On BBC’s Question Time recently (20/6/13), the Daily Mail journalist Melanie Phillips, when asked a question about the civil war in Syria, declared that Syria is the ‘pawn of Iran’ and that Iran should be ‘neutralised’. She stated that Iran is run by people who believe that if they ‘bring about the apocalypse’ they will bring to earth the ‘Shia Messiah’.
This is one example where an ignorance of Islamic belief and practice can be very dangerous and why I think it is so important for people to gain some education in what are fundamental religious beliefs, and how this can mold a person’s political stance. Shia theology, amongst the ‘Twelver’ (or Imami) Shia anyway (Shia is, in itself, quite diverse) – which is the dominant religion in Iran (the rulers of Syria are Alawite Shia, which is not the same) – does hold the view that the twelfth imam (the Mahdi) will return at a time of chaos and upheaval, and this will lead to a period of peace and justice. As practically every generation has experienced chaos and upheaval, it is certainly not uncommon for Shia Muslims to expect this time to come soon, but this is verydifferent from Melanie Phillips remark that they wish to bring about the apocalypse. This is, therefore, an example of very sloppy arguing from someone who claims to be ‘rational’ here.