//Crossposted with thanks and permission from the CGCS Iran Media Program
The Islamic Republic of Iran has recently chosen an odd way to demonstrate an understanding of cinema, the arts, and culture. In a week when Iranian cinema has taken a few hits locally -with the tightening of censors and distribution rights for Iranian filmmakers within Iran – the Minister of Culture, Mohammed Hosseini confirmed a couple weeks ago that Iran would not submit a film for consideration at the 85th Academy Awards.
The boycott was initiated over the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims. In a statement to the ISNA state news agency, Hosseini said, “I am officially announcing that in reaction to the intolerable insult to the Great Prophet of Islam we will refrain from taking part in this year’s Oscars and we ask other Islamic nations to show their protest like this. This film is made in America and the Oscars are held there, and so far no official stance by the nation that made this film as been taken.”
This situation is a fascinating reminder of the 1989 fatwa Ayatollah Khomeini famously placed on Salman Rushdie’s head for his critical take on Islam in The Satanic Verses. Aside from the products of his prolific writing career, Rushdie’s case is the quintessential battle between freedom of expression and the need to respect religious sensitivities. Rushdie’s writing was an experiment in creative fiction that critically looked at divine revelation, faith, and fanatcism. Innocence of Muslims aspired and failed to be a film, which was then dubbed, cut, and turned into a hybrid trailer-clip of a YouTube video. The poor production value, and the ignorance put into the creation of this project are far from worthy of the protests, bloodshed, or lives lost. Despite this, the Iranian government has decided to take a stand against the Academy Awards, for not taking a stand against a YouTube video. This reasoning appears to be untenable, and thus it merits some analysis.