How not to build bridges…

One of my very good friends in Iran is helping to organise the fantastic 5th Tehran International Animation Festival 2007. In response to the kind invitations that have been sent to universities and organisations worldwide, one US animator sent this:

Karimi,

I am sorry, but I boycott anything that comes from any nation that fosters terrorism, contempt for human life and freedom, and lack of courtesy to your men and women. Why? If you really want to know, read on:

My country is culturally Christian (mainly), yours is namely [sic] Muslim. This doesn’t bother me- Why does it bother Iran? Or Iraq?? Or whoever?!? Why is this a problem?

Also; Why develop nuclear weapons? We are in the process of disarming, whereas your country, along with Korea and others, is doing the opposite. This means we will be re-arming. And strengthening our military- and improving on ways to defend (this means “kill people”); your government (and others) are inevitably forcing our hand. The “people” of America, and Britain, and others, DO NOT want a war- not because we are afraid we may not win it, but because we do not want it. We would rather live with men than kill them.

You (and your people) need to get involved and tell your government about the message of peace. Use you festival forum for that message! Otherwise, you can forget Animation festivals, as well as the whole Muslim/Christian – Jihad/Crusade struggle: we will be a dead planet. And that is not what Christ or Muhammad, or God himself commanded. Not even close.

Salaam alekum

What an ungrateful idiot.

The really unsettling fact, however, is how much this American has clearly lapped-up all of Bush’s propaganda on Iran and reproduced it faithfully and unquestioningly. Evidently, he thinks that the country is populated by 70 million christian-and-jew-hating-suicidal-jihadists.

He genuinely believes that Iran’s nuclear programme is “forcing [America’s] hand” in re-arming. Wait a minute, when did the US (or Britain for that matter) even start disarming? They didn’t. And this sentence: “We would rather live with men than kill them” – how magnanimous!

What worries me even more is the opening section where he asks why “Iran, Iraq, or whoever” has a problem with the US being predominantly Christian. When has this been an issue for any of these countries? When has this been a problem?

Clearly, this guy thinks that any resistance to US policy in the Middle East is simply because Americans are Christians, nothing to do with illegal wars or prolongued occupations. How many Americans agree with this guy? I have no idea, but probably enough to make me very uncomfortable.

Once I’d stopped yelling at my monitor, I realised that this American’s email made me very sad. Being an artist in Iran is tough. Not only is the money bad – as it is everywhere – but there’s a constant struggle with the authorities for freedom-of-expression. I would have thought that any genuine foreign artist would stand alongside their Iranian counterparts, not send them abusive responses to their invitations.

**

PS. This isn’t really to do with this letter particularly, but just need to vent this little gripe. That phrase, “contempt for human life”, gets banded about by Bush and Blair (and the nob who wrote this letter) whenever they talk about “terrorism”. If Osama bin-Laden or Zarqawi or Zawahiri or any of these other nutters had “contempt for human life” then they would have killed themselves. It would be much more accurate to say they have “contempt for your life”, but that may prompt you to shift uncomfortably in your seat and begin to ask why. And we wouldn’t want that.

4 Responses to “How not to build bridges…”


  • Take it easy. It’s a bit mean to criticise grammar & spelling – he is an animator, rather than a writer and there is also a bit of a pot, kettle & black feel to it (‘prolongued’). In relation to arms, the US, towards the end of the Cold War did significantly reduce its WMDs, has historically (until GWB) supported the arms control regime, and is (and remains) a global target unlike any other.
    He isn’t going to Iran for a trip, so what? I guess a lot of small town Americans might think it unsafe. He (rather patronisingly) asks his potential host to try to alter Iranian government policy – is that not part of the purpose of this blog?
    This is a good site, but it is not fair to abuse that position by name-calling, particularly when it is actually you transferring your anger at recent American foreign policy.

  • Perhaps you’re right, I did fly off the handle a little bit. I wasn’t criticising his spelling though, I was criticising his standpoint. And no, I don’t think the US is disarming – certainly not in line with its pledges under the NPT. Saying that the US “is (and remains) a global target unlike any other” is quite simply ridiculous. Do you really see it as a victim? The daily “targets” I read about in the news are in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Chechnya, large parts of Africa etc..

    Anyway, the post was not about my frustration at US foreign policy. It was about my frustration at my liberal friends being accused of supporting the regime that oppresses them on a daily basis.

    PS The aim of this blog is not to alter Iranian government policy. There is no aim to this blog, other than to let off a bit of steam … I thought that was obvious 😉

  • If I were an Iranian animator, whatever my social or political outlook, I’d feel pretty pissed off to get a letter like that. And I would probably have a whole set of stereotypes and assumptions of my own about Americans (fed to me by my government and – it has to be said – backed up by every US action in the Middle East) that might have just been strengthened rather than altered..

    The letter writer suggests that the festival should be used to spread the message of peace. Why not start trying to spread that message with a bit of tolerance and interest in the situation and beliefs of other human beings, rather than condemnation and anger?

  • Hello Halfiranian,

    Long story, but I’m looking for an Iranian blogger for a programme I’m producing. Local radio, North East England. You’re not, by any remote chance or luck, living in the North East of the UK are you?
    If so, fancy talking about the letting off of steam?

    F

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