Written by Patrick Disney,
Assistant Policy Director at the
National Iranian American Council
As with anything in politics, there should be room for a lively debate about
recent appointment to host ABC's This Week. Legitimate arguments can be made
both for and against the decision to hire an acclaimed foreign correspondent to
do a Sunday morning show that previously focused on domestic issues. And
employees at ABC are well within their right to be
miffed at the network's decision to pay top dollar for a star like Amanpour
at the same time they are scaling back and laying off long-time employees.
But what cannot be countenanced
is accusing her of bias based only on insinuations about her Iranian heritage.
The attacks on Amanpour follow in a long line of Iranophobic attempts to keep
qualified Iranian Americans out of the public sphere in America, and it should
be called out for what it is: anti-Iranian bigotry.
As one of the most prominent and
well-respected Americans of Iranian descent, the attacks on Amanpour are
offensive to the entire Iranian-American community. Iranian Americans are proud
of her accomplishments and her integrity, and have stepped up to defend her
against attacks rooted in ignorance and bigotry.
Washington Post TV critic Tom
started this dust-up when he derided Amanpour as "the opposite of the
perfect candidate" based on what he perceived as her lack of objectivity
regarding Israel. As
Glenn Greenwald and
Adam Serwer have pointed out, Shales bolstered his claim with the supposedly
incriminating evidence of Amanpour's Iranian heritage. For many in the
Iranian-American community, this is all-too-familiar territory.
Since the hostage crisis in
1979, Iranian Americans have experienced the scorn and derision of bigots who
reduce a proud and ancient heritage to the reprehensible actions of Iran's
theocratic government. Despite this, Iranian Americans have distinguished the
majority of Americans from this bigoted minority. No country has been more
welcoming for Iranians fleeing Iran than the United States. Yet, making that
same distinction - that is, separating Iranian Americans from the Iranian
government - is something these small, vocal critics are incapable of doing.
There has been an ongoing
campaign by these extremists to prevent Iranian Americans from partaking in
America's public life. Martin Kramer, the controversial Harvard professor,
warned about the dangers of allowing Iranian Americans to get too close to
power during last year's AIPAC conference:
...Iran can have behind
the scenes leverage over Iranian Americans, many of whom occupy key
positions in the think tanks and are even being brought now into the
administration...What this means is that we have to be extremely
cautious about what we take away from Iranian diaspora communities when
it comes to understanding Iran.
If Kramer and Shales had it
their way, Iranian Americans would not be permitted to work on domestic issues
because of their "international perspective," nor could they cover Iran because
they are "untrustworthy" and "incapable of objectivity." In short, Kramer and
Shales' end goal is to have Iranian Americans shut out of the picture entirely.
In their ideal world, Iranian
Americans may be permitted to exist, but they should not be permitted to have a
Fortunately, those seeking to
engineer a sort of "moral panic" about the Iranian-American community have and
will continue to fail. Their insults and accusations only marginalize their
Most Americans recognize that
the Iranian-American community has enriched America in the cultural sphere,
contributed significantly to our economy (e-Bay's founder, Pierre Omidyar, is an
Iranian American), in the public sphere with talented journalists like Amanpour,
and even in sports - both Andre Agassi and Ali Farokhmanesh (the dead-eyed
Northern Iowa basketball star behind last week's upset against Kansas in the
NCAA tournament) are children of Iranian national sports heroes.
Every once in a while, some
discriminatory policy or
legislation will pop up, or a
hateful attack against the community will be aired. But episodes like the
Amanpour story serve as a reminder that America is united with the
Iranian-American community. We join together to combat the bigots who wish to
silence and exclude this diverse and valued community. And I, for one, join my
Iranian-American friends in celebrating Amanpour's success, and wish her the
best of luck.
... Payvand News - 03/26/10 ... --