Amanpour: Attacked for Being Iranian

As with anything in politics, there should be room for a lively debate about Christiane Amanpour’s recent appointment to host ABC’s This Week. Legitimate arguments can be made both for and against the decision to hire an acclaimed foreign correspondent to do a Sunday morning show that previously focused on domestic issues.  And employees at ABC are well within their right to be miffed at the network’s decision to pay top dollar for a star like Amanpour at the same time they are scaling back and laying off long-time employees.

But what cannot be countenanced is accusing her of bias based only on insinuations about her Iranian heritage.  The attacks on Amanpour follow in a long line of Iranophobic attempts to keep qualified Iranian Americans out of the public sphere in America, and it should be called out for what it is: anti-Iranian bigotry.

As one of the most prominent and well-respected Americans of Iranian descent, the attacks on Amanpour are offensive to the entire Iranian-American community.  Iranian Americans are proud of her accomplishments and her integrity, and have stepped up to defend her against attacks rooted in ignorance and bigotry.

Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales started this dust-up when he derided Amanpour as “the opposite of the perfect candidate” based on what he perceived as her lack of objectivity regarding Israel.  As Glenn Greenwald and Adam Serwer have pointed out, Shales bolstered his claim with the supposedly incriminating evidence of Amanpour’s Iranian heritage.  For many in the Iranian-American community, this is all-too-familiar territory.

Since the hostage crisis in 1979, Iranian Americans have experienced the scorn and derision of bigots who reduce a proud and ancient heritage to the reprehensible actions of Iran’s theocratic government.  Despite this, Iranian Americans have distinguished the majority of Americans from this bigoted minority.  No country has been more welcoming for Iranians fleeing Iran than the United States. Yet, making that same distinction – that is, separating Iranian Americans from the Iranian government – is something these small, vocal critics are incapable of doing.

There has been an ongoing campaign by these extremists to prevent Iranian Americans from partaking in America’s public life. Martin Kramer, the controversial Harvard professor, warned about the dangers of allowing Iranian Americans to get too close to power during last year’s AIPAC conference:

…Iran can have behind the scenes leverage over Iranian Americans, many of whom occupy key positions in the think tanks and are even being brought now into the administration…What this means is that we have to be extremely cautious about what we take away from Iranian diaspora communities when it comes to understanding Iran.

If Kramer and Shales had it their way, Iranian Americans would not be permitted to work on  domestic issues because of their “international perspective,” nor could they cover Iran because they are “untrustworthy” and “incapable of objectivity.” In short, Kramer and Shales’ end goal is to have Iranian Americans shut out of the picture entirely.

In their ideal world, Iranian Americans may be permitted to exist, but they should not be permitted to have a voice.

Fortunately, those seeking to engineer a sort of “moral panic” about the Iranian-American community have and will continue to fail.  Their insults and accusations only marginalize their message.

Most Americans recognize that the Iranian-American community has enriched America in the cultural sphere, contributed significantly to our economy (e-Bay’s founder, Pierre Omidyar, is an Iranian American), in the public sphere with talented journalists like Amanpour, and even in sports – both Andre Agassi and Ali Farokhmanesh (the dead-eyed Northern Iowa basketball star behind last week’s upset against Kansas in the NCAA tournament) are children of Iranian national sports heroes.

Every once in a while, some discriminatory policy or legislation will pop up, or a hateful attack against the community will be aired. But episodes like the Amanpour story serve as a reminder that America is united with the Iranian-American community.  We join together to combat the bigots who wish to silence and exclude this diverse and valued community.  And I, for one, join my Iranian-American friends in celebrating Amanpour’s success, and wish her the best of luck.

This post also appeared on the HuffingtonPost

Posted By Patrick Disney

    One Response to “Amanpour: Attacked for Being Iranian”

  1. Robert Pringle says:

    Dear Iranian Friends:
    I tried to tell you about a hope of discovery, that I truly believe, will be a blessing to the whole world, including Iran. Can you tell me why, you have offered absolutely no response? Do you want to see a blessing for only a select few? That will only increase the strife, of those who are left out. If a blessing mentioned in the Quran, was only ment for Muslims, then what spiritual intervention, brought it to the eyes of a Christian? Shouldn’t we do everything in our power, to reveal any potential gift to humanity and leave judgement to powers beyond our Earth? Blessings to All Robert Pringle

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Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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