The Mullah in the Cathedral

Recent events make it clear that the Islamic Republic of Iran poses great challenges to both American security and global stability. In furtherance of its religiously inspired goals, Iran has funded and armed both Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Shiite militias in Iraq, fighting Americans. And then, there’s Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, which, in the hands of apocalyptic fanatics like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a terrifying prospect. Given this political context, you would think that, at the very least, we would be wary about anything an Iranian spokesman has to say. And we should also pay careful attention to where he says it from. Unfortunately, that kind of clear thinking is in short supply these days. It’s hard to conclude otherwise if you follow the progress of former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami’s current speaking tour of the United States. Khatami, whom Reuters called “the most prominent Iranian to visit the United States . . . in decades,” is often called a “moderate,” but according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, during his term as president of Iran, “religious minorities—including Jews, Christians, Sunni and Sufi Muslims, Baha’is, dissident Shia Muslims, and others—faced systematic harassment, discrimination, imprisonment, torture, and even execution based on their religious beliefs.” Hardly “moderate.” Khatami’s U.S. tour is part of a public relations campaign by Tehran. During his visit to Washington, Khatami warned the United States not to threaten Iran. He said that the “distrust” between Washington and Iran made dialogue impossible. A State Department spokesman immediately replied by saying that “the place to start when talking about . . . threats is with [Iranian] President [Ahmadinejad’s] threatening to wipe the state of Israel off the map.” But what really offended me the most was that he made these comments in the National Cathedral in Washington, home of the Episcopal diocese of Washington. The Cathedral is especially hallowed ground this week because it was just five years ago this week that Billy Graham, President Bush, and others led the nation in mourning for the victims of September 11. That a spokesman for the biggest sponsor of Islamic terrorism, a nation supplying insurgents to kill American troops today, would be allowed to speak from the same place the week before September 11, 2006—blasphemy. Are we mad? Why was he allowed to speak there? The purported reason, of course, is promoting dialogue, which is hopelessly naïve. One of Iran’s most powerful clerics recently called Iran the “the only legitimate government endorsed by the Almighty” and “an extension of God.” The rest of us live in “utter darkness.” How do you “dialogue” with that? I’ll give the Iranians this much: They know that they are in a clash of civilizations. The same can’t be said for the canons of the National Cathedral who, because they don’t take the truth claims of their own religion seriously, assume the same of the Iranian leadership. Given what we know about Iran, that’s dangerous folly.  
For Further Reading and Information
Apply today for the 2007 Centurions Program and study Biblical worldview for a year with Chuck Colson! Deadline for applications is November 30. “USCIRF Calls for Candor on Iran's Religious Freedom Violations; Concerned about Former Iranian President Khatami's Speech at the National Cathedral,” U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom press release, 1 September 2006. Robin Wright, “At Cathedral, Iran’s Khatami Urges Dialogue,” Washington Post, 8 September 2006, A10. Michael Goldfarb, “Crimson Jihad: Iran's Mohammad Khatami goes to Harvard,” Weekly Standard, 11 September 2006. “Bush Personally Signed Off on Khatami Visit: WSJ,” Washington Post, 9 September 2006. William C. Mann, “Khatami Blasts Wave of ‘Islamaphobia’,” Washington Post, 9 September 2006. “The Fifth Anniversary,” Washington Post, 10 September 2006, B06. William F. Buckley, “Ideological Warfare?”, 10 September 2006. Felice D. Gaer and Nina Shea, “Questions for Khatami,” Washington Post, 7 September 2006, A27. Mark D. Tooley, “Khatami Comes to National Cathedral,”, 7 September 2006. Amir Taheri, “The Ayatollah and the Only Bright Spot on Earth,” Regime Change Iran blog, 3 September 2006. Andrew Sullivan, “Quote for the Day II,” The Daily Dish blog, 9 September 2006. “Former Iran President Says Holocaust Is a ‘Fact’,” The Star (Malaysia), 9 September 2006. Reza Aslan, “The War for Islam,” Boston Globe, 10 September 2006. BreakPoint Commentary No. 060911, “Lessons Learned and Unlearned: Five Years after September 11.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 011218, “Mushy Ecumenism: Incoherent Civil Religion.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 060814, “Preparing for the Mahdi: What’s Really Scary about Iran’s Nuclear Program.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 050420, “Shaking Ground: Iran’s Christians.” “The Clash of Worldviews: Defending the Truth”—a speech by Chuck Colson to the Wilberforce Forum Centurions on Christianity and Islam. Timothy George, Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? (Zondervan, 2002).


Chuck Colson



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