Food Fight

By order of Iran’s confectioners union, any Danish pastries sold in Tehran, the nation’s capital, must now be called "Roses of the Prophet Mohammed Pastries."

Make a quick stop on the way to work at a StarBox Coffee (the Iranian knockoff of Starbucks, complete with a near-perfect copy of Starbucks logo and menu) and this newest directive from the city’s organized confectioners to protest the Danish cartoons makes things a bit cumbersome for seven o’clock in the morning: "Gimme a Cinnamon Spice Mocha grande with foam and a little whipped cream and caramel and two extra shots of espresso, and two of those Roses of the Prophet Mohammed Pastries, one apricot, one cherry, both with icing, no nuts."

Writing from Tehran, Ali Akbar Dareini reports that one of the capital’s most popular bakeries, Danish Pastries, has covered up the word "Danish" on its sign with a traditional symbol of mourning, a black banner saying "Oh Hussein," a reference to an Islamic martyr.

As a business footnote, these controversial Danish pastries in Iran are produced in Iran, made by the good and holy folks in the pastry-labeling confectioners union, not imported from Denmark, just as Italian pizzas in Brooklyn are tossed together here, not made in Italy.

In other cartoon news, a gang of fired-up Pakistanis dragged Ronald McDonald by his red wig into the street and set him aflame in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city and the main commercial hub in the prosperous province of Punjab.

A few blocks away, Colonel Sanders met the same fate, being dragged from a KFC and set ablaze in the street. By the time it was over, several people were dead and Asif Shahzad at The Associated Press estimated that 15,000 had joined the protest.

In a similar but smaller demonstration of rage, a band of some two dozen black-veiled women stormed a half dozen or so gift shops in Kashmir and set afire the displays of Valentine’s Day cards.

"We will not let anyone sell these cards or celebrate Valentine’s Day," proclaimed Asiva Andrabi, the group’s leader, holding up a burning Valentine for the cameras. The cards and chocolates, she said, were "Western gimmicks," aimed at pulling upright kids away from their "roots."

It is, in short, Godiva and cupid as risque imperialists, both too suggestive of sexual impropriety to escape the notice of the morality police. The dire-faced father of Iran’s revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, might well have looked kindly upon Andrabi’s burning tirade. Officially defining the spirit of a properly organized milieu, he once declared, "There is no fun in Islam." No fun and no heart-shaped boxes of chocolate truffles.

And no Pepsi. As Maulana Invadullah memorably said a few days after the Sept. 11 attack, explaining why he thought radical Islam would inevitably defeat the United States, "The Americans love Pepsi Cola, we love death."

A fighter with Hezb-e-Islam, a fundamentalist faction of the Mujahideen, during Afghanistan’s guerrilla war against the Soviet Union, Invadullah elaborated: "War is our best hobby. We cannot live without war. The Americans lead lavish lives and they are afraid of death. We are not afraid of death. The sound of guns firing is like music for us."

What’s increasingly clear is that these latest staged uproars aren’t about Pepsi or Colonel Sanders, or even about the Danish cartoons. Those are simply the vehicles being utilized to get to a larger battle, the fight within Islam to capture the hearts and minds of Mr. Invadullah and Ms. Andrabi, a fight by radical Islamists to inflame the masses and silence the moderate voices within their own societies, a fight to grab the power of oil in order to destroy Europe and the United States.

The line of attack from the radical Islamists, working all too well, is to intensify the vicious cycle, to stimulate riots about Ronald McDonald, to announce a $1 million prize for the heads of the Danish cartoonists, to threaten the annihilation of Israel, to dare the police in their own societies to stop the mayhem, to burn and kill and push and push until the West is prodded into actions that can then be used to further escalate the paranoia and bloodshed, to attract more men and women like Invadullah and Andrabi to the cause, so that, in the end, locked like scorpions in a bottle, one side will be forced to beat the other into submission.