It’s Official, Hasan Rouhani Was Misquoted

It’s Official, Hasan Rouhani Was Misquoted

by Sheila Musaji

Pamela Geller wrote Iranian president Hassan Rouhani describes Israel as a “wound” on the “Muslim body” in which she commented on this “news” item:  “Lest we forget, this is the media’s idea of a “moderate.” Poisonous Islamic Jew-hatred and hatred of “the other” have completely destroyed an entire people. One long excruciatingly painful death taking anyone and everyone down with them.”  Her partner in hate, Robert Spencer also promoted this story.  And, the Islamophobia echo chamber spread the alleged statement by Pres. Rouhani widely. 

As is so often the case, they gleefully jumped on a story that would cast Muslims and/or Islam in a bad light before the facts were in.  Not only do the Islamophobes need a course in Arabic 101, it appears they also need a course in Farsi 101, and they need that course from a more reliable source than their usual “go to” source of mis-translations, MEMRI.  Here are just a few of their previous forays into mistranslations:  - Surah Fateha and Muslim prayers - a bumper sticker on a Muslims car. - and numerous Arabic terms.  These individuals and organizations consistently promote the false what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims (including distorting the meaning of Qur’anic verses, and distorting the meaning of Islamic terms such as taqiyya, jihad, sharia, Abrogation (Naskh) in the Qur’an, etc.  If the Islamophobes are not proficient in a language, then at least they need to learn how to do a search, and avoid embarrassing themselves.

Robert Mackey reports in The New York Times Video Shows Iran’s President-Elect Was Misquoted on Israel:

... Press TV, the English-language arm of Iran’s state broadcaster, subtitled Mr. Rouhani’s actual remarks, made to a reporter during the Islamic republic’s annual march for Quds, the Arabic name for Jerusalem. The video shows that the cleric did not mention Israel by name or call for its elimination, but did compare “the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the dear Quds,” to a “wound” or “sore” that “has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years.”

...  Arash Karami, a journalist who blogs about the Iranian media, noted that two semi-official news agencies that initially misreported Mr. Rouhani’s remarks, subsequently corrected their reports in articles headlined: “The Occupation of Palestine Is a Wound on the Body of the Islamic World.”

International news organizations that had relied on the initial, flawed reports from Iran were forced to explain the error later in the day. Rana Rahimpour of the BBC’s Persian service explained what happened in an appearance on BBC World News. ...

Nasser Karimi reported on the Huffington Post (in an unfortunately titled article that did not match the content) that:

Iran’s president-elect called Israel’s control of Jerusalem and Palestinian lands a “wound” for the Islamic world in relatively moderate remarks Friday that contrasted with the harsh rhetoric of his predecessor and other Iranian leaders.

Speaking to reporters during an annual pro-Palestinian rally, Hasan Rouhani said: “In our region and under occupation of Palestine and dear Jerusalem, there has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world.”

...  A semiofficial Iranian news agency initially quoted Rouhani as calling Israel a “wound that should be removed.” That prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to retort that “the real face of Rouhani has been exposed earlier than expected.”

But the news agency, ISNA, later said it was a misquote, confirmed by state TV footage of Rouhani’s comment reviewed by The Associated Press. Netanyahu issued no statement on the corrected version.

Ali Gharib on The Daily Beast reports Netanyahu Sticks By Rowhani Misquote To Build Hawkish Case Against Iran:

...  Yet before that translation of Rowhani’s remarks became apparent, an errant reading of the quote circulated widely after a pair of Iranian state-affiliated news agencies reported it. The misquote, as reported in Mehr, a state-run outlet, initially read: “Israel is a wound on the body of the world of Islam that must be destroyed” (alternatively translated as “should be removed”). Reuters picked up the remarks, citing the Iranian news agency, and Netanyahu and many of his supporters quickly ran with it. “Rowhani’s true face has been revealed earlier than expected. Even if they will now rush to deny his remarks, this is what the man thinks and this is the plan of the Iranian regime,” said Netanyahu in a statement posted on Facebook. “These remarks by President Rowhani [sic] must rouse the world from the illusion that part of it has been caught up in since the Iranian elections.” His right-wing supporters quickly followed suit.

But Saeed Kamali Dehghan, a correspondent covering Iran for the Guardian, tweeted a video of the remarks and noted, “There’s no mention of Israel ‘should be removed’ in Rowhani’s remarks.” The Israeli-Iranian analyst Meir Javedanfar noticed it too, and eventually Al-Monitor’s Iran press blogger Arash Karami provided a full translation of the quote: “Quds day, which is in memorial of Imam [Khomeini], is a day that people present the unity of Islam against any type of oppression or aggression,” it reads, in part. “And in any case, in our region, it is an old wound that has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world, in the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the dear Quds.”  ...

Ben Armbruster reported on Think Progress What The New President Of Iran Really Said About Israel that:

A mistranslation of a quote earlier on Friday about Israel by Iran’s incoming president Hassan Rouhani sent some hawkish Israel watchers into a tailspin. The Iranian government’s response to it has also led some observers to wonder if the new regime in Tehran is trying to change its usual harsh rhetoric toward the Jewish State, and the West.

...  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to respond, claiming that the remark shows that Iran’s new president — despite hopes that he is someone the West can deal with on Iran’s nuclear program and other issues — is the same as the old boss:

Rohani’s true face has been revealed earlier than expected. Even if they will now rush to deny his remarks, this is what the man thinks and this is the plan of the Iranian regime. These remarks by President Rohani must rouse the world from the illusion that part of it has been caught up in since the Iranian elections. The President there has changed but the goal of the regime has not: To achieve nuclear weapons in order to threaten Israel, the Middle East and the peace and security of the entire world. A country that threatens the destruction of the State of Israel must not be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction.

The Iran hawks in the U.S. followed suit. “Iran’s fake moderate shows his true colors” a headline on the website Commentary reads. Others joined in as well.

But video of Rouhani’s remarks later emerged showing that he never said Israel needed to be “removed.” In fact, Rouhani was “merely calling the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands ‘a sore,’” as the New York Times reports:

Attending a celebration for the annual pro-Palestinian holiday in Iran known as Quds Day, named after the Arabic name for Jerusalem, Mr. Rouhani, said: “In our region, a sore has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years, in the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the dear Quds. This day is in fact a reminder of the fact that Muslim people will not forgot their historic right and will continue to stand against aggression and tyranny.”

JTA’s Rom Kampeas writes. “I’ve confirmed with other Farsi speakers” that this translation is “essentially correct.”

What’s even more significant, the original report, according to Reuters, “was swiftly repudiated by Iranian state media, which said unidentified news agencies had distorted Rouhani’s remarks,” thus signaling that perhaps the botched story might conflict with a potential new messaging strategy from Tehran. Indeed, as Kampeas asked, “Is this, as [the New York Times’ Thomas] Erdbrink suggests, a sign of his relative moderation? Is it significant that a president-elect, on the one day when Iranians are encouraged to focus their fury on Israel, doesn’t say much at all?”

Experts and current and former officials making the case for diplomacy with Iran have argued in recent weeks that Rouhani’s election — the most moderate candidate available to Iranians — presents a favorable opportunity for the United States to reengage with the Islamic Republic for a deal on its nuclear program. Those trying to increase pressure on Iran, even at the risk of undermining the diplomatic process, don’t seem to be convinced, and judging by the rush to condemn Rouhani’s mistranslated remarks, it doesn’t appear they want to be.


Sheila Musaji is the founding editor of The American Muslim (TAM), published since 1989.  Sheila received the Council on American-Islamic Relations 2007 Islamic Community Service Award for Journalism,  and the Loonwatch Anti-Loons of 2011: Profiles in Courage Award for her work in fighting Islamophobia.  Sheila was selected for inclusion in the 2012 edition of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims published since 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan.    Biography  You can follow her on twitter @sheilamusaji (> )