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Iran and the West
John Wonder rightly questions my optimism about improving relations between Iran and the West. Behind the glowing picture of the Pope's receiving Khatami there are shadows. This is not to question their sincerity and their striving for an ecumene.
Instead of the West, we should say Europe, and particularly Italy and France. Washington is angry because the oil companies Elf of France and ENI of Italy have made deals with Iran. After his visit to the Vatican, Khatami visited the Italian Prime Minister to discuss secular subjects (including trade), and then on to Florence, where he addressed a student gathering.
The underground telegraph allowed opponents to plot counter demonstrations. While Khatami was at the University of Florence, the University of Turin was bestowing an honorary degree on Salman Rushie. Khatami's reaction was not reported. I will not record mine.
Meanwhile outside the Vatican, there were demonstrations. First one in support of the Pope-Khatami meeting, then a more vociferous one led by militant feminists. They charged that the Pope and Khatami had long been collaborating, and that this became clear at the Beijing Conference on Women's Rights. At the same time, in Algiers, with much publicity, women were staging their first Paris-style fashion show with much publicity. They paraded in skimpy dresses which presumably reduced the Islamists to a towering rage. It was amazing that the women would risk their wrath. "Give me liberty or give me death!' may become the slogan of women in Islamic countries.
All these activities seem so orchestrated that probably e-mail was the vehicle of communciation. Islamic women of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your computers, and perhaps your husbands.
After Italy, can France be far behind? And then will come Latin America, where there are large Islamic colonies. Despite the feminists, Catholics in these countries will presumably applaud the Vatican embrace.
Ronald Hilton - 03/12/99