Two interesting NPR stories on Iran and its President this week. In one
, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was heard commenting about the Holocaust, dismissing the fact that Jews were placed in crematoria as a reason for a Jewish state. I've often heard references to people being "put in ovens" during the Holocaust (for instance, from Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan), and I'm mystified. I don't think anyone has ever claimed that the Nazis used ovens for mass killings (though I'm sure that, as in the movie "The Grey Zone
", a certain number of apparently dead gas chamber victims may have been burned alive.) But it was the gas chamber that was the main instrument of mass murder at concentration camps such as Auschwitz (that and disease.) Referring to the "ovens" just confuses the matter; they were just for disposing of the bodies. It's gruesome, but it's not the main crime. It's true that in both Jewish and Islamic law, cremation is taboo, a dishonor to the dead, but I don't think that's what the Iranian President was referring to.Another story
discussed the Shiite Muslim belief in the sort-of Messianic "12th [or 'hidden'] Imam", who will return to establish a worldwide Muslim kingdom of justice and piety. The question is whether Iranian leaders, including the President, believe this will happen soon, and if this belief guides their policies. This would bring them close in thinking to some of the fundamentalist Christians who influence President Bush (and probably Bush himself) who believe we are living in the "End Times", with Jesus due to return soon and end the world as we know it. Great - so both sides in the nuclear standoff are psyched for the world to end!