the entire world. As for the Brotherhood, they have been trying to do the same for more than 90 years, but have failed time and time again.

The success of the Zionist movement and the failure of the Brotherhood movement are due to several factors.

First, the Zionists succeeded in recruiting the best scientific and political minds to serve and lead their cause, regardless of these individuals’ adherence to traditional Jewish thought. This is where the Brotherhood failed, as their choices were miserable from the start. The very nature of the Brotherhood prevents anyone who does not adhere to the group’s vision of Islam from actively participating in its activity.

Second, while the Zionist movement was open about its goals, the Brotherhood always suffered from a lack of transparency about its ideology. No one really knows the group’s governing plan or its final plans. We saw it clearly during his rule in Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan.

Third, and most importantly, the Jews’ historical interest in science and their well-known passion for reading and academic research enabled them to establish a state with strong educational and cultural institutions from day one. As for the Brotherhood, it has demonstrated its incapacity and failure scientifically, politically and culturally for almost a century.

Finally, let me finish with the following parting thought: a study conducted by the well-known American Pew Research Center in 2016 showed that the average Jew has 13.4 years of education, followed by Christians, with 9.3 years. I will spare you the embarrassment of knowing what the same rate is in our countries. – Ahmad Al-Sarraf


Al-Ittihad, United Arab Emirates, November 4

You will never be able to convince conspiracy theorists of real world facts, even if you show them written proof that they are wrong. The problem with conspiracy theorists is not just the conspiracies they believe in, but also their perception of the world and how it works.

Unfortunately, the Arab world has its fair share of conspiracy theorists. And, according to many of them, the entire Western world wants to trap Muslims. The idea of ​​”Muslims” becomes a monolith in his imagination: a single group pursued by an external enemy. Unsurprisingly, according to these theorists, there is an ongoing conspiracy against Islam and Muslims in an effort to bring them down.

Recently, with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, conspiracy theorists around the world enjoyed significant tailwinds and growing popularity. They began to spread rumors about vaccines, Big Pharma, and government surveillance.

And unsurprisingly, the local Islamist “branch” of these theorists adapted the narrative to suggest that Muslims are the latest victims of COVID vaccines. According to them, the vaccine, the culmination of tremendous scientific research led by scientists, academics and doctors around the world, is nothing more than a secret weapon intended to poison innocent Muslims.

The only way to combat this ignorance is by promoting a culture of scientific inquiry and rational thinking. Fighting conspiracy theorists and their lies in adulthood is almost a lost cause. The battle must begin at an earlier stage, with how we educate our children and teach them to consume knowledge critically. That is what we must do. – Malik Al-Uthamina

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.


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