The Coming, and Why the Left Doesn't Understand Iran
“Greetings to Mahdi, the one who all beings on Earth and In Heaven love without end.”
About two weeks ago, when Reza Khalili first emailed me a video of the new Iranian-produced documentary -- The Coming Is Near -- I knew I was witnessing something extraordinary. (Reza was preparing a translation at the time, which is available as of today on PJ Media.)
The message of the short film was clear: The current crisis in the Middle East (Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, now Syria... all of it) is a harbinger that the Mahdi (the hidden one, the Twelfth Imam) was coming soon and that, in the ensuing chaos and destruction, Khomeini’s version of Shia Islam would shortly rule over the entire globe.
It seemed like an Iranian version of The Triumph of the Will. Although not remotely as artful as Leni Riefenstahl’s film, The Coming was in many ways as blood-curdling, perhaps more so for its corny time-lapse photography of flowers opening and oddly stiff narration. I thought it should get as wide a dispersion as possible.
And yet simultaneously I thought that was useless. The people who would most need to see this video -- our liberal/left intelligentsia -- either would not watch it or dismiss it as “mere propaganda” and of little significance.
Propaganda it indeed is, but propaganda of a very special sort because its makers truly believe their own ideology. Perhaps, I shouldn’t use the word ideology. They believe their own religion, for religion is the more proper term in this instance, all the pronouncements in the film being of an essentially theological nature, and thus incontrovertible by logic, such as the following from Imam Bagher: “The messiah will not rise unless fear, great earthquakes, and sedition take place.” (Ah, Japan...)
To the Western mind this seems like mumbo-jumbo, of course, or something a Seventh Day Adventist might try to flog when collecting donations door-to-door. To the leftist, long divorced as he or she normally is from conventional religious faith, pronouncements of this sort appear particularly absurd. No one of intelligence could possibly believe the superstitious nonsense the mullahs were mouthing. It was just a method of keeping the impoverished masses on their side.
The leftist assumption, therefore, is that the religion is not really believed by the leadership, but that it is exploited much in the manner Elmer Gantry -- in a considerably more localized way, of course -- exploited Christianity. Or perhaps some Medieval pope used his faith as a power grab.
The leftist worldview is so alienated from religion it cannot take it seriously or think anyone else takes it seriously. Therefore Khamenei, et al., must be masquerading for their own purposes. Theirs is just a negotiating stance, albeit of a longterm nature. Hence, Obama’s view that he could win over Ahmadinejad on nuclear weapons with discussion around a table accompanied by a bribe or two. But one viewing of this film reminds us there is nothing to discuss any number of bribes could resolve. Ahmadinejad sees an entirely different universe.
Watching this film is indeed more disturbing in the face of current Middle East conditions. The entire region is caught between brutal semi-secular dictators who espouse Islam only when convenient and brutal dictators who always espouse some version of Islam and wish to control the world through it. Off in the margins, are a handful of blogging freethinkers who, if we are to believe recent reports from Egypt, have already been cast aside.
The Iranians are doing their best to take advantage of the situation on as many fronts as possible. Some of them, of course, are doing this for geopolitical reasons or from fear that their Islamic regime may be the next to go in this wave of reform (or whatever it is). But many, at the highest reaches of their government, believe that their Mahdi is coming, as this film indicates. Under those circumstances, they would not fear nuclear holocaust. They might even welcome it.
So what are we to do? Well, I have nothing to offer, but we should at least be clear in our understanding. If you have a liberal friend, pass the video on to them. Maybe they will look at it -- and think.
[UPDATE: The link to the video was accidentally made "subscription only." It is now fixed and anyone can view. Sorry for the inconvenience.]