A Nation of Holocaust Deniers?

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TIME's Tehran correspondent examines what daily life is really like in Iran

• Raising a Child in Iran's Cultural Divide
Coping with the gulf between Iranian private and public life is a difficult skill even for adults to manage. So what should we teach our children?

• A Nation of Holocaust Deniers?
The president's skepticism is, surprisingly, shared by many Iranians. But that doesn't mean they are anti-Israel. Let me explain

• You've Come Only a Little Way, Baby
Bans on foreign, Kurdish and even some ancient Persian names for newborns have been around since the Islamic revolution but are now letting up slightly

• Iran's Caesarean Section Craze
Well-accustomed to elective surgery, Iranian women are choosing C-sections at such a high rate that it's a challenge now to find a doctor who will perform a "medieval" vaginal birth

• How Iran's Populist Lost His Popularity
With prices rising and the economy stagnating, Iranians view their President as less a national hero than the latest in a long line of ineffectual bureaucrats

• Many Happy Returns, Twelfth Imam!
The Mahdi, an imam who happens to be Ahmadinejad's favorite, has become the object of frenzied and government-nurtured worship

• Silencing the Voices of Dissent
Inside the forced shutdown of Iran's most popular reformist paper, Shargh

• Who are the Women Behind the Men Running Iran?
First ladies are usually kept in hiding, but one outspoken wife is causing big problems for Ahmadinejad

• The Backlash Against Iran's Role in Lebanon
The notion that Iranian dollars are going to Lebanese Shi`ites is fueling animosity between the Persian community and the Arab world

It's pretty vile having a Holocaust denier as a president. I feel partly responsible, because I didn't vote in the election that brought President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Who knew the man stood any chance of winning? Who knew the man unlikely to win would use his presidency to challenge historical fact? Once he started up the whole business, I consoled myself and others by arguing this view did not represent that of most Iranians. Turns out, I was wrong.

I put the question to my family last Friday as everyone gathered around for tea and sweets after lunch (yes, it is Ramadan, so we made sure to praise the sole faster among us as we nibbled on syrup-drenched pastry). "You all believe the Holocaust actually happened, right?" I asked, confident everyone would say yes, and that we could then proceed to gossip about the Iranian-American female space tourist.

Instead, my relatives, my very own civilized, educated, well-traveled relatives, began hedging. "A small number were certainly murdered, but the rest probably died of war-times diseases," said one, a urologist. "The numbers were exaggerated to justify creating a Jewish homeland," said another, a hotel owner. A monarchist housewife: "Were there even six millions Jews in Germany before the war?" A computer science graduate: "I think it bears further historical research."

Apparently, Ahmadinejad is not so alone. But what was going on? In Iran, I associate Holocaust skepticism with anti-Westernism and Islamic fundamentalism; with confrontational people who deny Israel's right to exist and whose violently anti-Israel attitudes overlap with anti-Semitism in such a way that it's hard to tell which animates which. Radical clerics and the people who came up with the Holocaust cartoon exhibit belong to this ideological minority, not my relatives.

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