There is something about Christmas time that brings about delusions: innocent ones, such as children who cling to the belief that Santa Claus exists, and the not-so innocent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who thinks the Holocaust is a myth.
This week Iran played host to the verbosely titled, “International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust,” an event vociferously condemned by Muslim groups such as CAIR. The logic of the conference – if one can make sense of it – is that “if the holocaust is questioned officially, then the existence of the Zionist regime will also be questioned,” as Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki claims.
Organizers insist, however, that the conference is not about denying the events of the Holocaust at all. Rasoul Mousavi, the head of the Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies, which is hosting the conference, said the conference “seeks neither to deny or prove the Holocaust. It is just to provide an appropriate scientific atmosphere for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom about an historical issue.”
But the motley group of speakers suggest the event is anything but scientific. Despite being one of the most documented events in human historythe US Holocaust Museum has 37 million pages of archival material, 74,000 photographs and 1,000 hours of video documentationthe Iran conference has drawn on such “experts” as David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who advocates white separatism and refers to whites as the “genetic elite.”
Other speakers include a Toronto based professor Shiraz Dossa who apparently failed to understand the ambiguous title of the conference and noted, ” I did not know exactly who was coming to the conference, and frankly, I think these people are hacks and lunatics.”
Despite claims of the conference being balanced, no reports indicate if any Holocaust survivors – or credible historians for that matter – were present at the event, although Borat, the unabashedly anti-Semitic star of the eponymous film, claimed his character was in Iran attending the “Holocaust Denial Conference” after he was nominated for a Golden Globe.
Supporters for the conference argue that the conference is not anti-Semitic because of the presence of various Jewish groups, including the ultra-orthodox groups Neturei Karta (who are actually anti-Israel rather than anti-Holocaust), though many in Iran still remain concerned about what the conference will do to Iran’s historic Jewish community. The popular blog Iranian Truth suggests Ahmadinejad focus on the lingering human rights abuses within his own country while, in a rare demonstration in Tehran, students expressed their outrage over Ahmadinejad by chanting “death to the dictator.”
Soon Iranians will weigh in on Ahmadinejad’s tenure in an upcoming vote, though it is unknown how they will assess a man who is simultaneously loathed and admired, often by the same people. But as outsiders attempt to call his bluff (while the American military is too bogged down to do much of anything), Ahmadinejad will someday have to let on as to what he hoped to practically achieve.
Zahir Janmohamed is the co-founder of The Qunoot Foundation and associate editor of altmuslim.com.