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Orientalist bile and ‘unshaven’ Iranians in Forbes

June 18, 2009

Look at the kind of racism Forbes/Wall Street Journal writer Melik Kaylan is spitting here: it’s so open-faced about its civilizational measuring stick that I could not overlook it. Instead of admitting he knows nothing about Iran or Iranians, Kaylan decides instead that impenetrable Iran is ‘oddly asymmetrical to other cultures.’ His logic of geography is Sarah Palin-ish in brilliance: Turks have lived in and next to Iran for millenia, and even they can’t make sense of them! Even Noah Feldman is too moderate for him for putting ‘Islamist political movements […] in broader historical context.’

There’s more. Kaylan is charmed and impressed by Iranians’ ‘good manners,’ women chatting with him and men practically addressing each other in poetry. So great was his knowledge of Iran on his visit that he grew a beard to fit in, only to be told by Tehranis that, ‘It’s not nice.’ Oh.

He calls Iran’s ‘tormenters’ (I’m quoting directly) bearded, hirsute, and turbaned, and urges the agency-less Iranians in his imagination to ‘sweep’ them away. What is wrong with them? These natives have ‘good taste’ and ‘cultural depth’ — surely they must see their sub-standard condition!

A mullah is a mullah to this man who bowdlerizes Omar Khayyam‘s line, ‘Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai/Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day/How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp/Abode his destined Hour, and went his way’ to read ‘How Mullah after Mullah with his Pomp’ (my italics). Nb: independent clerics Grand Ayatullah Gulpaygani, Makarem Shirazi and Ardabili are joining Montazeri and Saanei in calling the for the re-examination of all the election votes, not just a partial recount, and have condemned the IRI’s brutal crackdown on protesters. That’s more than the Supreme Court did during the Bush election controversies.

Earlier he shows his preference for clean, well-groomed and Westward-looking natives. For their ‘elegant warloards, icy brunettes and a yearning for democracy’ he calls Beiruti’s ‘the most civilized citizens of the world.’ Extending the word ‘civilized’ to the rest of the country would have to include South Lebanon’s dreaded Shi’i and the country’s Palestinian refugee population. Horror of horrors.

In another article he declares Istanbul his favorite city for its ‘mystery, strangeness,’ an ‘enchanted’ place, unlike Rio which is ‘too crime-ridden’ (thank goodness he feels this way: please, please do not come here). Instead Istanbul, like Tehran and Beirut, can transfigure a White person into ‘some strange other identity.’

Here’s a Wikipedia image of Omar Khayyam, wearing… a turban and a beard. Nice going, Forbes.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2009 15:57

    Brilliant! These days the neorientalists are mushrooming everywhere. They are so ridiculous!


  2. Christopher permalink
    June 18, 2009 22:15

    Very interesting commentary; thanks for highlighting this phenomenon that’s currently taken over the press, particularly in the U.S.

  3. June 18, 2009 22:33

    He claimed that Iranians are “ethnically” Turks! heheheheheeeeeeeeeeeeeee, there is no such thing… I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read his shit

  4. Christopher permalink
    June 18, 2009 23:35

    Coverage by “progressive” U.S. media, who supposedly are more knowledgeable and “in touch” with other areas of the world, is no better (see video segment from the Rachel Maddow with Reza Aslan):

    Errors are made with very general background information, such as the fact that Montazeri and Saanei is not “at the very top of the regime,” as Maddow says, and Aslan fails to correct (perhaps because he didn’t recognize the error.) Aslan also doesn’t seem to know that Khamenei put himself forward as a marja’ al-taqlid/grand ayatullah years ago. The again, I have always thought Aslan was quite superficial.

  5. June 19, 2009 12:24

    We had similar problems with the Forbes crew when they came on a junket to Beirut with a bunch of hacks.

  6. Christopher permalink
    June 21, 2009 00:41

    Some brown people are better than others:

    Why not support democracy movements in, say, Saudi Arabia?

    Sullivan says: “Because Iran actually has a population capable of sustaining democracy”


  1. 3arabawy BookMarx 06/18/2009 (p.m.) at 3arabawy

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