by John Robson
Wherever the hidden imam may be hiding, it doesn’t seem to be the pages of Canadian newspapers. Which won’t bother Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad much since he despises Canada. But it should concern readers.
What’s that? You didn’t know Muhammad al-Mahdi had been missing since the 10th century? You were too busy raising kids, fixing the porch and answering e-mail to join the search? I sympathize. But he matters to you because he matters to the Iranian president, his backers, and their demented nuclear ambitions.
Ahmadinejad’s latest UN speech disappointed many connoisseurs of political lunacy because it was low-key and rambling rather than high-octane crazy. But it did have a point, that the ills of the world could not be fixed even by such vital initiatives as “shared and collective management of the world” or dumping the United States’s UN Security Council veto. No, all would not be well, said Mad Mahmoud, until “Imam al-Mahdi, the Ultimate Savior of mankind” reappeared “alongside with Jesus Christ to lead the freedom and justice lovers to eradicate tyranny and discrimination, and promote knowledge, peace, justice freedom and love across the world.”
Media reports of the speech generally left this part out because most journalists don’t grasp that religion is serious business. As G.K. Chesterton said a century ago, ‘We talk much about ‘respecting’ this or that person’s religion; but the way to respect a religion is to treat it as a religion: To ask what are its tenets and what are their consequences.”
The alternative, Chesterton warned, is dangerously empty sentimentalism. “The old religious authorities, at least, defined a heresy before they condemned it, and read a book before they burned it. But we are always saying to a Mormon or a Moslem, ‘Never mind about your religion, come to my arms.’ To which he naturally replies, ‘But I do mind about my religion, and I should advise you to mind your eye.’ ”
As if to prove Chesterton’s point, Barack Obama’s latest UN vapourings included the grovelling, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” To the extent that this inane phrase had any meaning it was exactly wrong; the future must belong to those who feel entirely free to criticize Mohammed, his doctrines and his followers because ideas have consequences.
Like Ahmadinejad’s conviction that sufficiently cataclysmic events will bring the 12th and final Shi’ite imam out of the well near Qom where he has been concealed since AD 941 becoming, I fear, more than a little damp in the process. Sure, it’s weird. But that doesn’t make it harmless.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just warned the UN General Assembly in another passage largely ignored by journalists, “There are those who believe that a nuclear-armed Iran can be deterred like the Soviet Union. That’s a very dangerous assumption. Militant jihadists behave very differently from secular Marxists. There were no Soviet suicide bombers. Yet Iran produces hordes of them. Deterrence worked with the Soviets because every time the Soviets faced a choice between their ideology and their survival, they chose their survival. But deterrence may not work with the Iranians once they get nuclear weapons.”
Why not? Because, Netanyahu went on, citing Bernard Lewis: “For the Ayatollahs of Iran, mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent, it’s an inducement. Iran’s apocalyptic leaders believe that a medieval holy man will reappear in the wake of a devastating Holy War, thereby ensuring that their brand of radical Islam will rule the earth. That’s not just what they believe. That’s what is actually guiding their policies and their actions.”
Yes, really. Unlike al-Mahdi or the Great Prophet Zarquon, all this is hiding in plain sight. And we need to take it seriously… because they do.