One of the many problems with theocratic rule is that the top dog has the authority to make decisions for the whole state based on personal beliefs as long as those beliefs do not constitute heresy. In Islam, that allows for a wide latitude of dangerous rulings.
The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, is a case in point. Recently, in his nationally televised Nowruz speech marking the start of the Persian New Year, Khamenei explained to listeners why he and his government adamantly refused to accept medical aid from the United States as the coronavirus runs unchecked throughout Iran.
(By the way, the Islamic regime also rejected help from Médecins Sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders], ejecting a team that had already landed in Isfahan to set up a fifty bed field hospital with the excuse that they were not needed since the epidemic was “well under control.” ) Khamenei went on to say that the US government could not be trusted. He gave credence to the outlandish conspiracy theory that the US military had cooked up the coronavirus specifically to target the Iranian people’s genome, and that to let them into Iran now would be like letting the fox into the henhouse. How much more damage might Iran’s greatest enemy do to Iran (i.e., to the governmental regime) should they have hands-on access to millions of vulnerable people?
As he waxed eloquent about the US administrative, military and intelligence services pouring all their energies into destroying the Islamic Republic, Khamenei revealed a bit of his Muslim perspective on international relations. Iran, he conceded, had many human enemies (all of the infidel countries who are part of the sanctions coalition). But, he also added, the country also faced many demonic enemies — in Islam, these are known as jinn — and worst of all, the jinn and infidel human governments are working in partnership with each other:
“…There are enemies who are demons and there are enemies who are humans, and they help one another. The intelligence services of many countries cooperate with one another against us… Today, our most evil enemy – the enemy of the Islamic Republic [of Iran] – is America.”
When official Iranian news agencies first reported on the Ayatollah’s speech, they left out his comments on the jinn and their partnership with America, Israel and other infidel nations against Iran.
But the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Cyber Division posted that same day the full video of Khamenei’s speech along with two video clips from “respected theologians” to support the Supreme Leader’s claims concerning the demons and humans conspiring together. Entitled “The Supreme Leader’s Important Hint Regarding The Western-Hebrew Spy Apparatuses’ Use Of Infidel Demons To Strike Iran,” the post quoted Shi’ite seminary lecturers, Ali Akbar Raefi-Pour and Hojatoleslam Valiollah Naghi-Pour are using demons in order to steal classified documents from the Iranian Defense Ministry, in separate video clips.
Rafei-Pour declares in his teaching that “The Israeli Mossad is officially and insistently using demons to read the other side’s military thinking, to read the enemy chief of staff’s plans, and to carry out intelligence operations.” As proof that what this theologian says is true, not only of Israel but also of the United States, the IRGC Cyber Division points to the 2016 Hollywood film Suicide Squad to demonstrate that the Pentagon and associated intelligence agencies “…are using demons in order to steal classified documents from the Iranian Defense Ministry.” In the film, a top-secret US agency coerces the Enchantress, an otherworldly witch (= jinni) to dematerialize, travel instantly to Iran’s most heavily guarded “weapons ministry vault” in Tehran, steal its military’s top secret plans, and return to the Pentagon, plopping them on the desk in front of America’s top general. Hollywood, apparently unwittingly, let slip the secret that the USA is indeed employing demons to debilitate and ultimately incapacitate the Islamic Republic of Iran. You can see the proof for yourself in the clip below:
Meanwhile, in the Cyber Division’s second posted clip, also undated, Naghi-Pour asserted confidently, “Israel wanted to use demonic force to infiltrate the intelligence systems of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. They did not succeed, and they [the Israelis] are still wondering why not, because it is well known that the Jews are experts in sorcery and in creating relationships with demons.”
Those evil, satanically-inspired Jews! Does not the Qur’an say that Allah has cursed them for their unbelief (2:88; 4:46) and made their hearts hard so that in the vast majority you will always find treachery (5:13)? Are not the Jews recipients of Allah’s retribution, some having been turned into apes and pigs due to their slavery to demons (5:60)? Are they not strongest in hatred against the Muslims (5:82). Allah declares that they are of insolent character (17:4) and have forged lies against Allah in order to turn away from Islam (61:7). For this reason, they have turned to the dark side, becoming experts in sorcery and demonology so that they may continue to rule the world by the power of the devil.
Such is the mindset that infects hundreds of millions of Muslims. Anti-Semitism is not a mere transient bigotry which happens to inflame a portion of the Muslim world today. It is woven extensively throughout the fabric of the Qur’an and Sunna. To remove it from Islam would be to unravel the religion itself. This hatred of the Jews, and its sister hatred of all other infidels, stems from the deep-seated doctrine of al wala’ w’al bara’, “loyalty and repudiation,” which demands of every Muslim that he shows himself unswervingly loyal to all that Allah deems good and that he earnestly repudiates all that Allah deems evil. And what can be more evil than those who partner with demons to fight against Allah and his religion?
Regardless of whether Khamenei and his henchmen actually believe that Western and Israeli leaders are working hand in glove with the jinn to plot against Iran, they are not above using this theological conspiracy to paint themselves as beleaguered saints fighting against overwhelming evil forces to protect the poor masses of the Islamic Republic. In this way, they hope to distract their people from the reality of their own callous, incompetent leadership and greedy plunder of the country’s limited resources to line their own pockets.
Khamenei wants his people to believe that he is doing the best he can on their behalf, but that the Great Satan (America) and the Little Satan (Israel), supernaturally aided by hordes of jinn, are such formidable enemies that he can barely hold them off, unless Allah intervenes or sends the invincible Mahdi to scatter Islam’s enemies once and for all. The Persian people should not criticize or rise up against the Supreme Leader, for he is acting valiantly to protect them. Instead, they should laud and honor him, and continue to support him with peaceful obedience. To side with the enemies of the regime is to approve of the work of the jinn, which no good Muslim can countenance.
Hence, the final manipulation of the theocrat is to promise damnation to all who oppose his rule. To topple Khamenei and his regime is to give free rein to the forces of evil, both human and supernatural, that wish to unseat Allah and eradicate Islam. Allah will punish all who do not support the Supreme Leader. That threat is the same one Muhammad used regularly against those who assailed his authoritarian leadership. The prophet was able to get away with such manipulation. But Khamenei is no Muhammad, and in his thirty-two years of incompetent rule, the people have now seen through his disguise as a holy man, and found instead an old, self-serving, cold-hearted hypocrite. If the coronavirus does not do him in soon, a civil rebellion surely will. Or maybe America will take pity on the Persian people and send the Enchantress to his private chambers.
It’s kind of a cute reminder through music in these days of sanitizing and social distancing, and will serve to memorialize the impact of the coronavirus pandemic for future generations.
There’s another song that came to my mind after hearing complaints from millennials and Gen Zers flooding the beaches in Florida and Texas despite warnings and pleas from governmental and medical sources that they should change their plans and go home, both to avoid getting infected themselves and potentially infecting others. I listened to some being interviewed and heard rationales such as:
I’ve been looking forward to spring break for months, and I’m going to enjoy it to the fullest;
This is my 21st birthday present to myself, and no one’s going to stop me;
We’re here to hit the bars and the beaches – this is a time to embrace the good life.
None were worried about COvid-19, thinking themselves immune, or maybe not thinking at all. Que sera, sera. If they happen to catch the virus, well, it won’t really slow them down while on spring break, and they can deal with any symptoms after they get back home. In their lust to party and hook up, the thought that they might become carriers of the virus and bring home sickness and devastation to family and friends never entered their minds.
So here’s the song – it’s also from the 60’s. Debuting in 1963, it became Lesley Gore’s first hit: It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want to. You probably remember the simple refrain:
It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you…
In honor of the spring break revelers and others who have shown equally callous disregard for society at large during the coronavirus epidemic, I have adjusted the chorus to capture their mindset:
It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to, take others with me, die if I want to. You would die too if it happened to you…
The self-centered spirit of this age is perfectly captured in the behavior of those who throw all caution to the wind in favor of pure hedonism, who care nothing for how their reckless behavior might endanger countless others in the midst of a pandemic.
Some people say, “Hey, these are just kids doing what kids do – seeking to have fun. Their brains aren’t yet mature enough to think responsibly about others.” But that’s just not true. In previous ages, people eighteen and older were making plans to take the gospel to unreached nations; they were training as nurses and doctors to set up field hospitals in disease-wracked countries; they were volunteering to fight against totalitarian regimes threatening the free world. The difference between then and now hinges on how parents and American society have shaped children as they have grown. In prior ages, children were instilled with concern for others, mostly borne out of a Christian worldview. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” was often quoted to them. “Greater love has no one than he who lays down his life for his friends,” was another famous quote from Jesus. Likewise, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
But our recent generations have not been raised on such teachings. Instead, they have been told that life revolves around them, that their feelings are sacrosanct and must be protected, that they can be and do whatever they wish, choose their gender, their pronouns, thumb their noses at whatever authority seeks to hold them accountable for their behaviors. Their mottos could easily be: “You shall love yourself and forget your neighbor;” “Greater happiness has no one than he who sacrifices his friend for his own enjoyment; “Whoever want to become great among you must use others to get ahead, and whoever wants to be first must make slaves of all others.” Perhaps these are overstatements. I hope so. But you get the point.
Though these young revelers bear responsibility for their selfish actions, even more are their parents and past generations to blame, for we have allowed our society to become a breeding ground for narcissism and self-absorption. We have failed to reach for the vision of our higher calling in Christ, and have allowed our animal instincts to win the day. We have bought the lie that what we are by nature cannot be changed, and there is no use trying. So the Christian life becomes a museum relic to observe with curiosity, without ever a thought that perhaps we could be transformed into the likeness of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit if we became serious about offering our lives up to God in obedience to His living Voice.
Paul the apostle once said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Does anyone still believe that? Who is experiencing this spiritual revolution? Who is modeling and teaching this to our younger generations? This must become our prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, and renovate our hearts!”
For when the Spirit has finished his work in our hearts, then we will sing a new song, a song worthy of the Age to Come:
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad, and give all the glory to Him.” (Rev. 19.6-7)
“Truth will out.” So said Shylock’s servant, Lancelot Gobbo, in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. This is salutary to keep in mind when dealing with the lies and obfuscations of totalitarian regimes like China and Iran. The truth will come out, particularly concerning their incompetence in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus.
The mullahs seem much more inept than the Chinese Communist Party at maintaining their webs of deception. The facts of the ravaging impact of COvid-19 on the Persian people are now coming to light — even state-controlled media and regime officials are beginning to concede the truth. Despite wildly understated figures still being reported by official releases (just under 1,700 deaths, which even Dr. Richard Brennan, a director for the World Health Organization who just returned from an investigatory visit to Iran proposed was off by a factor of five), the full extent of the regime’s lies is now beginning to surface. For example:
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that the first his government became aware the virus had appeared in the country was on Feb. 19th, when officials in Qom announced that two persons had died of the COvid-19. Evidence has recently surfaced that the leadership was informed of the appearance of the virus in Iran at least by the end of January, and perhaps even two weeks before that.
As rumors spread among Iranians concerning the virus, the regime leadership continued to lie to the people in spite of the imminent danger of contagion, because of two national events (the 41st anniversary celebration of the founding of the Islamic Republic, and the national parliamentary elections) for which the mullahs wanted maximum public participation in order to continue the pretense of their legitimacy before the eyes of the world. In both cases, the people widely boycotted these events, primarily to express their disgust over the regime’s evil and ineptitude.
Even after Khamenei admitted the obvious, that the coronavirus was spreading across the country, he downplayed its seriousness, saying on March 3rd that it was “not that big a deal,” “not something extraordinary,” and “an issue that will pass.” He also tweeted that day, “Our officials have reported with sincerity and transparency since day one,” a statement worthy of ten Pinocchios, were anyone outside Iran listening to him. It has since come to light that he had already ordered the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), the regime’s equivalent of Hitler’s SS troops, to hospitals and morgues so as to ensure that infection rates and death tolls be reported only to the regime since this was “a matter of national security.” Any unauthorized reporting would result in public lashings and one to three years of imprisonment.
At a briefing on Feb. 26th, Health Minister Saeed Namaki predicted, “The main peak of the coronavirus will be in next week and coming days.” President Hassan Rouhani reframed that timeline a few days ago, apparently saying as of March 16th that, “Based on the figures, we are past the peak of the disease….” The Health Minister since has said this is not the case and the peak may not be reached until April 8th at the earliest. Many health experts in Iran, however, are claiming that the epidemic is still spreading rapidly and it is still too early to make any accurate predictions, especially with people oblivious to warnings about social gatherings and ongoing travel. Some doctors in Tehran are predicting that by the first week of April up to forty percent of Tehran (up to five million people!) might be infected. Yesterday marked the traditional Persian New Year, Nowruz, and even though Khamenei issued a fatwa forbidding travel due to fears of contagion, Iranians are effectively ignoring him, preferring to get away from death and despondency to celebrate with family and friends at the beach or in the mountains.
Though evidence pointed clearly to the pilgrimage city of Qom as the epicenter of the virus and the government was advised to close down the religious shrines by medical experts, the mullahs refused this advice and continued to welcome Iranian and international pilgrims. Some, such as Khamenei’s personal representative and head of the Fatima Masoumeh shrine in Qom, announced that this shrine was a place of healing and protection from all illness, including the coronavirus, and as a result, many visitors continued kissing and licking shrine premises as an expression of their faith. Finally, in recent days, the shrines around the country were officially closed, but riots by religious crowds resulted in some of them, including Masoumeh, to be reopened by force. As a result, due to governmental negligence the infectin was able to spread quickly through returning pilgrims to every province of Iran and to many Shi’ite communities in other countries. Now that the regime has changed its story and is telling citizens they need to avoid contact with crowds due to the coronavirus, people in Iran are irate as they see that their country is now in the grip of a contagion which will not soon end.
With the start of the new year, Iran’s national budget for 2020 must be approved. Many are calling it an “imaginary” budget because it assumes income figures that have no basis in reality. The bulk of the government’s income results from the sale of oil internationally, but due to sanctions imposed by the USA and allies the government is able to sell only 200-300,000 barrels of oil daily. The budget relies on a figure ten times that amount. Additionally, it assumes a selling price of over $50 a barrel while the international market prices have plummeted to about half of that due to a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia as well as coronavirus shutdowns which have depressed demand. Though Iran has been secretive about its solvency at 2019-20 year-end, it looks likely that its $5 billion mid-year deficit has only increased — out of a total budget of some $37 billion to run the country for the year. The 2020-21 budget presents the same level of figures, even though the government has long since squandered its last reserves and has little trickling in to its empty coffers. The Parliament was supposed to pass the “imaginary budget” sent to it by Khamenei’s office, but even these sycophants couldn’t stomach the deception and balked at voting for it. Khamenei then pulled it from parliamentary consideration and sent it directly to his hand-picked Guardian Council, who rubber-stamped it as the official budget moving forward. While poverty grips the country (over forty percent of Iranians live below the poverty line), President Rouhani recently boasted that the people of Iran have everything they need; there are no shortages of food and goods, and hospitals and citizens have complete access to medical necessities: gloves, masks, gowns, hand sanitizers, etc., while in reality doctors, nurses and other medical workers have been working unprotected for the last month in hospitals to save as many COvid-19 patients as they can. The fact that the regime has asked the International Monetary Fund for an emergency grant of $5 billion (over 13% of its entire annual budget!) “to fight the coronavirus” speaks volumes. The difference between government propaganda and the reality on the streets is so stark as to be laughable, if it weren’t so deadly. Any laughter is laced with bitterness.
As of Sunday, March 22nd, the Johns Hopkins global coronavirus tracking website reported total deaths to date worldwide from the virus as 14,386. Of those, Iran’s official total stands at 1,685, meaning outside of Iran 12,701 have perished in this pandemic. However, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) with its extensive grassroots network in all 31 provinces of Iran gives a tally of over 9,600 deaths across 210 cities as of Sunday. If accurate, this would mean that Iran alone has lost 75% as many people as the rest of the world combined to the coronavirus. And the epidemic continues unchecked within the regime due to the mullahs’ incompetence and indifference. The story in Iran dwarfs that of Italy, China or any other country, yet because of tyrannical control of state media within Iran and of Western media torpor, little attention has been drawn to it. As infection rates and death totals there continue to soar, however, the criminality of the theocratic regime will finally become all to apparent. The truth will out.
Lastly, to deflect from their deadly culpability, Khamenei, Rouhani and their henchmen have tried unsuccessfully to blame others, principally the United States. With absolutely no evidence, they have floated the lie that the coronavirus outbreak was the result of a covert U.S. bioterrorist attack. It originated in the holy city of Qom because the USA has always feared Shi’ite Islam and was attempting to destroy it from within. But, of course, Allah will protect his people and they will be victorious over the Great Satan. By mounting this specious defense, the regime hopes to rally its people against a common enemy and so turn attention away from its own cyclopean guilt. But the Persian people have seen iterations of this tactic so often that they are no longer fooled. The truth will out.
Although the rest of the world has yet to wise up concerning the malevolent criminality of Iran’s theocratic leaders, the Persian masses know that the mullahs can no longer be trusted, if they ever could. The light of truth shines not from the official news organizations of the state but from independent social media outlets. The regime seeks to throw its Stygian cloak over its malign behaviors and the consequent suffering of its unwitting victims, but the truth will out. It cannot be stopped. And when the truth is fully in the light, the regime will be toppled. It cannot come quickly enough.
The theocratic regime of Iran is imploding. After forty-one years of iron-fisted arrogance, breath-taking deceit and stupefying incompetence, the rule of the mullahs has so impoverished and infuriated the long-suffering Persian population that the masses are poised to rise up and topple their unwelcome government.
In the last four months, natural, political and economic events have brought Iran to the tipping point. November 15th, 2019 marked the onset of popular protests against the regime, sparked by the announcement of an immediate tripling of the price of gasoline across the country. Under crippling economic sanctions by the USA and its trading partners, the Iranian government was facing shortages of cash and supplies, and skyrocketing inflation.
In the attempt to bring in more money to its coffers, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his cronies, decided to ease the regime’s burdens by sucking more of the dwindling resources of its citizens. The people responded with massive demonstrations that spread swiftly across the country. At first, the focus was on the unconscionable price-hike of such a necessary commodity for everyday life. Quickly, though, the protests turned into a no-confidence vote against the regime and its hypocritical leaders. (Everyone knows, for example, that the Supreme Leader sits on a private fortune accrued while in office of some 95 billion dollars while the average Iranian scrambles to keep his family from starving.)
As protests continued, the regime responded with violence to dissuade further anti-government activity. It didn’t work. For over six weeks people continued to march in the streets, burn gas stations, police buildings, government centers and seminaries, occupy universities to make their demands known.
They chanted, “Death to Khamenei;” “No money to Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthis or Syria; Give Our Money to Iran;” “Mullahs, Get Out.” The government in turn descended into Gestapo-like tactics, beating people mercilessly, firing rubber bullets at first into crowds, then turning to real bullets, employing military sharpshooters on city rooftops with orders to take headshots so as to kill targets immediately and terrorize protesters around them. When all was said and done, the regime had killed over 1500 of its own citizens, wounded three times that number, and arrested over 10,000 others. To this day, the government has refused to release an “official” tally of the dead. When asked, senior officials simply say, “The coroners have those numbers.” The morgues, on the other hand, say, “We have sent our figures to the senior officials.” So the bob and weave of deception continues, to the disgust of the citizenry.
Shortly after the protests began to dissipate, news broke that on January 8th Ukraine Air flight 752, bound from Tehran to Kiev, had crashed shortly after take-off a few hours after Iran had launched missiles at an Iraqi-American airbase in retaliation for the killing of Qassem Suleimani. The Iranian regime quickly reported that the plane suffered mechanical difficulties. Soon after, they blamed the disaster on pilot error. When supposition arose that the jet might have been shot down accidentally by missiles, senior Iranian leaders decried this notion as “psychological warfare” and “an American lie.”
Finally, on January 11th, after incontrovertible satellite and video evidence proved the plane had been struck by two surface to air missiles, the regime reluctantly admitted what it had known from the beginning, that the operator of one of its military missile batteries had mistakenly concluded the airliner was a “hostile target,” and ordered missiles, three minutes apart, to shoot down the passenger jet.
When this news hit the airwaves, people once again poured into the streets, erupting with anger over their “divinely-guided” government’s duplicity. Popular chants once again pointed to the odium they bore their Shi’ite overlords: “They are lying that our enemy is America; our enemy is right here!” In disgust, many made known their intention to disavow the government however they could.
At the same time, in mid-January, torrential flooding affected four provinces in the south of Iran: Sistan and Baluchestan, Hormozgan and Kerman. Due to the economic and political paralysis of the central government, little to no aid was available to help overwhelmed residents. Roughly six weeks later, heavy storms in northern Iran caused massive flooding and destruction to hundreds of villages and roadways over fourteen provinces, stranding thousands of people.
Again, no help was available from the government. The locals erupted with anger at officials who had promised after similar flooding in 2019 that they would dredge rivers and improve dams to prevent future floods. That had not happened. Resources were not available for such work due to corruption, incompetence and insouciance.
Shortly before the worst of the flooding in the north, two powerful earthquakes struck northwestern Iran on Sunday, Feb. 23rd. The first registered 5.7 on the Richter scale, and hit in the early morning hours. The second, an aftershock, registered 5.9 and occurred later in the day. Lives were lost as many buildings toppled to the ground. Two days later (2/25), a 4.9 temblor struck south-central Iran. While earthquakes are not uncommon in this region of the world, what is stirring the rage of the people is the lack of rapid and effective response by their government. In fact, there is little to no response at all, for the bottom of the government’s barrel has already been scraped clean by self-serving mullahs, their obsequious mandarins, and the armed forces they pay handsomely to keep the riff-raff at bay.
As if all this were not enough, southwestern Iran faced a record-breaking locust invasion beginning in mid-February. A year ago, the area faced a similar invasion. Officials described that plague as “consisting of millions.” This year’s infestation, they say, numbers in the billions.
One observer estimated over 500 million locusts per square kilometer. As they march from west to east across Iran, they are eating every plant in sight. How has the government responded to this disaster? With dissimulation, negligence, incompetence and mismanagement. The inaction of the government prior to spawning season, when insecticide spraying should have been done, has led to this mammoth horde now eating its way across Iran’s agricultural heartland.
And then we come to the novel Corona virus and its attendant disease, COvid-19. There are indications that this virus first entered Iran in early February and that the highest echelons of the regime knew of its presence. The religious city of Qom, home to some of Shi’ism’s holiest shrines and beloved by most of Iran’s mullahs, is where the Corona virus broke out. Even though the governmental clerics knew of the outbreak, they cloaked the truth from their people and the world for as long as possible until the first two victims died in Qom.
Why? Because they needed to protect their delusional image of a government favored by Allah and beloved of its people, as the “Islamic Revolution” which continues to prosper and bless its Muslim citizens. Two critical events were to occur in February, and it was necessary for their fantasy that the world see huge public turnouts of support from the population. If news about the contagion broke out too soon, people would likely stay home, and their propaganda would be imperiled. So they quashed unofficial reports and jailed journalists who wouldn’t toe the party line. The first big event was the celebration of the 41st anniversary of the birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on Feb. 11th. Festivities were planned across the country, but especially in the capital city of Tehran, where massive crowds were expected. However, when the day came, empty streets and deserted squares were the stark reality. By refusing to show up, people pronounced their loathing of the government. “Our vote is for regime change.” So said the graffiti.
The Supreme Leader, Khamenei, and President Rouhani, tried to put their best spin on this humiliation by the masses, and set their sights on a better outcome at the second critical event – the Parliamentary elections to be held on Feb. 21st. Since candidates for every slot had to be “vetted and approved” by the Supreme Leader and his sycophantic, hardline Guardian Council, any” so-called “moderate” candidate was disqualified, and only those loyal to Khamenei were allowed to run. Many noted that Feb. 21st would not mark a day of election but one of selection – selecting those whom the Supreme Leader had pre-ordained. As the day approached, opposition leaders pled with fellow citizens to boycott the elections in order to send a strong message that the regime had lost its legitimacy. The people responded, in spite of appeals and threats by Khamenei, Rouhani and others, by staying home. The regime reported the next day a highly-inflated figure, saying that over 41% of eligible voters had participated, but even so had to admit that even this artificial number marked the lowest voter turnout since the Revolution of 1979.
Only after this debacle did the mullahs begin to talk more openly of the coronavirus, which now became a convenient excuse for the low turnout at both national events. “People stayed home,” they said, “out of fear. Foreign governments (read: USA and Israel) whipped up fabricated stories of fatalities and epidemics in order to keep people away from our national celebration and elections.” As usual in the Islamic world (whether Shi’ite or Sunni), when bad things happen the blame is not to be found with Muslim beliefs, practices or institutions, but with non-Muslims who are always conspiring to destroy Islam.
When not casting blame, Muslim leaders seem to love the art of subterfuge. So even after acknowledging the presence of the coronavirus in the country, the Iranian leadership intentionally misled its own populace as well as the larger world by grossly underreporting the rapid spread and number of deaths caused by COvid-19. Khamenei and his underlings downplayed its seriousness (“a passing issue;” “nothing exceptional”) and refused to take decisive actions (except to arrest those who exposed the truth). The clerics in Qom refused the recommendation that they should close down the pilgrimage centers, particularly the Masoumeh Shrine.
The same was true in Mashhad, Iran’s other “holy city.” Some mullahs even encouraged more pilgrims, assuring them that by attending the shrines they would be immunized from the coronavirus.
As news of the rapid spread of the virus in Iran reached the public, once again people expressed fury toward their leaders for their lies, inaction, incompetence and callousness. Officials rejected the use of quarantines, arguing such practices were ineffective and “belong to the Stone Age.” As hospital beds filled up across the country, it became clear that the healthcare infrastructure nationwide was woefully inadequate. Medicines were in short supply, masks and gloves were unavailable even to doctors and nurses, disinfectants were a distant pipedream. As people began probing, it turned out that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – the military arm of government responsible to protect and advance “the revolution” within the country and to export it to the outside world – had gathered as many of these materials as possible and was hoarding them for two purposes: first, to dispense them as needed to the upper echelons of government and the elite citizenry; and second, to sell them on the local black market or to desperate nations (such as China) at highly inflated prices so as to line their own pockets. To mollify the angry crowds, they took cans of air freshener, relabeled them as disinfectant spray, and sold them to the unsuspecting public.
This callousness of the Shi’ite authorities has been revealed also in how Sunni villages and towns are completely ignored as the coronavirus spreads in their midst. Likewise, those incarcerated within Iran’s prison system receive little to no medical assistance. Overcrowding and lack of basic hygiene make for the perfect breeding ground for the virus. Sensing a disaster in the making, officials are floating the idea of releasing some 70,000 inmates back into society so as to obscure the regime’s incompetence in protecting its prison population. The fact that such a release would further endanger the public makes little difference to regime leaders.
The question of how the coronavirus first entered Iran led to a focus on the holy city of Qom, where the outbreak was first reported. In recent months over seven hundred Chinese Muslims have been welcomed for study at the al-Mustafa International University, a seminary in Qom dedicated to international students.
While other countries suspended flights to and from China after reports of the Wuhan virus outbreak, Iran refused to halt its air services. More and more Chinese Muslim students and businessmen poured into Iran principally through Mahan Air, a “private” air carrier owned by the IRGC. For the sake of profit in an economically-strapped regime, the IRGC has continued to fly both passenger and cargo jets to and from four cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou [Canton] and Shenzhen) in complete disdain for the health and safety of Iran’s citizens. Not surprisingly, Qom became the first internal epicenter of Iran’s Coronavirus epidemic. And because it is one of the most famous pilgrimage cities in Iran, it served as the infection center for all Iran (and many other countries with Shi’ite populations) as pilgrims returned home from visiting Qom’s religious shrines. Iran is fast becoming the Typhoid Mary of nations as to date at least fifteen nearby countries have traced the Coronavirus infection to travelers arriving from Iran.
Only recently have the mullahs suspended Friday mosque prayers and encouraged citizens to stay home if possible. They continue to lie about the extent of the crisis, forbidding any reports of actual numbers of deaths from morgues and city officials under the justification of “national security.” Sadly, the Supreme Leader and his loyal bureaucrats show greater anxiety over the spread of the truth than they do over the spread of the virus. The government continues to release official virus-related death tolls, but nobody takes them seriously. As of today, March 12th, the number stands at 429. But the main opposition party, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) or the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), cites figures gathered from on-the-ground reporting in each of Iran’s thirty-one provinces. Their assessment is that as of today, virus-related deaths tallied from 160 cities/towns stands at over 3650. Given that the total global death toll (including Iran’s bogus official figures) is estimated at around 4200, this would mean that if the MEK’s figures are accurate, almost as many people have died in Iran to date as in the rest of the world. Even scarier, best estimates are that the epidemic in Iran won’t peak for at least two more weeks. Some medical experts are predicting that the city of Tehran with a population of around ten million will experience an infection rate of 40%. It’s not hard to understand the outrage building in the hearts of the Persian people toward their culpable and appalling political/religious leaders. Graffiti popping up on walls in the capital city sum this up well: “Khamenei, the sinister mullah, you are the coronavirus!”
Finally, Iran’s already-reeling economy has been dealt what may be a death blow. Earlier this week, as Russia and Saudi Arabia failed to reach an agreement on oil production limits, the Saudis vowed to increase production imminently. That led oil market prices to plummet immediately by 30%. Iran’s economy, even under strict international sanctions, relies heavily on oil sales. Such a huge drop in its oil income can only make a dire situation worse.
No one can predict with certainty when the Iranian theocracy will fall, but there is no question that the Persian people are seething like magma under intense pressure, gathering strength for an impending eruption. The mullahs are using everything at their disposal to stifle this unrest, but their resources are trifling in the face of scores of millions of insurgents. The fall of the mullahs is inevitable. The only question is: How soon?
One of the dangers of being recognized as an expert at something is that it becomes easy to believe your press clippings and then become lazy. Instead of continuing to press deeper into your field, you rely on your past knowledge and experience when dealing with the public. Most of the time, they never know the difference because your wealth of background on the subject far outweighs theirs. But sooner or later, if this mental laziness continues, it will one day show up in our work and at the very least leave us red-faced; even worse it may call into question our credentials as “go-to” consultants.
This week an opinion piece appeared in the “Faith and Values” section of Fox News Online. Entitled, Jonathan Morris: My Favorite Bible Verse, it piqued my interest. Jonathan Morris is a former Roman Catholic priest who voluntarily demitted his ordination last year.
For a number of years, he served as a consultant on religious matters for various Fox News Channel evening programs. I’ve always enjoyed his measured and balanced commentary, even when he had to dance carefully around controversial Vatican matters. So when I saw his piece promising to reveal his favorite Bible verse, I was intrigued.
He begins by throwing a bit of cold water on the whole practice of choosing favorite verses, arguing insightfully that the Scriptures are meant to be read and understood as a whole. To single out an individual verse for inordinate attention can skew our receptivity to the “whole counsel of God”, to use the words of the apostle Paul (Acts 20:27).
With this caveat in mind, he proceeds to acknowledge that there are a few verses that stand out for him, none more so than one which has guided him in this last year of “major life change” – Romans 12;2. It reads:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Morris rightly sees that this verse is concerned with discernment – discovering in the midst of the sculpting powers of an anti-God world how we can find the right path prescribed by our Heavenly Father. The key, of course, is by intentionally resisting the pressure to conform to the patterns of the world around us, and instead to surrender our thoughts and desires to the renewing work of the Holy Spirit in tandem with the Word of God.
I believe that Morris has rightly captured the central meaning of this text. We are called to a supernatural transformation. But here our expert mischaracterizes (or undersells) the extent of this spiritual work. He writes:
“Transformation” is a strong word. The original Greek word for transformation is “metanoia,” meaning existential conversion. This spiritual conversion is not about changing our behavior out of shame or guilt. Conversion is a decision of the will to turn away from sin, do an about face, and walk toward God who is calling.
As an expert who quotes the “original Greek,” we are supposed to trust what he tells us. Unfortunately, in this case, Morris neglected to look at the Greek text of Romans 12:2, and apparently assumed he knew what word Paul was using to convey the idea of “transformation.” The word “metanoia” indeed means “repentance” or more literally” a “change of mind,” and can be construed as a kind of conversion. But it is too small a word to convey what Paul means here.
How do we know that? Because the Greek word that Paul actually uses is “metamorphousesthe”, from which root (metamorpho-) we get the noun “metamorphosis” in English.
The transformation Paul envisions is much like that envisioned by the use of the word metamorphosis in describing the process of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. “Metanoia” would describe the caterpillar’s decision to no longer think of itself as a caterpillar but now as a butterfly. “Metamorphosis” describes the caterpillars actual transition internally and externally from life as a caterpillar to life as a butterfly. It is a much more powerful word in this context than “metanoia.”
So, Paul’s exhortation to the Romans (indeed to all Christians) is that we not let the world shape us externally into its own mold (all the while achieving no positive result in changing our inner being – the Old Adam) but instead that we invite God to transform us from the inside out – to make us new creatures who resemble and reflect the New Adam, Jesus Christ. In this way, we will develop the spiritual faculties needed to rightly discern and enact God’s will for our lives.
Jonathan Morris is a smart man. It is no surprise that many turn to him as an expert on Christian matters. But in this instance, he is guilty of intellectual laziness. It is never a good idea to put in print something that exposes one’s ignorance, especially when that ignorance could have been avoided simply by doing a bit of exegetical work. Morris apparently fell into the trap of which we are all in danger – assuming that since we know more than the people we are teaching, we can skip the intellectual labor of preparation and just shoot from the hip. Many times that works out okay, even though we are robbing ourselves and our audience of deeper learning. But sometimes we are caught up short, revealing to the world that we have not done our homework.
Bluffing our way to an answer may be okay on a seventh grade short essay exam, but it fails miserably when presenting ourselves as experts in our chosen field of study or accomplishment. I still plan to read Jonathan Morris for the foreseeable future, praying this was just a one-time lapse. And I will take to heart this message personally, when I am called upon to offer whatever expertise I may be qualified to exercise on behalf of others. Experts, whatever your field — do your homework!
The recent elimination of Qassem Suleimani has unwittingly brought into sharp relief the contrast between Muslim and non-Muslim worldviews, or more specifically between Shi’ite and non-Shi’ite visions of right and wrong.
No one outside of Iran and its proxy Shi’ite terror wings has had anything good to say about Suleimani — even China, Russia, EU hard lefties, and leaders of the Sunni Muslim world have been noticeably silent, or in the case of many Sunnis, have openly celebrated his removal from this world.
Even U.S. Democratic leaders have managed, perhaps reluctantly, to admit that Iran’s General over the Quds Force (the primary delivery vehicle of Iran’s foreign terrorism support and activity around the world) was a bad man, before they moved quickly on to skewer the President for taking unilateral action and leading America into World War III. Cory Booker acknowledged that he had American blood on his hands. Christ Murphy described him as an enemy of the U.S. who deserved to die. Elizabeth Warren labeled Suleimani a “murderer” before walking that back under pressure from “woke” lefties. Joe Biden was muted in his timid assessment: “No American will mourn Qassem Suleimani’s passing.” Even Adam Schiff weighed in with a tweet: “Suleimani was responsible for unthinkable violence and the world is better off without him.” While the Democratic leadership made clear they did not mourn his death, they pilloried Trump for his unilateral decision to end Suleimani’s life and career. 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have monochromatically declared in unison that they would never have given approval for this mission had they been in charge.
Republican leaders, on the other hand, have been uniformly aglow in response to the news, and generally supportive of the President’s bold decision. Secretary Pompeo spoke of “Suleimani the terrorist” and the need to end his activities; Lindsey Graham labeled him a “terrorist thug” who needed to be taken out; former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley remarked, “This man had evil in his veins.” Tom Cotton concluded that the Quds Commander “…got what he richly deserved.” Even Mitt Romney, no fan of the President, labeled Suleimani a “depraved terrorist.” Conservative commentators were equally unrestrained in their assessment. According to Ollie North, Suleimani was a “purveyor of terrorism.” And Sean Hannity was not to be outdone: Suleimani was “…one of the most ruthless, evil war criminals on earth. Evil personified; an evil monster.”
On the other hand, the response of Iran’s mullahs, military and media, as well as of other Shi’ite leaders in the region, has been to lionize Suleimani as a matchless, almost divine military figure. Iran’s Defense Minister, Gen. Amir Hatami, noted that America’s “criminal attack” had transformed “…the hero of the struggle against terrorism into a martyr.” The IRGC spokesman referred to Suleimani as “the proud commander of the armies of Islam.” When news of the operation reached Iran, announcement was made in a mosque in the midst of an imam’s sermon in Tehran, at which point numerous men began weeping. The imam declared, “A dear and great man has won martyrdom.” In a paroxysm of hyperbole, he went on to paint the brutal general as “an agent of unity” between Shi’ites and Sunnis, between Muslims and Christians, and between Muslims and Jews. (Many in the crowd looked up rather quizzically at these obvious falsehoods). On Iranian TV (IRINN), the official government statement declared, “He hastened to meet with his Creator, grateful for years of jihad that were full of pride and honor.” Another reporter affirmed that Suleimani had attained martyrdom, and was a “great and divine man.” But the most picturesque assessment of Suleimani and contemporaneous insult of Trump and his administration came from Hassan Nasrallah, head of the terrorist organization Hezbollah: “Qassem Suleimani’s shoe [in Arab culture, the shoe in such a context is an item of derision and ignominy] is worth the heads of Trump and all the American leaders.”
While this difference in assessment comes as no surprise, it highlights the irreconcilable hostility between Muslim and Western worldviews. Suleimani serves as the focal point for assessing the values of Shi’ite Islam over against Western principles. For the Shi’ite Muslim world, Suleimani’s life and work represent the highest achievements to which a Muslim could aspire. For over thirty years he engaged in what Islam’s prophet Muhammad called the work most prized by Allah: jihad. This Muhammad clearly defined as fighting the enemies of Allah so as to killed and be killed in his service. The Qur’an lays out with clarity the contract that Allah makes with his followers:
•”Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties; [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah , so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah ? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which is the great attainment.” (9:111)
[As an aside, this passage in the Qur’an makes a libelous claim against the Bible, asserting that this same “jihadi contract” is found in the Torah (Pentateuch) and Gospel (i.e., New Testament). Can one imagine Jesus saying, “Do you want to get to heaven? Then kill and be killed for the sake of My Father, and you will inherit virgins, wealth and pleasures beyond your dreams….”]
For the mullahs and their minions, Suleimani was Allah’s warrior par excellence, having maimed or killed multiple thousands of infidels as well as hypocrites (false Muslims, including all those Sunnis who oppose the Shi’ite world, especially the nation of Iran). His death is a great blow to the ongoing jihad operations of Iran’s theocracy, but it is also an opportunity to laud his martyrdom as a means to further indoctrinate impressionable Muslim youth with the vision that their own deaths in furthering the murder and mayhem of the Islamic Republic will result in their own immediate transport to the highest heaven where they can plunge for all eternity into the fullness of sensual pleasures they never even imagined possible on earth.
For them as for Suleimani, Hellfire missiles from America are heaven-sent, according to the imams. A moment of immolation for an eternity of bliss.
Why? Because for Allah there is nothing more important than the subjugation or destruction of all his enemies. Islam must cover the earth so that Allah’s supremacy will never again be challenged. Democracy, freedom of religion, equality of the sexes, free expression, eradication of slavery, and all other practices that oppose Shari’a are to be eliminated from the face of the earth. Those who serve Allah unabashedly in this bloody cause will earn his highest rewards. Hence, Suleimani is pictured by Shi’ite clergy as being feted in highest heaven by Allah. His place of honor rivals that of Muhammad, ‘Ali, Husain and the other celebrated Imams of Shi’ite Islam.
Western civilization rests on the recognition of “unalienable” human rights granted by the Creator who made humankind in “His image and likeness”, thereby endowing every person with inextinguishable dignity and honor recognized in rights and freedoms to be acknowledged by all. These of course include the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as what we find in the Bill of Rights of the U. S. Constitution or in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Not surprisingly, the Muslim-majority nations of the world have rejected the UDHR as incompatible with Shari’a, and some forty-two years after that Universal Declaration came up with their own statement, known as the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, which begins with high-sounding rhetoric but ends by saying that any implied human rights and freedoms which conflict with Shari’a are null and void.
The blood, sweat and tears of many American and Allied soldiers have been shed in defense of human rights. Freedom from slavery to totalitarian regimes, freedom to worship according to one’s conscience, the right to voice one’s own convictions openly, recognition of equality of the races and the sexes, these are all fundamental rights for which Western societies have gone to the mat. Qassem Suleimani proved himself an enemy to these principles as he conducted Islam’s jihad against the non-Muslim world, principally the West.
Hence, the unbridgeable gulf between Western and Islamic thought, and between Western and Shi’ite assessments of Qassem Suleimani. What lesson must we learn from this ideological chasm? The answer is: There is no way to reconcile the principles of Western civilization with the jihadi dogmas of Islam. If we are to find an accommodation between Islam and the West, it will only happen either as the West surrenders its allegiance to universal human rights (may that never happen) or as Islam disavows any present and future commitment to jihad and its derivative practices (which will never happen as the teachings of jihad are woven into the very design of the Qur’an, which according to Islam can never be changed).
The reactions to Qassem Suleimani’s death worldwide serve as testimony to the fact that two mutually incompatible worldviews are at war ideologically today. They are not the only worldviews clashing on the global stage at present, but because of Islam’s hunger for supremacy and penchant for violence this clash has the potential to become the most incendiary in the near future.
One last word, concerning the fact that Sunni Muslim governments and leaders have been either silent or exultant over Suleimani’s elimination by the United States’ military. Because of the hatred between Sunnis and Shi’ites politically and theologically, the perceived weakening of Iran’s projection of power beyond its borders through the death of the Quds Force commander is celebrated by Sunni countries in the region. But happiness over Suleimani’s death by Sunnis should not be taken to mean that they abjure the call to jihad against the enemies of Islam. Though they have a different agenda than that of Iran’s theocracy, Sunni leaders equally seek to undermine Western civilization with the goal of it submitting to Islamic rule. Instead of asymmetric warfare as practiced by Iran, the Sunni countries have opted by and large for the strategy of infiltrating the West, in three principal ways: 1) they are sending refugees and immigrants to the West in significant numbers, urging them to settle and multiply by high birthrate; 2) by committing petrodollars in huge amounts to the building of mosques and “learning centers” throughout the West and staffing them with Wahhabi-trained imams; 3) by wooing universities and think tanks with significant dollars so as to establish propaganda centers within the elite establishments of cultural influence, pumping out for popular consumption the lie that Islam is a religion of peace which seeks to coexist in and benefit Western civilization. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Washington Post has unwittingly demonstrated the truth that Islam is not a religion of peace, a message it has been loath to acknowledge.
Yesterday, it carried the obituary of self-styled ISIS Caliph Ibrahim, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, under this original headline: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s ‘terrorist-in-chief,’ dies at 48. Inexplicably, a few hours later, it revised the headline to read, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48. After unremitting sarcasm on Twitter and other social media sites, the Post editors reconsidered again and ran the obituary under a third headline: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48.
So, which was he? An austere religious scholar or the terrorist-in-chief extremist leader of the most vicious and diabolical terror organization in modern history? The answer is, both.
This does not sit well with most Westerners, who think of austere religious scholars as those locked away harmlessly in monasteries or ivory towers minding their own business among ancient, dusty tomes, having nothing to do with beheadings, rapes, torture, slavery and the leading of totalitarian conquests on bloody battlefields. In none of the major world faiths are religious scholars linked with the vile behaviors associated with terrorism — except Islam. Why?
Because Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was both the leading teacher of Islam, as its prophet, and the preeminent exponent of violent conquest (jihad), as the ruthless leader of its armies. Since in the Qur’an Allah highlights Muhammad as an Uswa hasana (excellent example) to be followed by all who wish to curry divine favor, and since Islam honors him with the title al-Insan al-Kamil (which translates roughly as “the perfect man”), Muslims strive to shape their lives according to his model.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took this to heart, and became a scholar-terrorist in the mould of his hero. There is no question that in the eyes of the Islamic world he was a true religious scholar — he obtained his B.A., Masters degree and Ph.D. in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad.
Few Muslims have studied their religion with the rigor and verve evidenced by al-Baghdadi. There is also no question that this man pursued jihad and ran a massive jihadi terror group strictly according to the example of Muhammad as found in the Qur’an, Hadith traditions, early Muslim biographies of the prophet, and the rulings of official Islamic law, the Shari’a. One might say he was the paragon of Islamic scholar-terrorists, a chip off the prophetic block.
The Post obituary described al-Baghdadi’s influence thusly: ” During his tenure, the Islamic State would come to mirror its leader: a messianic figure drawn to the harshest interpretations of Islamic texts and seized with the conviction that all dissenters should be put to death. But this is only a superficial analysis. The fact is that ISIS came to mirror its leader in all its gory, religiously-inspired evil, only because its leader was mirroring the founder of Islam, who among other depravities commanded infidels to be beheaded, approved and participated in the enslavement of others, authorized his marauders to rape captive women, ordered the assassination of foes whose mockery got under his skin, threatened recalcitrant soldiers with eternal hellfire if they refused jihad assignments, declared proudly, “I have been made victorious through terror,” and so much more.
The Washington Post wanted to hide these realities from its audience by originally trying to portray Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a harmless “religious scholar”, no doubt assuming its readers would supply a Westernized mental stereotype. The blowback, however, was so fierce that they were forced to acknowledge the obscene truth that this Islamic scholar was also the murderous, salacious, uber-iniquitous leader of ISIS, the terrorist horde modeled on the life and teachings of the Arabian prophet Muhammad.
In calling Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “an austere religious scholar” as well as “extremist leader of [the] Islamic State”, the Washington Post implicitly acknowledges that the terrorist organization in question was firmly guided by one immersed to the highest degree in the heart of Islamic thought. As such, one is led to conclude by the successive titles of al-Baghdadi’s obituary that the Washington Post seems to have discovered that Islam is not after all a religion of peace. Would it be too much to hope that their future reporting on Islam will be objective and truthful in pointing out the jihadi, supremacist elements woven into the core of Islamic thought? Probably. But hope springs eternal.