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Oliver Stone's son converts to Islam in Iran

AFP and Iranian news outlets are reporting this morning that Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone's son, Sean, converted to Shiism today during a ceremony in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, reciting the Islamic profession of faith and choosing the Muslim first name Ali. "The conversion to Islam is not abandoning Christianity or Judaism, which I was born with," the 27-year-old documentary filmmaker, whose father is half-Jewish and mother Christian, told AFP. "It means I have accepted Mohammad and other prophets."

Earlier this month, the Iranian press reported that Sean attended a conference on "Hollywoodism and Cinema" in Tehran, which featured an address by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and focused on "Hollywood's behind-the-scenes policies and its destructive effects on family foundation," according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

What's perhaps as interesting as the conversion, however, is the backstory. Last fall, Sean, pictured above in Tehran, traveled to Iran to work on a film about the mystic poet Rumi and to help "introduce Persian culture and civilization to the West," according to the Tehran Times. After his visit, he told The Wrap that Iran had a right to nuclear weapons and defended Ahmadinejad. "Iran is ruled by law," he explained. "People don't like Ahmadinejad, but that doesn't warrant a war or an uprising."

Oliver Stone -- who has courted controversy in the past by interviewing Cuba's Raúl Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez for his 2009 documentary South of the Border -- has a more complicated relationship with Iran. Some Iranians were angered by Stone's 2004 biopic about Alexander the Great (the Tehran Times claims the film depicted "ancient Persians as idiots and buffoons"), and Iranian authorities have repeatedly rebuffed Stone's requests to make a documentary about Ahmadinejad. In 2007, Ahmadinejad's media advisor, Mehdi Kalhor, explained the decision by calling Stone "part of the Great Satan." Stone, in turn, issued a statement declaring that he wished "the Iranian people well, and only hope their experience with an inept, rigid ideologue president goes better than ours" (this was the Bush era).

In an explosive 2010 interview with London's Sunday Times, Stone softened his tone somewhat, noting that U.S. policy toward Iran was "horrible." Iran "isn't necessary the good guy," he conceded. "But we don't know the full story." Now, it seems, Iran is much more than that -- a spiritual destination for his son. We wonder if Stone will get permission for that Ahmadinejad documentary after all.

Mehdi Hasani/AFP/Getty Images

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Announcing the 2012 Gelber Prize finalists

Every year, Foreign Policy is proud to partner with the Lionel Gelber Foundation and the Munk School for Global Affairs at the University of Toronto to present the Lionel Gelber Prize, which is awarded to the year's best book on foreign affairs. 

Today, Sara Charney, chair of the Lionel Gelber Prize Board, today announced the shortlist for the 2012 Lionel Gelber Prize.

The shortlisted books are:

  • On China by Henry Kissinger, published by The Penguin Press/Penguin Group (U.S.A.)

The five-person prize jury selected their shortlist from their previously-announced longlist of ten titles, all of which were written in English and published in 2011.

Throughout the week, we will be featuring audio interviews with the authors of the finalists. The winner will be announced on Feb. 27.