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January 10, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-01-10

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, January 10, 2006


c~be MiritzniiI

Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editors

Managing Editor


I had some leaves
burning outside, so
I threw (the mouse)
in the fire, and the
mouse was on fire
and ran back at the
- New Mexico resident Luciano Mares,
81, whose home was destroyed by afire
caused by the burning mouse, as reported
yesterday by the Detroit Free Press.


TM o

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.

,^' .
~, , .y

Rethinking Iran and the maniac who runs it

obody seemed
terribly sur-
prised that
Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadine-
jad used last week's
news of Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon's
debilitating stroke as
k a platform to launch
yet another anti-Israel
invective. This one rejoiced over the impend-
ing death of Prime Minister Sharon, who at this
writing remains in a coma, and reassured his
followers that "God willing," countless other
Israeli leaders will follow. Since his unantici-
pated election victory in June, Ahmadinejad
has been a broken record of hate speech, anti-
Semitism and poorly camouflaged military
threats. His infrequent and elaborately staged
public appearances usually double as recit-
als for these vicious tirades and take place in
receptive settings where he can comfortably
brand Israel as the international community's
"tumor"; where audiences agree the Jewish
state should be "wiped off the map"; where
instead of meeting condemnation and disgust,
speeches decrying the Holocaust as "myth"
find praise and applause.
That Ahmadinejad couldn't muster the
decency to let grief-stricken Israelis pray for
their leader without interruption should come
as no shock. It should, however, serve a cau-
tionary purpose for U.S. and European officials
who insist on viewing the Iranian hardliner
through the same tactical lens with which they
viewed his relatively moderate predecessor,
Mohammad Khatami. Much unlike Khatami,
Ahmadinejad operates with glaring contempt
for international efforts to curb Iran's nuclear
enrichment program and resentment rooted in
a dark and fanatical religious conviction, the
true contours of which few have come to terms
As was the case with his mentor Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual architect

behind the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ahma-
dinejad sees government as a tool to instill
religious obedience and, if need be, as an
instrument of repression. Likewise, Ahma-
dinejad took office with an ambitious and
divinely inspired policy agenda. At the top of
his list: ushering in the Messiah.
Yes, as startling as it sounds, Ahmadinejad
subscribes to a branch of Shiite Islam con-
vinced the return of the Messiah - and with
it, the dawn of the apocalypse - is imminent.
According to believers, Imam Mahdi, some-
times referred to as the Savior of Times, will
soon be resurrected in a mosque in southern
Iran. The exact timetable for the Shiite version
of Judgment Day is unclear, but syndicated
columnist Charles Krauthammer reports that
Ahmadinejad was heard in "official meetings"
saying the Imam will return within the next
two years. Further complicating matters, this
particular understanding of Messianic revival
distances itself from the passive fatalism of
other religions, holding instead that civil soci-
ety (and yes, even government) can play an
important function in hastening the Imam's
second coming. To this end, Ahmadinejad
has proven unwilling to divorce his role as a
national leader from that of a religious dis-
ciple. Perhaps this explains why as one of his
first acts of public policy, Ahmadinejad donat-
ed $17 million to the very shrine in which the
long-awaited Imam is expected to return. This
guy actually believes that along with com-
manding a military and overseeing his various
internal ministries, heralding the return of the
Messiah is all in a day's work.
Much to the peril of the rest of the region,
Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic delusions are
inexorably connected with his long-time loy-
alties to violent terrorist groups like Hezbol-
lah as well as to his sincere belief that Israel
- both as a nation and a people - has no
right to existence. Admittedly, a head of state
openly hostile toward Israel is garden variety
in the Middle East. One that publicly denies
the Holocaust? Disturbing, but by no means

astonishing. One convinced our day of reck-
oning will arrive before the next Harry Potter
book? That's just scary.
To say that U.S. and European diplomats
need to better account for Ahmadinejad's reli-
gious leanings during the now-stalled nuclear
negotiations is, I believe, a grave understate-
ment. If the international community truly
wants Iran in a cage, Western stakeholders
must stop hiding from the religious motivations
behind Ahmadinejad's brinksmanship. They
must stop dismissing antagonism as "power
projection" and look past "regional posturing"
in explaining away his flagrant aggression
toward Israel. Most importantly, they must not
write off the unthinkable. It's time to consider
the frightening possibility that this maniac
isn't simply "saber-rattling" when he speaks of
rubbing out the Jewish state.
The textbook approaches to this type of stra-
tegic engagement rely on assumptions of self-
preservation and rational policy action that
simply don't apply when one party believes
itself divinely ordained. Coupling posi-
tive incentives with veiled threats may have
worked with "rogue states" like Libya and
North Korea, where standard rules of engage-
ment applied and it was reasonably assumed
that all negotiating factions believed life as we
know it would continue longer than iwo years
down the road.
But if this guy is even a quarter as warped
as he is reported to be, Iran's hard-line govern-
ment will remain the world's most volatile and
unpredictable regime. This man is no states-
man. He isn't even a politician. He's a self-pro-
claimed apostle on a violent, wayward mission
from God. Anywhere outside Tehran he'd be in
a straitjacket, but as Israel's luck would have it,
he happens to command an administration of
revolutionary fanatics and a military less than
two years away from possessing an operational
nuclear weapon.
Singer can be reached
at singers@umich.edu.


Tackling racism, head-on


I spent the bulk of my life as a minority.
When I was seven years old, my family and
I moved to Singapore - a country where
the majority of the population is Chinese. I
lived in Singapore until two years ago, when I
came to this country for college. Even though
I have been living in countries where I was a
minority for two-thirds of my life, I had never
directly encountered racism. I used to believe
that racism was an archaic idea that had died
out decades ago along with slavery and colo-
nialism. I did not doubt that racial stereotyp-
ing was widespread or that people have an
innate tendency to favor those of their own
race. But the idea of a person disliking some-
one purely because of his race seemed too
barbaric to be true in today's multicultural
world. I placed more trust in the existence of
Santa Claus than in the existence of people
who support segregation.
Unfortunately, my belief in Santa Claus was
once again shattered over the past semester.
Several events didn't help, such as the alleged
incident where college students urinated on
and hurled racial slurs at a group of Asians,
or my own personal experience when I ran
into some girls who did not want to stay too
long in an area because "there are a lot of
Arabs around here," didn't help. But those
incidents were not what made me change my
outlook on society.
A few months ago, my friend showed me
a white supremacist website. I do not want
to mention its name, but suffice it to say that
it is wildly popular. Its forums attract close
to 35,000 visitors every day, some of whom
claim to be students at our University, who
openly speak out against diversity, clamor
for segregation, sling racial slurs of the worst
kind and proclaim that whites are genetically

superior to everyone else. Posts about eugen-
ics, the holocaust being a hoax and Martin
Luther King Jr. being a despicable person are
nothing out of the ordinary. What is more
frightening is that not all the forums there
are based on politics or white supremacist
philosophy. Visitors frequent the forums to
discuss a range of topics from homemaking
to music and entertainment. To them, white
supremacy is not just a topic - it's a com-
munity and a way of life.
It is easy to dismiss these white suprema-
cists as uneducated and lacking in intel-
ligence. But what frightened me the most
was that the majority of them are hardly
uneducated or lacking in intelligence. They
are able to pen very intelligent and eloquent
arguments to support their cause. They are
able to cite credible statistics and evidence to
back up their claims. What frightened me the
most was that these people are, by most defi-
nitions, smart people, and yet they are firm
believers in white supremacy. These people
are hardly the stereotypical hicks that come
to mind when picturing racists. These people
could be your neighbors, your co-workers or
even the people interviewing you when you
apply for jobs.
Over the past semester, I realized that rac-
ism has by no means been vanquished. It has
simply gone underground. In today's media,
saying something that is even slightly con-
troversial on touchy issues often results in
an enormous backlash and endless personal
attacks. It is thus hardly surprising that no
one dares to openly espouse white suprema-
cist beliefs. This is unfortunate because the
best way to tackle racism is not to censor it
or to use straw-man arguments, but to fight
it head-on. As much as I disagree with and
personally dislike white supremacists, their
arguments and beliefs should be more fairly

represented in the media. I would love to see
The New York Times give a columnist spot
to a white supremacist just so his arguments
supporting segregation and the superior-
ity of the white race can be discussed and
debunked by experts.
As things stand right now, someone who
starts developing nascent racist beliefs has no
avenue through which he can openly discuss
his thoughts. He never sees his beliefs dis-
cussed or debated fairly in the media, either.
As a result, his thoughts stay inside his head
and continue to fester. One day, he might
stumble across a white supremacist website
where he encounters convincing, quasi-valid
arguments backed up by statistics from cred-
ible sources. With nothing else to dissuade
him, he would end up becoming a believer
in white supremacy - this is a life story that
is frequently narrated by numerous white
supremacists. If these same arguments were
discussed in the media, more convincing
counter-arguments would be brought up that
can more effectively persuade people that
white supremacist beliefs are flawed.
I used to believe that racism doesn't exist
anymore. Now I realize that it not only exists,
but is all around us - it is a major problem
that society needs to continue addressing. But
we can't fight racism simply by being more
politically correct, shouting down those who
make perceived quasi-racist remarks or by
censoring all racist opinions. Doing so will
only drive it underground where we can't
fight it at all. The best way to fight racism is
by allowing people the opportunity to engage
in open discourse, even if it involves sensi-
tive topics. It is time to bring racism out into
the open where it is at its weakest.
Prabhakar is an Engineering junior and a
member of the Daily's editorial board.


Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Reggie Brown, Gabrielle
D'Angelo, John Davis, Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared
Goldberg, Ashwin Jagannathan, Theresa Kennelly, Mark Kuehn, Will Kerridge, Frank Man-
ley, Kirsty McNamara, Rajiv Prabhakar, Matt Rose, David Russell, Katherine Seid, Brian

T .- - - - - - _ ..__,,.


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