Moderation: three cheers and one question

The cheers are of course for the Muslim cleric Hassan Rouhani who has won the Iranian presidency without the hassle of a runoff.

His victory is being hailed around the world as a triumph of moderation, for Rouhani has this commendable quality in spades.

The question is: exactly what does moderation mean in this context?

You see, my moderation may be your radicalism, his license and their fascism.

Far be it from me to suggest that everything is relative, but some things definitely are. Such as moderation, especially – and I hope you won’t report me for religious intolerance – when it’s ascribed to a Muslim cleric.

You see, since the 1979 Islamic revolution Iran has been generally regarded as rather immoderate even by Muslim standards.By comparison, the Shah with his torturing secret police began to look like a humanitarian trying to get in touch with his feminine side. At least he drank decent wines and never threatened to develop nuclear weapons and blow up half the world.

Alas, his commitment to universal suffrage was less highly pronounced than in America, the only country other than the erstwhile Soviet Union that knows exactly how the world should govern itself.

The Shah didn’t meet such exacting standards and was ousted with American – how shall I put it so as not to offend my American readers? – acquiescence. He was replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini who didn’t mind government by consent, provided he was the one who consented.

Since then the Ayatollah, first Khomeini, then after his death in 1989, Sayyed Ali Khamenei, has held the title of Supreme Leader.

Now ‘Supreme’ is by definition a superlative, and in this instance the word doesn’t lie. So a note to the Americans: it’s democracy, chaps, but not as you know it. The Ayatollah decides who’s allowed to stand for the presidency of the Islamic republic and, by a multitude of variously subtle mechanisms, who’s allowed to win.

Thus Rouhani is an appointee of his rival for this year’s Best Dressed List – Supreme Leader, the Shiite cleric to end all Shiite clerics. In this type of democracy, it doesn’t really matter who wins. It’s all the same Shiite.

Exactly how moderate is Rouhani anyway? Does his moderation soar as high as that practised in moderate Kuwait, America’s protégé?

Let’s see. A 37-year-old Kuwaiti woman Houda al-Ajimi, has just been sentenced to 11 years in prison for a tweet. Her crime was suggesting that the current emir of Kuwait, sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Djabir al-Sabah (presumably his friends just call him Al) isn’t exactly perfect.

Now I’ve heard of censoring the Internet, but this is ridiculous. Actually it isn’t. Kuwait’s moderate constitution specifically states that Al is ‘immune and inviolable’. Untouchable, in other words.

So the al-woman has only herself to blame: she broke a law of her moderate land. You know what I mean by relative moderation?

As a pious Muslim, and a cleric to boot, Hassan the Moderate has to be committed to such things as the murder of apostates. One has to think that he would kill them moderately, say by a quick bullet rather than slow torture, but still.

His Holy Book also says that if a Jew hides behind a tree, not only the Jew must be extricated and killed, but also the tree must be chopped down. Perhaps as a moderate Hassan will leave the tree standing.

What I’m trying to suggest in this flippant way unbefitting such a solemn occasion is that the finely nuanced demarcation between moderate and immoderate Muslims is sometimes hard to discern.

Well, for me anyway. And I’m proud to live in a country whose leader (not quite Supreme, but as near as damn) has no such problems.

Dave has stated that he knows exactly who among the Syrian rebels are at heart democracy-seekers opposed to Assad’s tyranny and who are Al Qaeda militants. The former merit aid, including our weapons in their arsenals; the latter merit opprobrium, including American drones on their heads.

Dave must have a nose of bloodhound sensitivity to smell the fine shades in the stench emanated by the rebels. Or else he has iron-clad intelligence at his disposal, which also tells him with dead certainty that Assad is using Sarin gas to sort out the opposition.

Personally, when evaluating such data, I’d consider its source, which is the same one that assured us that Saddam was stockpiling WMD. But Dave is a trusting soul. He believes in the goodness of man, even those men who publicly cut out and consume their enemies’ internal organs.

I’m not suggesting that Hassan Rouhani’s dietary habits are similar to those of the moderate elements in the Syrian opposition. I just hope that his ‘moderation’ isn’t yet another canard being shoved down our throats to justify our governments’ craven spinelessness in the face of Iran’s nuclear threat.

Anyway, he can prove his moderate credentials by dismantling his country’s nuclear facilities and allowing international experts to verify that he has done so.

Five gets you ten he won’t. So let’s hope that the nuclear bombs Iran may acquire in short order will be of only a moderate yield.

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