05/08/2006, 00.00
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Iran's nuclear promises and its "culture of lies"

by Dariush Mirzai
According to Shiite tradition, dissimulation is permissible if not compulsory to defend one's faith. Ahmadinejad sends letter to Bush proposing "new solutions" whilst Iran's parliament threatens to pull Iran out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Tehran (AsiaNews) - "Enough is enough! State TV IRIB is telling too many lies". This statement, reported surprisingly in some Iranian dailies, was made by Mohammad Baqher Ghalibaf, Tehran's mayor, last week. Former head of the police and one of the regime's strongmen, Mr Ghalibaf was able to say his peace but he did not say much more either because of censorship or self-censorship. It will thus be impossible to know to which lies the angry Ghalibaf was referring. There are so many . . . .

Lies about the nuclear programme? For all intents and purposes, Iran has lost the trust of the international community. Yesterday 160 Iranian lawmakers signed a statement threatening to pull Iran out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan allowed the United States to invoke Chapter VII of the UN Charter (on the use of military and non military measures) against Iran.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written to George W. Bush proposing "new solutions for getting out of international problems and the current fragile situation of the world".

Only a few days, a Western expert on Iran Tim Guldimann said: "Despite repeated US claims, Iran has no intentions whatsoever to build a nuclear bomb. Iran's Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei) has repeatedly said he opposes a nuclear bomb and his remarks are believable. [. . .] Iran's religious leadership has taken up a clear position (on this issue), saying they don't want an atomic weapon."

Such exceptionally favourable views of Iran come from a well-known personality. Mr Guldimann, who teaches political science in Frankfort, is a former Swiss ambassador to Iran.

Khamenei is Iran's political, military and religious leader, but in this country there exists a "culture of lies", typical in a society of poets and merchants, that clearly demarcates what belongs to the tightly controlled public sphere and what pertains to the private sphere. And to describe this culture, a German journalist has often said that "there are as many words about deception in Farsi as there are about snow in the language of the Inuit".

In Farsi, Taghieh, a word from the Arabic Taqiyya, can be translated with 'circumspection' or 'holiness' and refers to 'holy lies', the dissimulation that is permitted (if not compulsory for some theological schools) when one's faith requires it, a concept especially developed among Shiite Muslims, who have often been persecuted or at least found themselves in a minority situation vis-à-vis Sunnis. Mullahs have lied on important and crucial issues as well. . . . And on the nuclear issue it is more honest and prudent to say nothing.

Perhaps Khamenei is saying the truth, perhaps he is not. Perhaps, one day, when it will be in the interest of Iran's Islamic Republic, his words, however sincere they may have been, might be turned on their head and defined as Taghieh.

Under the circumstances, it is better to go beyond simple verbal assurances. Although one should not give in to paranoia about Taghieh, one should rely more on deeds for they count more than words.

In conclusion, one can see how Taqiyya, this odd means of Shiite self-defence, has now become counterproductive for Shiites and Iran's Islamic government.

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See also
Pope talks about the Middle East, the Holy Land and the food crisis with Bush
Power struggle between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei on the horizon
Tehran paper in a rare attack against Ahmadinejad
Ahmadinejad attacks “domestic traitors” who oppose Iran’s nuclear programme
Iran’s power struggle: Ahmadinejad’s vice-presidential nominee resigns after three days


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