February 23, 2006 - Yesterday two bombs exploded inside the Golden Mosque in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, destroying its famous golden dome.
This shrine is a very important holy place for Shiite Islam. In it are buried the 10th and 11th Imams or divinely appointed spiritual leaders revered in Shiite Islam. According to "Twelver" Shiism, Iran's official religion, the Twelfth Imam, the "Mahdi" or "Guided One," also known as the Hidden Imam, went into hiding near this shrine and will return, perhaps soon, to judge the world. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated he believes this will come to pass within two years.
There has been much insurgent activity in Samarra. All signs point to Sunni insurgents, possibly connected to al-Qaeda, as responsible for this attack. The intent most likely was to promote sectarian conflict or even ignite a Sunni-Shiite civil war.
However, in Iran the event has been given a dangerous spin. The state-controlled Tehran Times has reported that the attack on the shrine "is a new plot which first of all can be considered as the continuation of the disrespectful move of the European newspapers that published cartoons of the Prophet of Islam." Once again, cartoon hysteria has clouded the perception of events and threatens to ignite further violence.
The Iranian daily goes on to state:
This is a critical juncture for the vigilant Islamic world. Shias certainly know that such moves are not the work of their Sunni brothers but are directed by the hands of the enemies of Islam.
It is not unusual to hear such denials of problems within the Islamic world. This time the tone is particularly disturbing. Spiritual leader and "Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blames Americans and Jews:
"This is a political crime and its roots have to be traced in the intelligence organizations of the Iraqi occupiers and the Zionists."
Iran's President Ahmadinejad followed with this, in a speech broadcast live on state television:
"These heinous acts are committed by a group of Zionists and occupiers that have failed. They have failed in the face of Islam's logic and justice."
As we know, "occupiers" is code for Americans and "Zionists" is code for Jews. Yes, Jews, not only Israelis. Iran's denial of the Holocaust is not simply an attack on Israel; it is an attack on Jews. And Iran's call for Israel's destruction is not simply an attack on "Zionists." When Islamic extremists say "Zionists," they mean "Jews" (as in their self-styled coalition to fight "Jews and Crusaders"). Ironically, while denying the Holocaust, Iran would like to turn Israel into one huge death camp.
It should hardly need mentioning that Jews had nothing to do with the attack on the shrine. Israelis are not fighting in this war. And a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites, creating instability that would spread radicalism and violence into neighboring areas and possibly inflame the entire Middle East, is not in Israel's interest. Once again Jews are being used as a scapegoat for problems within the Muslim world. When anything goes wrong, reflexively blame the "Zionists." If only Jews really had so much power! But the myth of the super-powerful diabolical Jew is as old as anti-Semitism itself. It is also very handy for distracting attention from the real source of the problems.
These events should evoke a sense of eerie familiarity. This is not the first time the power-mad leader of an aggressive country aching to expand its influence throughout the world has specifically attacked the Jews and called for their annihilation. The last time it happened was not so long ago. And the world response is the same now as it was then: an inability to unite, and a hope that appeasement will make the problem go away. The world paid a very high price for that mistake.
When Jews are blamed for every problem in the world no matter how far-fetched the connection, a deadly unreason is at work whose destructive potential is incalculable. This deadly unreason is impervious to facts, logic, or rational discussion. It can only be defeated though the unity of all those who are committed to reason and who oppose racism in all its forms, standing together in condemnation of the primitive totalitarian mind that would fashion the world in its own image.
The last time this happened, world unity did not form until it was almost too late. And millions of people died.
That is the similarity. But there is also an ominous difference. The last time this happened, the war ended before the other country could develop nuclear weapons.
Reuters News Staff. Iran President Warns West over Iraq Shrine Blast." Reuters AlertNet, February 23, 2006.
Tehran Times Political Desk. A New Plot to Divide Muslims." TehranTimes, February 23, 2006.
Worth, Robert F. Blast Destroys Shrine in Iraq, Setting Off Sectarian Fury." New York Times, February 22, 2006.
Peace with Realism