Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmedinijad was asked a sneaky question during his lecture at Columbia. Everything about the whole speech was sneaky: the dressing down that an incensed university president tactlessly delivered frankly made me sympathise with Ahmedinijad for a little while.
When asked about how he justified persecution of homosexuals in Iran, he contended that homosexuality, as a phenomenon, does not exist in Iran. People laughed at him for that.
We must realize that the only difference between the fanatics and the west is liberal thought. But it seems that western liberal thought is not liberal enough to understand the reasons behind illiberal thought.
Liberalism is a luxury of the rich. (You might want to consider reading the previous post to understand why I make this claim with such vehemance). When you are worried about where your next meal comes from, you, more likely than not would not care about whether homosexuals (less that 1% of the population in societies where "coming out of the closet" is not an option) have rights or not.
The Iranian president, the product of a democracy (a little bit of liberalism that has seeped into an otherwise phenomenally othodox society) must be a refelection of what his people want. Otherwise, out he goes! It is electoral pressure in Iran than made him what he is. He is playing for the conservative muslim vote - the extremely illiberal school of thought that believes that Homosexuals must be stoned to death and that women must be kept under lock and key.
I don't think Ahmedinijad could have said anything else to that question. I don't think laughing at his denial or Iranian homosexuality has any point: Iran is an orthodox country right now. If you ask Pat Robertson (an American religious maniac) something similar, odds are he will give you a more venomous answer. [I would hold him more guility than Ahmedinijad as he hails from a much more liberal society and is still a fanatic].
I believe true liberalism can arise only when one understands the cause of illiberalism and accepts it. And in the case of the Liberals in the US vs Ahmedinijad, I hold both guilty. For if we turned back the clock 50 years in the US (with its instituionalized racism) - we find perhaps an equally sickening picture. There is room for optimism: the US, now, in my opinion has more or less conquered racial prejudice.
And Iranian society is more orthodox than the US was 50 years ago! Let's be reasonable, shall we? Why expect the impossible?