Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Timothy Furnish and the Mahdi

Timothy Furnish has written an article for The Weekly Standard, entitled “The Importance of Being Mahdist,” and subtitled, “Among Iran’s Twelvers.” He was invited to Iran’s fourth annual ‘International Conference of Mahdism Doctrine,” and gave a lecture on previous Sunni leaders who had declared themselves the Mahdi:


Furnish also has a website called Mahdi Watch: www.mahdiwatch.org in which he provides a narration of his visit to Iran and the conference. I was especially interested in this comment by him:

“The second half of the Mahdism Conference opening session gave me a sense of deja vu all over again. Dr. Hamid Mowlana gave us a list of 10 aspects of "strategic Mahdism," which included the creation of "an axis of justice-seekers" (take that, President Bush!); rejection of all Western ideologies, in particular the "end of history" (this rejection of Fukuyama's came up over and over again in the conference--wonder if they've heard of Robert Kagan?); of course, the expectation of the Mahdi's return. And that latter belief should be disseminated outside Iran via schools and universities, the media and the diplomacy of the IRI! After a concluding speech by Ayatollah Sohrabi, which either didn't make much sense or found me wishing I'd had some Nescafe straight-up, we finally broke for lunch (back at the hotel).”

I was also interested in an interview with Furnish: http://hnn.us/articles/29389.html in which he was asked the question by Rick Shenkman,

Conservatives like David Horowitz claim that Middle East Studies programs in the United States are dominated by anti-Israel liberals. Do you agree?”

And replied, “Liberals, yes; but anti-Israel ones, not necessarily. I do think that the field can be defined, largely, in terms of Saidians (devotees of Edward Said's "Orientalism" thesis, which sees the Arab world as victim of the West) and Lewisians (devotees of Bernard Lewis, who disagree). I fall into the latter camp. As mentioned earlier, I think the tendency (sometimes, insistence) to see the Arab, or even the entire Muslim, world as victimized by the West is rampant in the field, and insofar as Israel is seen as, if you will, the "tip of the spear," many academics dislike Israel.”

COMMENT: Why should anyone care about the Mahdi? The Leftists don’t seem to care. Why should any of the rest of us care? As we can see from Furnish’s Weekly Standard article and other writings, a belief in the Mahdi is widely held in Iran. All those who argue that we should treat Iran like any other nation, should make note of what Furnish has written. Iran is NOT like any other nation. Khomeini was a Twelver and modern Iran adheres to Twelver theology. Ahmadinejad attended this same conference that Furnish did, sitting just 30 feet away on one occasion. One of the discussions that interested Furnish was whether the Mahdi, when he comes would kill all infidels or convert them to Islam. They were of course going to leave that up to the Mahdi, but either approach was acceptable to the people in the discussion.

Imagine our having a President that believed that the Lord was going to return during his administration. What would the non-Dispensationalist Americans think of that? They would most likely be alarmed, even though no believer in such immanent-return scenarios is in any way violent. Now turn to Iran where the president believes in the return of the Mahdi, near term as far as I can tell. This Mahdi return will involve violence. In fact, there are circumstances relating to this belief that permits violence in advance of the Mahdi’s return. Are you quite sure it is okay with you that these guys develop nuclear weapons?

Lawrence Helm

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