Last week, Canada’s Free Thinking Film Society – love that name – was scheduled to screen Iranium, a new documentary about the regime that has ruled Iran since 1979, its drive to acquire nuclear weapons and the dangers that poses for the West. But then the Iranian embassy complained and – coincidently – threats and “suspicious letters” were received at the National Archives in Ottawa, where the event was to take place. The Archives cancelled the screening and shut the building. Archives spokeswoman Pauline Portelance explained: “We deemed the risk associated with the event was a little too high.”
Apparently, however, officials above her pay grade recognized that allowing Iranian theocrats to set the limits of free speech in Canada’s capital would run an even higher risk. It was given to Minister of Heritage James Moore to deliver a Churchillian response."This movie will be shown, the agreement will be kept,” he said. “We will not be moving it to a different facility, we're not bending to any pressure. People need to be kept safe, but we don't back down to people who try to censor people by threats of violence. Canada does not accept attempts from the Iranian Embassy to dictate what films will and will not be shown in Canada.”
The Canadian screening of Iranium has now been rescheduled for early February. Will Iran’s rulers and supporters accept that decision? Or will they escalate the conflict? While we’re waiting for the answer, it’s worth recalling that the Islamic Republic has a long history of attempting to enforce its will extraterritorially. As early as 1989, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had led Iran’s revolution ten years earlier, issued a fatwa, a religious ruling, against a British subject, Salman Rushdie, because Khomeini considered Rushie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, blasphemous. The fatwa called for Rushdie to be executed by any Muslim who could manage the task.
That might have been expected: As Iranium makes clear, Khomeini’s revolution was not just against the Shah of Iran. It was intended for export – and not only to countries in which Muslims are in the majority.
Khomeini’s ambitious goal then, and his successors’ goal now, is “world revolution,” the creation of a universal and “holy” government and the downfall of all others. "Islam is good for you,” Khomeini said. “It is good for the world." He said this even as – in Stalinist fashion -- he was executing at home and assassinating abroad not just those who opposed him but also those who might one day oppose him.