Global Politics & Cultures (formerly Independent Thought & Freedom)
Episode 91

63: Charles Haberl | Ethnically Cleansing the Last followers of John the Baptist

Kirk Meighoo published on

The 21st century's American interventions in the Middle East has caused a level of destruction in the entire region that we barely even understand.

That is largely because we on this side of the world barely understood the Middle East in the first place: its history, its peoples, its diversity, its layers upon layers of civilisation, with remnants of each era still surviving and living side by side, even if not always comfortably.

One tragic story is that of the Mandaeans, or Nazoreans as they call themselves. The Mandaeans are an ethnoreligious people native to the alluvial plain of southern Mesopotamia/Iraq. They are followers of Mandaeism, and consider themselves followers of John the Baptist, rather than Jesus.

They were probably the first to practice baptism and are most commonly understood to be the last surviving Gnostics from antiquity.

In the aftermath of the Iraq War of 2003, the Mandaean community of Iraq, which used to number 60,000–70,000 persons, collapsed; fewer than 5,000 to 10,000 remain there; The other community of Iranian Mandaeans has also been dwindling as a result of religious persecution over that decade.

Today, we will be speaking to Dr. Charles Haberl, one of the world's specialists on the Mandaens, to understand their plight, and to get a better understanding of the world of the Middle East through their experience.

Dr. Haberl is currently at Rutgers University, and the author of The Neo-Mandaic Dialect of Khorramshahr.

We discuss
- how Western postmodern scholarship on the Mandaeans led to ethnocide in Iraq
- how philology was almost killed off completely by Noam Chomsky and Edward Said
- continuing the philological tradition (Nietzche, Tolkien)
- the serious flaw on non-verifiability in the discipline of archaeology
- The special refugee status for Iranian Mandaeans in the US
- some of the questions surrounding the ancient past, origins and identity of the Mandaeans: Nazareth, John the Baptist, Jesus, Jews, Sabians of Turkey
- how the removal of Saddam Hussein led to the persecution of many minorities and massive bloodshed between different communities
- the question as to where the blood lust came from against the Mandaens in particular
- how Western scholarship influenced Islamic scholarship to de-legitimise the Mandaens, and their subsequent ethnic cleansing
- the importance of Iranian perspective in understanding the history of the entire world
- the relationship of the Mandaen language to the Aramaic used in Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ
- the detailed contents of the Mandaens' Book of John
- Mandaeans' relationship to Manichaeism
- how sensitivity to these historical realities affects geo-political intervention in the Middle East
- the US abandonment of the Mandaeans after their assistance in the 2003 Iraq War

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