<#hits#> <#hits#> Ideological gulf times

December 03, 2004 Ideological gulf inflames Iran

by Michael
Theodoulou in Nicosia 
IT TAKES a lot to unite the Iranians, but National Geographic magazine
has pulled it off. Everyone from the most devout mullah to the most
fervent moderniser is unanimous in a furious response to what was
perceived as a perfidious attack on the countrys proud civilisation and
long history. The crime? The magazine added the words "Arabian Gulf" in
brackets beneath "Persian Gulf" on a map to label the body of water
that divides Iran from its Arab neighbours. The American-owned magazine
has been banned from sale in Iran pending a "correction" of the map and
its reporters are barred from visiting the Islamic republic. "We will
not accept the use of the term Arabian Gulf, which is contrary to
United Nations documents," Hossein Khoshvaght, the Iranian Culture
Ministrys head of foreign press affairs, said. Under the headline
"Persian Gulf Forever", the hardline Tehran Times fulminated that
National Geographics refusal to use only the waterways historic name
was "an unscientific and
politically motivated measure". It detected the influence of "the an
unscientific and politically motivated measure". It detected the
influence of "the US Zionist lobby and the oil dollars of certain Arab
governments" behind the parenthetical aside.

The official outcry has been echoed in cyberspace, which has become a
haven for liberal journalists and commentators after the hardline
judiciary closed scores of reformist publications in the past four
years. Keeping the worlds most vital oil waterway "Persian" is a
national touchstone and a highly emotive issue.

Iranian bloggers at home and abroad orchestrated an eye-catching web
action on the Google search engine. A search for the words "Arabian
Gulf" triggers a spoof message: "The Gulf you are looking for does not
exist. Try Persian Gulf." In a parody of the text that usually appears
when a webpage does not exist, it advises users to read "some history

National Geographic refuses to back down. The publication recognises
"Persian Gulf" as the "primary" name but says: "It has been the
societys cartographic practice to display a secondary name in
parentheses when use of such a name has become commonly recognised. The
society does not attempt to make judgments about the validity of such
claims but accurately to acknowledge the existence of conflicting

NAME CALLING Falkland Islands (Britain) Islas Malvinas (Argentina)
Derry (Irish Catholics) Londonderry (Unionists) Sea of Japan (Japan)
East Sea (Korea) Kuril Islands (Russia) Northern Territories (Japan)
Judaea and Samaria (Palestinians) West Bank (Israel) Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia (Greece) Macedonia (Macedonia)

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