The Guardian has added to its leader page a daily "In praise of..." feature. Perhaps because it's a collective effort in the name of the Guardian, its choices are generally anaemic - yesterday's, for example, was "Christmas carols", today's "texting". I would wish to read more contrarian homages, such as to high-potency skunk, Sheikh Osama, Ariel Sharon, President Saddam Hussein, the Vatican on homosexuality, etc. And given that nobody in the west seems to have a good word to say about the Iranian president, here is my contribution "in praise of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad".
Iranian presidents once were boring and had little influence on the inner workings of the Iranian regime - Rafsanjani and Khatami enjoyed the limelight but their relative liberalism made them marginal figures ultimately. So when Rafsanjani stood again this year, but lost to Ahmadinejad, I guess I was one of the few in the West who thought this a good sign. Was I wrong? Well, he's certainly not as boring as the previous presidents, for sure. And one feels that, even though he's made mistakes in the first five months of his presidency, his closeness to the supreme leader and the council of guardians means that he will be receiving wise counsel and help in presenting himself and the revolution more effectively to the world in future.
As for his beliefs about Zionism, I find it refreshing that a politician is willing to rattle the cognitive cages of Western listeners. I don't speak Farsi so, like most other western commentators, I am reliant on translations that likely miss subtlties in his language. But when he called for Israel to be wiped off the map, I didn't believe he was calling for Israel to be nuked - on the contrary, I agreed with his comment, because I believe a two-state solution is ill-conceived and unworkable (although if it works, great, if it'll end the conflict). I parted company with him in his belief that there was no Nazi genocide against the Jews, but I also know the Nazis genocided the Roma, the disabled, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.. And he's right that the Zionist movement has pushed the Holocaust mythos in order to justify its occupation of Jerusalem and Palestine. And, whatever we might think of his work, it is disgraceful that British historian David Irving is locked up in Austria for questioning that mythos. As for Ahmadinejad's question as to why Palestinians should suffer for the sins of Europeans in the '40s, it's a rhetorical question worth asking again and again.
Now Mahmoud has banned western music from the airwaves, and artists in particular mentioned by Associated Press were the Eagles, Kenny G, Eric Clapton and George Michael. Good for him, I say - if I was dictator for a day, I'd do the same, and order the Beeb to play only spiritually uplifting music such as by Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane or Jonathan Richman. ('People all around the world are starving for affection, even in Tehran')
I'll end with some of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's own words, as translated from the Farsi.
“Today, there is no sign of peace and tranquility in the world, and mankind is thirsty for justice and spirituality.
“Although some ideologies have succeeded in bringing welfare for certain groups of people, they have failed to maintain peace and justice. Therefore, the only ideology that can and should give a clear, thorough, and lasting response to man’s needs is Islam.”