Ignorance in the US Media- Defining the “iMam”

In the mornings I listen to Fox News when I get ready for work. Before you protest at my choice of news channels, I have my reasons: one, I am on the conservative side; two, CNN annoys me; and three, no matter how much you may hate them, Fox News is the first major news station in the US to report on what is going on in the Middle East. And that…is important to me.

So, the other morning they had some pundit on and in the course of their interview this gentlemen announced what he felt the US military should do to “quiet” Iran. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name…..but I heard every word he said. Besides advocating a 48 hour bombing raid be done on all military targets and cities within Iran (because the US “does have ground penetrating weapons that can cripple Iran”) he said, in order to remind the audience of the dire threat that Iran presents, that “Ahmadinejad had a fatwa from his ‘i-Mam’ to cause as much destruction in the Middle East as possible”.

 

 

My initial reaction was of intense pain in my stomach. But now, I would like to write a short response to that particular pundit.

“Dear Sir,

 

 

Your comments the other day on the Fox News channel were appalling, not only in their content but also in the complete lack of knowledge that you displayed on the subject you were speaking about. May I elaborate more on this by analyzing a comment of yours? You were quoted as saying “Ahmadinejad had a fatwa from his imam to cause as much destruction in the Middle East as possible”. The first seven words of this sentence were so incorrect that they discredited everything else you uttered.

 

 

To begin with, you insinuate that the President of Iran doesn’t make a single move unless it is approved by the clergy. And while to Western eyes that the government of Iran and the Shia clergy are one in the same, they are not. In fact, they are two separate power structures.

 

 

Next, notice that I said “Shia” clergy. Iran is a Shia-Islam dominated state. The term “Imam” is used to denote historical leaders within Shia Islam, and there haven’t been any Shia Imams for quite some time. In Sunni Islam, there are imams (notice that the different in the capital “I”). Little ‘I’ imams are local clerical leaders in Sunni Islam. Notice that I said Sunni Islam. Shia Islam and Sunni Islam equal different branches of Islam, similar to Catholicism and Protestantism. And not to delve too deeply into Islamic law, but imams can’t issue fatwas.

 

 

Lastly, you pronounced imam like “iMam”, like it was part of the iTunes/iPod franchise. It is pronounced “e-mam”, just like Iran is not pronounced like “iRan” but “e-ron”. However, as you are apparently not versed at all in the Middle East, you wouldn’t be expected to understand the difference. Might I suggest that before you start running off at the mouth again on what the US should do in Iran, that you read a book on it first? I suggest “The Shia Revival” by Vali Nasr. It would be an excellent starting place for you.

Regards.”
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About Deborah Ann Dilley

Deborah Ann Dilley is actively trying to reinvent the term “renaissance man” to fit her lifestyle. A student, scholar, teacher, reader, writer, blogger, linguist and archaeologist -- Deborah is active is a wide variety of activities. She graduated in 2004 with bachelors in Turkish Language and Ancient Middle East History from the University of Utah, and currently is finishing her masters in Applied Linguistics. Working as the Outreach Assistant at the University of Utah’s Middle East Center, Deborah spends her time teaching the community and educators about the Middle East, its culture, history, and politics. She writes for Global Voices Online as their columnist covering the Turkish and Kurdish blogospheres. When she is not busy with one thing or another she chronicles her life at her blog, Turkish Delight.

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