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Monday, January 03, 2011

HSBC loses its moral compass; UPDATED

Anyone who has traveled by plane over the last few years has seen ads like this one, usually in the jetways as you board and disembark from the plane.

But sometimes, that kind of multicultural view of the world can go too far. With HSBC, which also used the ad above, multiculturalism has gone overboard with the ad below.

Just like that, the banking behemoth reveals the danger of bubble-gum corporate cosmopolitanism: Every now and then, you might suggest that a murderous theocracy is actually a progressive place.

One wonders what Jafar Panahi would make of the suggestion that Iran's filmmaking environment compares favorably to America's. We can't know, however, because the acclaimed director and his colleague Mahmoud Rasoulof were just sentenced to six years in prison. There they'll join, among others, the filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad, who news reports say is on a hunger strike in Tehran's Evin Prison.

"The assassination of ideas and sterilizing artists of a society has only one result: killing the roots of art and creativity," Mr. Panahi said at his trial. "You are putting on trial not just me, but Iranian social, humanist and artistic cinema."

A theme of Mr. Panahi's movies is the Iranian regime's subjugation of women. Whereas the HSBC ad implies that women in Iran are particularly empowered or liberated, Mr. Panahi's works—including "The Circle" (2000), about female prisoners, and "Offside" (2006), about young women detained for trying to attend a soccer match—demonstrate otherwise.

So do news reports about Sakineh Ashtiani and other Iranian women sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery. In Iran, girls can be married at age 13 (it was age nine in the first years after the 1979 Islamic revolution), women don't have the right to divorce their husbands or to seek custody of their children in the event of divorce, and a woman's court testimony is accorded half the weight of a man's.

In an environment like this, is it possible that 25% of movies are made by women? Perhaps, although when I asked HSBC spokesman Robert Sherman, he wouldn't say where the bank got its information (either about Iran or Hollywood). Iran does have an active domestic film industry, with women among its major players. One is Tahmineh Milani, a feminist who still works in the country despite having been imprisoned in 2001 on charges—"supporting factions waging war against God"—that could have warranted the death penalty.

In any case, the numbers in the ad are not what matters. Let's say that HSBC's factoids are true. They still convey a hollow, misleading message about the Islamic Republic. Imagine a 1939 ad pointing to Leni Riefenstahl—Hitler's court filmmaker and a pioneering female artist—as evidence of the Third Reich's unexpected "potential." The company behind any such ad would have immediately impugned its perceptiveness and reliability—even its worldview.
Read the whole thing. HSBC has lost its moral compass and ought to try to find it in a hurry. Shutting down its Iran operations, whether or not they are permitted under any sanctions regime, would be one way to start.


HSBC has apparently gone dhimmi altogether. This picture was taken on the New York City subways this morning (Hat Tip: Jeremy K).

Multiculturalism run rampant? Or just plain foolishness?

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At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, follow the money.

At 10:50 PM, Blogger ais cotten19 said...

Sounds like a great way to make themselves appealing to both the middle eastern AND liberal Jewish demographic without having to take too extreme a position. Crafty.

Banks don't really have morals so they can't lose their moral compass.


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