Promiscuous women in Iran are to blame for the country’s spate of earthquakes. So says senior Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, who is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader, an influential and powerful post. How does women’s promiscuity generate earthquakes? Sedighi explained recently that “Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes.”
Let’s be sure we’re getting this right. It’s not the fault-fractured earth below Tehran and much of Iran that is behind past and current quakes. Instead, it’s women who violate strict religious dress codes, wear “revealing” clothes, and foster promiscuity. Iran’s Minister of Welfare and Social Security Sadeq Mahsooli confirms this faith-based seismology, saying prayers and pleas for forgiveness were the best “formulas to repel earthquakes.” Added Sedighi, “A divine authority told me to tell the people to make a general repentance.”
Geology is much more humble. It does not claim divine conversations or interventions. It won’t tell you that less promiscuity in California will tame the San Andreas Fault, or that covering women from head to toe in Iceland will appease its Eyjafjallajokull volcano. And it won’t promise to repel earthquakes through religious observance or prayer. In fact, geology promises you will feel the earth move under your feet no matter how modestly you dress or behave.
That’s because we cannot stop earthquakes or volcanoes. Not unless we can halt continental drift, the inexorable movement of the 10 huge slabs of crust that make up the Earth’s surface skin. The slabs, or plates, are like giant, rocky conveyor belts, born in volcanic violence in the center of oceans (under Iceland, for example) and dying in earthquake convulsions near ocean margins (under California, for example) where they dive under or bulldoze against adjacent slabs.
Iran is one of the most earthquake-prone countries. It sits on the boundary between the Arabian and Eurasian crustal plates, which are highly promiscuous, geologically speaking, constantly bumping and grinding against one another, causing intense tremors. A 2003 quake in the southern Iranian city of Bam killed 31,000 people. Message to Sedighi: Women are wonderfully powerful, but when it comes to Iran’s earthquakes, they’ve had help.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust-denier, is better at geology than history. At least he knows that the only way to avoid an earthquake is not to live near one. Realizing that a major quake is certain to hit Tehran, he has urged many of its 12 million inhabitants to relocate. Scores of active geological faults spider out under the city. Seismologists warn that one is 50 miles long and ready to rock.
Of course, if Sedighi is right about the geologic power of women, then the U.S. strategy for stemming Iran’s nuclear threat suddenly becomes simple. Forget economic embargoes and surgical, stealth military strikes. Instead, with our allies, merely increase the number of immodestly-dressed women in Iran. The resulting earthquakes, both frequent and massive, should be sufficient to destroy any below-ground nuclear facilities.
If you think we in the U.S. are more enlightened in the geological blame game than Iranian clerics, think again. On Jan. 13 of this year, a day after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti and killed more than 100,000 people, Pat Robertson, the Christian televangelist and former presidential candidate, blamed the quake on a Haitian pact with the devil. On his television show, The 700 Club, Robertson said that Haiti and its people have been “cursed by one thing after another” since they “swore a pact to the devil” to rid them of French rule.
Haiti straddles part of the boundary between the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate, which jerks eastward about three-quarters of an inch a year. One of those violent jerks occurred Jan. 12. Message to Pat: The devil had help.
— Leonard Krishtalka is director of the Biodiversity Institute and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Kansas University.