On the October 12 broadcast of National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, host Ari Shapiro discussed Iran’s appeal as a tourist destination with Iranian-born, U.K.-based writer Kamin Mohammadi. While Mohammadi is no regime puppet–she was vocal in her opposition to the 2009 crackdown–her Twitter feed is lately full of anti-Israel rhetoric and government retweets, and she did her best to put an absurdly positive spin on Iran for NPR.
Mohammadi praises Iran’s history, beauty, and culture, pointing out that parts of the country are quite modern, and that those coexist with artifacts of ancient civilizations. All true–and irrelevant to the question of whether Americans might, in fact, be able to travel to the country safely. Eventually Shapiro poses a tough challenge to his guest:
SHAPIRO: I’m Jewish, and I’m gay. Would I be able to have a nice vacation in Iran?
MOHAMMADI: You so would. You know that Iran has the largest population of Jews outside of Israel in the Middle East. One of the places that I didn’t mention ’cause I got so enthusiastic about Isfahan that must be visited, of course, is also Shiraz, outside of which in the desert lies Persepolis, which was the old kind of main palace and, let’s say, capital of the ancient Persian kings. It was built in the sixth century B.C.
Now, one of our great Persian kings, Darius, he is actually mentioned in the Bible for freeing the Jews from slavery and welcoming the Jews into the Persian Empire. And in fact, the Persian Empire was known for being very tolerant – the ancient Persian Empire, and that’s something that’s gone on and again is something that we tend not to know about Iran, how much religion tolerance there is. So I don’t think you’re going to have any problems being Jewish.
Being gay – first of all, in Iran as a foreigner, I think you’re going to be left alone as long as you respect the laws on the outside. So women, if they can cover the hair and cover their – you know, you respect the dress laws and the sort of behavior laws, which are just logical things really, you know. There’s no problems. The fact is that everything exists in Iran as it does here. It’s just that the way that we have to approach things there are slightly different.
Shapiro does not press Mohammadi further. He could have asked about the ongoing repression of Jews in Iran, which has resulted in tens of thousands leaving the country since the 1979 revolution. He could have challenged Mohammadi to explain the execution of gays by the regime, or to acknowledge the intrinsic antisemitism and intolerance of a regime that denies the Holocaust. He could have questioned Mohammadi about the religious police that enforce the modesty laws that Mohammadi describes as “just logical things really, you know.”
For some reason, Shaprio declines to follow further. Perhaps he is just being polite. Perhaps he trusts listeners to figure out Mohammadi’s evasions for themselves. Perhaps, like the Obama administration, he wishes to dial down confrontation with Iran, even as the regime escalates its nuclear program.
Who knows? This is NPR.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak