Search your newspaper for 'Ya Mahdi'

Clearly, the unfolding nuclear drama in Iran is one of the world's most important news stories. If that is the case, and I think it is, there is a strange and powerful ghost that is haunting almost all of the mainstream news coverage of what is happening. In order to spot this ghost, let's pay close attention to the top of one of the only mainstream news reports that is, in fact, not haunted by this particular ghost. Readers of The Telegraph were given a solid hint into the role that religious faith -- a very specific form of Islamic faith, not to be confused with many other forms of Islam -- is playing behind the scenes.

Actually, that is wrong. This form of faith is not behind the scenes. It's right in the open for all to see, even though it is not being addressed in many news reports. Here is the top of this hard-news report:

Iran has test fired a surface-to-surface missile, according to the country's defence minister.

Ahmad Vahidi's announcement comes a day before Iran is scheduled to launch its Russian-built first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr. Television images showed the sand coloured Qiam (Rising) blasting into the air from a desert terrain, amid chants of "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest).

The words "Ya Mahdi" were written on the side of the missile, referring to Imam Mahdi, one of the 12 imams of Shiite Islam, who disappeared as a boy and whom the faithful believe will return one day to bring redemption to mankind.

The context for this event could not be more tense and problematic, from the point of view of the United States and the Western world. Thus, we read at the end of the story:

... (The) latest missile launch comes at a time when local officials have been warning against any attack on the Islamic republic.

On Saturday, Iran is launching its Russian-built first nuclear power plant which eventually aims to generate electricity. The plant is scheduled to go online after more than three decades of delays.

Now, here is the key to this story from a GetReligion perspective. Open Google News and, inside quotation marks, type the words "Ya Mahdi." When you have done this search you will have a file that looks something like this -- click here.

Not much to choose from, right?

Now, let's consider a mirror image of this event. Try to imagine the mainstream news coverage if Christian leaders in, oh, Nigeria held a similar event and as the missile rose into the air they shouted, "To God be the glory, great things he hast done!" And on the side of the missile, the work crew had written these words: "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

I think that this apocalyptic message would be considered rather important and, you know, I would certainly agree with that judgment.

So, where are the references to the "Ya Mahdi" inscription on the side of the Iranian missile? Can anyone find this detail in mainstream news coverage on this side of the Atlantic? Methinks this is a solid clue as to the "why" in the "who, what, when, where, why and how" sequence behind this event.

Then again, this whole situation reminds me of a previous event of this kind, an event that led to what I think is one of the most important posts I have ever written for this weblog.

So, with great haste, click here to head on over there, where you will read:

Here is your first assignment as we start a new week. It has to do with the most amazing quotation from last week.

First, open Google. Now, insert -- in direct quotation marks -- the phrase "perfect righteous human being." Search in the news category.

Now, what did you find? Not much.

This phrase is, of course, taken from the final act of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's dramatic address at the United Nations. Click here for the full text, but here are the crucial quotes:

"I emphatically declare that today's world, more than ever before, longs for just and righteous people with love for all humanity; and above all longs for the perfect righteous human being and the real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet.

"O, Almighty God, all men and women are your creatures and you have ordained their guidance and salvation. Bestow upon humanity that thirsts for justice, the perfect human being promised to all by you, and make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause."

Does that sound familiar? Did you see this passage played over and over on the evening newscasts and debated on the niche-market shows on cable?

You didn't?

To grasp the importance of what is happening in these paragraphs, please head on over to The New Republic (that right-wing rag to which we link quite a bit) and read the ... cover story titled "Ahmadinejad's Demons: A child of the revolution takes over" by Matthias Kuntzel.

Go ahead. This subject is still important. Let's hope that, before things start blowing up, journalists here in North America will give their readers and viewers a chance to find out why the phrase "Ya Mahdi" is so important to the current Shiite leaders of the Iranian revolution.

Second image: A devotional picture of Ali, the first Imam of the Shiites.

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