Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — messianisms as madness ]

The Economist has a fascinating piece out about Iran’s multiplicity of messiahs (lower panel, below) which reminded me strongly of the Jerusalem syndrome (upper panel).

I suspect that was “bad adab” – bad manners, not bad clothing – but never mind.


The Economist piece is worth reading in full, if you also take the time to read Tim Furnish — who tones down the rhetoric a couple of notches:

I seriously doubt that Iranian jails are full of thousands of self-styled mahdis; I suspect many of them are guilty of nothing more eschatological than complaining too publicly about the price of gas or having too large a satellite TV antenna on their homes. But even if reduced by a factor of ten, the Islamic Republic does nonetheless appear to have a serious problem with apocalyptic antipathy toward the government. And a regime predicated, in no small part, on Mahdist ideology finds itself being hoist by its own philosophical petard.


Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem:

In Israel, Jerusalem Syndrome is taken very seriously. Everyone involved in security, tourism, or health is on the lookout for afflicted visitors. In an average year, three or four tourists develop real, palpable Jerusalem Syndrome. In l999, more than 50 visitors were diagnosed, the increase possibly attributed to millennial activities.

Why the security concern? Well, because occasionally those afflicted try some pretty dangerous stuff. Dr Yair Bar-El wrote in The British Journal of Psychiatry (2000) 176: 86-90:

A Protestant from South America conceived a plan to destroy Islamic holy places in order to replace them with Jewish holy places. The second stage of his plan was then to destroy them in order to start the war of Gog and Magog so that the Anti-Christ would reveal himself, after which Christ would reappear. The patient succeeded in gutting one of the most holy mosques in Jerusalem. Psychiatric examination was ordered by the court, and he was diagnosed as being unable to differentiate between right and wrong, not responsible for his deeds and therefore not fit to stand trial. He was admitted to a local psychiatric institution and later transferred to a mental health institution in his own country

I think “gutting” is overstating what happened — but you can sense the risk…


DoubleQuote Sources:

  • The Savvy Traveler, 2000
  • The Economist, 2013
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