Friday, March 30, 2007

The 300 and the pre-Islamic Time of Ignorance

I'm mildly surprised at how angry the Iranian government is about the movie 300. There is in Islam the concept of jahiliyyah, or Time Of Ignorance. This refers to the prevailing situation before the coming of Islam, either in one's personal life, or in a society's past. Like so many other Islamic concepts, it can take a decidedly destructive tone when taken up by militant and fundamentalist Islam. The civilizations of the past are only good for object lessons, to show the oblivion into which Allah consigns erring peoples. At its most extreme, the Muslim hostility to jahiliyya is manifested by things like the Taliban's destruction of the ancient Bamiyan buddha statues.

Yet, in those above-linked articles, the Iranian government (for I don't know if this sentiment is shared among the general public, since I don't trust the mullahs word for it) deplores the movie's insult to their Persian forbears. Iran is obviously the most militantly Islamic and jihadist country in the world. So it's a little surprising to see them sticking up for Xerxes' Persian empire. Of course, they could just be cynically playing the multi-culti card, for the benefit of deracinated western proggs.

They do have a point: The Spartans are depicted as plucky, libertarian hoplites, while the Persians may as well have stepped out of the cantina scene in Star Wars. But remember, it's just a computer game, adapted for the big screen. Not a history lesson. We have this conversation every time a historical flick is released.

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