Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Mursi and the interpreter of desires | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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As soon as I saw the Al-Jazeera report about the “lies” of the Iranian media and the mistranslation – from Arab into Persian – of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s speech at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, I knew that we had entered a stage of true recklessness!

This was evidence of direct and “bare-faced” lies! Mursi said Syria, whilst the simultaneous translation said Bahrain. Mursi said that the Palestinian people are like the Syrian people who are facing injustice, whilst the simultaneous translator immediately and calmly compared the Palestinian people with the people of Bahrain. Mursi spoke about the injustice of the Bashar al-Assad regime towards its own people, whilst the translator spoke about a conspiracy against the Syrian regime!

The issue here is beyond audacious and represents an example of media debauchery and explicit stupidity; this led the Bahraini government to issue an official complaint to the Iranians over this public manipulation which took place in front of the eyes of the world. What was even stranger than this were the questions that were raised about why the Syrian delegation was so angry and had walked out of the summit, particularly as Mursi did not even mention the al-Assad regime!

It is true that this situation is absurd and surreal, however this is not the first example of Iranian misrepresentation and fabrication in order to shape public opinion, or shall we say throw dust in the eyes of the public to ensure that they cannot see!

The best example of this is what the Iranian media, as well as the pro-Tehran Arab media, is doing today in terms of raising the specter of Palestine at every possible opportunity, whilst describing anybody who opposes Iranian policy as hostile to the Palestinian Cause. Iran’s Lebanese agent, Hezbollah, also utilizes this approach, as it continually seeks to “fabricate” stories related to the Palestinian file whenever it feels the noose tightening around Iran, al-Assad or themselves.

This was not the first such Iranian distortion; however it is certainly the most crude and shameless.

One of the positives of the Syrian revolution is that it has resulted in the unmasking of the mask, as [Palestinian poet] Mahmoud Darwish puts it; this will hopefully signal the end of false slogans being raised regarding the Palestinian Cause.

Returning to the joke of the Iranian simultaneous translation, one Arab official informed me that he once took part in sensitive talks – via a professional translator – with a foreign visitor. He said that this translator was very quick in his simultaneous translation, but in a manner that ultimately caused confusion regarding what the other party was saying. After the talks were over, the official asked the translator “what did you grasp from our talk?” The translator answered “practically nothing, because when you are translating in this way you translate in an instant and automatic manner without thinking.” The translator added “that is the nature of my work.”

I pondered this story, and thought about the calmness displayed by the Iranian translator as he changed the term Syria to Bahrain in a serene and deliberate manner. It was as if he had been prepared to do this in advance. Did he have experience in this manner, even if this was improvised or semi-improvised? Or has he now been exposed? We cannot say!

For his part, Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi, the sheikh of mystical poetry and philosopher, wrote a famous collection of poetry entitled “Tarjuman al-Ashwaq” which means the interpreter of desires. This poetry collection contains a lot of mystical flashes and references, and is full of abstract meanings. One of the poems in this collection reads:

He saw the lightning in the east and longed for the east,

but if it had flashed in the west he would have longed for the west.

My desire is for the lightning and its gleam, not for the places and the earth.

Perhaps our amusing translator was subject to a moment of mystical ascension, seeing a cloud of lightning engulfing Mursi, and so he gave tongue to the essence and ignored what was apparent, becoming the interpreter of desires himself.