TCS Daily


Soccer Imam

By Evgeny Morozov - May 4, 2006 12:00 AM

BERLIN -- The prospect of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad attending World Cup matches is roiling the German political scene. Most senior German politicians are at pains to speak out against a man who sponsors cartoons on Holocaust denial and wants Israel wiped off the map. But not all of them. When asked about Ahmadinezhad's visit to the World Cup, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble stated: "Naturally [Ahmadinezhad] can come to the matches...My advice is we should be good hosts." The very possibility of Ahmadinezhad's visit not only offends those who survived the greatest tragedy of the last century, but also undermines Germany and the EU's efforts to fight anti-Semitism and sanction other dictators.

What is behind this stream of perverse utilitarianism, which seems to have hijacked Germany's ruling coalition? How can being a good host to Ahmadinezhad be more important than being a good host to more than 200,000 Jews living in Germany? It is true that there are no travel restrictions on Iranian government officials imposed by Germany or the EU. Thus, from the perspective of international diplomacy Schäuble's position is defensible. This does not mean that the German government, closely coordinating its actions with Brussels, should not make Ahmadinezhad persona non grata in the country and the whole of EU. From the perspective of international diplomacy, this would be defensible, too. If this does not happen, Germany and EU are likely to face a mounting wave of accusations in cynicism and double standards. Parallels will abound.

Contrast Ahmadinezhad's case to that of David Irving, who was jailed for public denial of the Holocaust in Austria earlier this year. Ahmadinezhad has never made any statements about the Holocaust or Israel on German soil, and thus cannot face persecution like Irving. But why even take the risk of giving him a chance to speak up his mind? Could anybody in Berlin or Brussels be sure that if Ahmadinezhad were to repeat his statements during his visit to the World Cup, Germany could or would prosecute him? Chances are that instead of sharing a cell with Irving, he would fly back home. Keeping Irving in jail after this would be the pinnacle of duplicity.

Draw another parallel. What about Aleksander Lukashenko, the Belarusian authoritarian leader, who has just been banned from the EU? Why Ahmadinezhad has not shared Lukashenko' s fate yet is not clear at all. After the EU called the Iranian elections a "setback for democracy," singling out Belarus as the only regime which deserves sanctions is cynically ironic. Allowing gas-rich dictators (Turkmenistan is another case in point), some of them with nuclear ambitions, go unpunished might backfire on Germany and the EU sooner than they expect.

Perhaps the EU believes that Ahmadinezhad's rule is a much softer dictatorship than that of Lukashenko. Even if that's true, Iran still has an oppressive regime that is ripe for EU condemnation, not an embrace. In its 2005 report Reporters Sans Frontières puts Iran among the world's ten countries that are most repressive of the media. Under Ahmadinezhad's rule, the pressure on journalism has only intensified, with much tighter control on blogging and the Internet. Whatever Brussels thinks, Ahmadinezhad is more than just an avid soccer fan with a hobby in nuclear physics.

The Wiesenthal Centre, in its recent letter to Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, compares the likely outcome of Ahmadinezhad's visit to the World Cup to that of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which "were exploited to appease anti-Semitic incitement that culminated in the Holocaust." However, with Iran's rapidly expanding nuclear program, there is even more at stake. A new, nuclear Holocaust might be in the offing. But before that happens, Ahmadinezhad would be allowed to enjoy soccer, beer, and bratwurst.

The author is a columnist for the Russian newspaper Akzia. He lives in Berlin.

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5 Comments

Ban Mad-Dog Ahmadinezhad from German Soil
I think that it would be an wonderfully moral act of justice if Germany's legislature passed a ban on the visit of Iranian mad dog Ahmadinezhad. Since sanctions against the would-be nuclear terrorists leading Iran will soon be voted on in the United Nations, Germany can jump start discussions on this UN resolution by banning Ahmadinezhad from stepping onto German soil.

Why should Europeans care
he only wants to kill jews after all.
To the average European elite, that's to be commended, not condemned.

Only a stepping stone away...
from having the technology to reach Europe.

This is so typical of Old Europe. They can't decide if their anti-Americanism trumps their own self-preservation. It has been a long time since they have had to defend themselves. I doubt if they know how.

Invite him to the Hague
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad claims he did not take part in the attack on the US Embassy in Tehran, however he is clearly seen in photos acting as a guard and has been identified by the hostages as a guard.

Since attacking an embassy is an act of war and participating in a violation of international law makes on a war criminal, then Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad should be arrested to a face war crime trial at the Hague.

Germany should ban that guy who never washes his face.......
from entering Germany and than tell him to take his 5 million muslim welfare leeches back to the middle east with him. Europe, needs to send back all those sponges since they have been destroying the continent the day they invaded.

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