Thursday, March 26, 2009

H.E. Seyed Mohammad Khatami

I heard this remarkable man - ex president of Iran 1997-2005 - speak at La Trobe University this evening.  Mr Khatami is a Muslim cleric whose main interest is political philosophy.  I found his prepared speech, which ran for half an hour, academic and rather dry.  For another 2 hours however he took good-natured, though often pointed questions from his audience with grace, animation and (most of all) an erudite humor that had even the stern-faced security guards in stiches of laughter.  It was the largest public meeting I have attended at LTU with about 1300 in attendance - the audience filled 3 lecture theatres to capacity. 

A most enjoyable evening which touched on the conservatives in Iran, fanatical Muslims, fanatical neocons, Iranian nuclear power, Palestine, Barack Obama.

Khatami's public presence did not support the Jewish Community Council of Victoria's image of him as a Jew-hating supporter of terrorism.  In his public statements tonight he expressed religious solidarity with the Jews - in terms of a common religious heritage - but opposition to their occupation of Palestine, total opposition to religious fundamentalism and absolute opposition to terrorism.  He saw Obama as a positive force that was nevertheless likely to be thwarted by US pressure groups.  He skillfully promoted the Iranian national image - no mean feat given the press it receives.

The JCCV condemned LTU for inviting him but in my view we should listen. In human terms I've got to say that I feel some bond with people such as Khatami. I probably would not agree with some of his specific religious views but to be honest, if I was organising a barbie, I'd like him to come.  Maybe I am gullible and falling for a skilled propagandist! Maybe not.


Anonymous said...

I imagine that would have been great. I think it's interesting how much leeway Obama has been given by many important people -- hopefully he can capitalize on it.

As for the Iranian image and what went on there whilst he was in power, all you need to do is look at migration patterns around the world. I believe Iran is the number 1 country for brain drain in the world, so whilst we can give them credit for still running a decent education system under a theocracy, persecution of people there must be (or have been) rampant, so I'll stick to the propaganda line!

Anonymous said...

I attended the lecture and was amused by a cleric in medieval robes wholeheartedly embracing 21st century technologies! I share your impression of Khatami and would love to share a table with him.

I was impressed by his analysis of the 'Net's transformative power in the hands of the citizenry rather than the power-brokers. I read a journalist's review of the speech and was amused and disturbed that the journalist had literally interpeted K's thow-away line about an Iranian nuclear bomb threat as being a "Satanic conspiracy". Don't these people have irony filters?