On an early September morning in 2006, in their usual morning routine, my parents poured some coffee and sat down in front of the television set to watch the news. My mother described my father’s reaction to the news report he had just heard in a somewhat humorous way. She said “I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head and he started to choke on the coffee he had just started to swallow.” The report they had watched was that Mohammad Khatami, the previous Iranian president, was touring the United States and promoting the Alliance of Civilizations (AoC) initiative. See similar reports here:
What had taken my father by surprise was not the Alliance of Civilizations which I had been discussing with him over the course of that year, rather, he was actually hearing about it in the media. He admitted that he though I was making a mountain out of a mole hill. He, as most Americans, had viewed the United Nations as an “irrelevant” organization.
What we had talked about a few weeks earlier was Khatami’s Dialogue of Civilizations—an initiative that the AoC has credited as providing much of its “philosophical heritage”. Noteworthy is that Khatami is a member of the AoC’s High Level Group.
In UN press release Terrorism Denies Universality of Values Implicit in Dialogue Among Civilizations , the following can be found:
“Finally, the Secretary-General reaffirms, a dialogue among civilizations was not only the answer to terrorism but also its nemesis in many ways. Terrorism sought to divide while dialogue aimed to unite. Terrorism was exclusionary and belligerent while dialogue was inclusive and accepting of the notion that no group was the exclusive owner of the truth…”
Here again, we see that they dislike anyone who believes in an absolute truth. This categorizes Christians as well as those in other faiths as terrorists. Now let’s take a look at who’s calling whom a terrorist. Below is a piece from Seraphic Secret, a blog I regularly visit. I trust it will adequately finish the Khatami story.
The Shame of the Episcopal Church
Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a terrorist, a torturer, a human monster, has naturally been invited to speak at Harvard and Columbia Universities. I expect such moral blindness from our Ivy Leagues. But now this butcher has also been invited to speak at an Episcopal Church--all this during the week of 9-11. The question is: are these people merely stupid, or willfully blind to true evil, and therefore enablers of a world-class murderer, anti-Semite and Jihadist. There are no other choices.
The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, Dean
Washington National Cathedral
3101 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016
Dear Rev. Lloyd:
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington is deeply disappointed and dismayed to learn that the Washington National Cathedral has decided to host former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami - a figure who has a long documented record of intolerance, anti-Semitism and human rights abuses. Under his leadership, and continuing today, repeated threats were made to destroy the Jewish state. As a prominent national church it is under no obligation to provide a platform to President Khatami. Quite the opposite; the cathedral's reputation is one of compassion and coexistence with other faith communities. This invitation belies that tradition. We ardently hope that you will consider withdrawing it.
Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is no moderate. His record is clear: during his time in office Iran expanded its support for international terrorism, pursued the acquisition of nuclear weapons, armed Hizbullah and other anti-Western extremists groups. In fact, as minister of culture, he presided over the creation of Hezbollah.
His reign, like that of his successor, has been repressive, intolerant, and autocratic. All the evidence contradicts his reputation as a reformer. We feel that the decision to invite President Khatami tarnishes the cathedral's tradition and reputation for promoting tolerance and mutual understanding among all people and is in conflict with its publicly stated mission.
At a bare minimum, considering his record as president, his earlier years of public service and the country he represents, he is an inappropriate individual to invite to participate in a discussion on religious tolerance. Your invitation bestows honor upon a dishonorable disseminator of hatred and intolerance.
President Khatami's reign was marked by repeated and public calls for the annihilation of Israel, unflinching progression towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons and the arming and financing of the terrorist group Hezbollah. When most Western leaders condemned Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's virulently anti-Semitic speech to the Organization of the Islamic Conference in October 2003, President Khatami called it "brilliant" and "logical." It was during President Khatami's rule in early 1999 that 13 Iranian Jews were arrested on sham charges of spying for Israel, including a rabbi and a 16-year-old boy. The trial violated all legal norms: it was closed to all observers, the judge served as the investigator and prosecutor, and no evidence was presented. Ten of the Jews were sentenced from 4-13 years in jail.
During President Khatami's rule internal repression continued unabated. Just one year into his presidency, his intelligence services murdered Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar, leaders of Iran's National Party. More than fifty newspapers were banned, government-funded vigilantes killed unarmed students at Teheran University (with no one ever charged for the crimes) and in an effort to continue to monopolize all control over information to its population, the ban on satellite dishes was maintained and extended to private internet connections. In fact, it was during his rule that Iran accelerated its nuclear weapons program and the ballistic capability to deliver them.
His earlier behavior was not any better. As a member of the council under Ayatollah Khomeini, Khatami did nothing to prevent or protest the murder of 3,000 political prisoners in a single week in 1998. In charge of censorship for a decade in Iran, he banned over 600 books and he stated in the Iran daily Keyhan in 1980 that only clergy should serve in government.
As we have learned from history, one cannot separate the message from the messenger. President Khatami will take advantage of your heartfelt desire to promote peace and tolerance and use the platform to secure legitimacy for Iran's hard line positions. President Khatami may carefully craft his words for your audience, but that deception cannot hide his past actions and outrageous public pronouncements.
In the spirit of brotherhood towards all people, and peace, tolerance and love for all, we respectfully request that the invitation to President Khatami be withdrawn.
Susan Weinberg, President
Ronald Halber, Executive Director
Washington National Cathedral
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 22, 2006
Revised September 5, 2006
Contact: Greg Rixon
FORMER IRANIAN PRESIDENT TO SPEAK
AT WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL
WASHINGTON – Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will present an address at Washington National Cathedral on September 7, 2006 at 7:30 pm. Attendance at the address will be by Cathedral invitation only. No additional requests for invitations can be accepted, but as many requests as possible that have been received will be honored.
President Khatami served as Iran's president from 1997 to 2005 and was the first reformist president following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Elected with the broad support of women and young adults, Khatami is credited with the promotion of the rule of law, democracy, and the inclusion of all Iranians in the political decision-making process. His 1998 U.N. statement calling for a dialogue among the world's civilizations and cultures prompted Secretary General Kofi Annan to declare 2001 the U.N. Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations. In February of this year Khatami founded the International Institute for Dialogue among Civilizations and Cultures in Tehran.
Khatami presently participates in the High-Level Group of the United Nations' Alliance of Civilizations. He is one of 20 international leaders called together by U. N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the prime ministers of Spain and Turkey to counter the deterioration of relations between societies and nations. The Alliance seeks to establish a relationship of mutual respect between civilizations and rejects religious and political extremism. His visit to the Cathedral will follow a meeting of the Group at the United Nations in New York, September 5th and 6th.
The Reverend Canon John L. Peterson, director of the Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation at the Cathedral noted that Khatami's visit is wholly appropriate at this time of increasing global tensions, since the former president intends to speak on the role the three Abrahamic faiths can play in shaping peace throughout the world. "The Cathedral is a place of reconciliation that opens its doors to people of all faiths, and we have a special commitment to embracing the children of Abraham. We have found that the Cathedral is an important platform for dialogue and open discussion," he said.
Of Khatami's visit Cathedral Dean, the Very Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III said, "President Khatami's commitment to a dialogue between civilizations and cultures is an important component in the peace process. This is much needed in the world today." Dean Lloyd noted that Khatami is regarded as a man of peace and moderation.
Khatami will be speaking on the role the three Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—can play in shaping the peace process.