Monday, December 31, 2007

The New Year & A Woman President

The end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 is only a few minutes away here in Tehran as I write this blog. In addition to the joyous occasion , the new year is an opportunity to revisit the past and to learn from the past for the present and the future. It is a chance to improve and move ahead as time advances into a new age.
This week I had a live interview with the Washington-based Al-Hurra satellite channel. The program was about the status of women living under Islamic law. The commentator began ( I listened and spoke through an Arabic interpreter) with a very biased and negative statement about the status of women in these countries. He implied that discriminatory laws and subordinate social status for women have undermined their basic human rights. I was surprised at the very biased and antagonistic approach they took. When I was given the chance to speak I expressed my surprise and said I had expected to take part in an objective and balanced debate on this issue. I explained that women in Iran, after the Islamic Revolution have taken great strides in different fields, particularly in education. This however does not infer that we do not have challenges and setbacks.
Iran is now in a position to demonstrate the actual achievements of Iranian women in social , economic and political terms. I also explained that I was opposed to many of the policies of the current government, while I believed that the overall accomplishment of the administration in Iran was positive and forthcoming.
At one point one of the commentators said "But women are second -class citizens, they cannot become President in Iran". I explained that , in the phrase related to the qualifications for the President the word " Rejal" was inserted by the Experts Council in 1979 ,to infer" personality " and not gender. This means that theoretical and legal basis in our Constitution is available. No woman candidate has been disqualified on the basis of her gender.
I hope we could remove these dark eyeglasses when looking at others even if that other is our enemy , let us look objectively , in search for the truth, in the quest for excellence. That is the message of the new year, we need to wash our eyes and see things in a different light.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ghadir, Discord or Unity

In my acceptance address, in the 2006 Champion of the Earth Award Ceremonies in Singapore, I made the point that we need to search for the genuine champions. I referred to a narration from Imam Ali Ibn Abitalib which says that: " The true champion is he who exercises control over his self" . In his simple words of wisdom, Imam Ali has made a point that relates very closely to our current global conditions. Currently, we precisely lack leaders who have gained control over their egoistic desires and their selfishness.

Today is a religious holiday and eid (joyous celebration) in Iran and some Islamic countries.Many people travel or go to visit and greet friends and relatives . We were in Isfahan last night, where there were a lot of fireworks and celebrations and people were enjoying the beautiful riversides of Zayanderood. Isfahan is a beauty.

Returning from his farewell pilgrimage to Mecca, 63 years after his birth, in a place called Ghadir Khom, the Prophet of Islam indicates that he might be leaving this world. This creates much worry, but questions also arise on the future of this rapidly growing religion, and the road map the Muslims should take afterwards. The Prophet Muhammad who is the final messenger as well , points to the Holy Quran and His True Successors as the road map that would take humanity to its ultimate destiny. He points to the illustrious personality of Ali Ibn Abitalib as one who could lead humanity to salvation.

The paradox lies in the fact that contrary to certain interpretations that set grounds for discord and misunderstandings among Muslims on the basis of the Ghadir event, this event is the theoretical basis for unity among all sincere followers of Divine religions. Jewish prophecies in those days predicted that a sign of for Ahmad( the alternate name for Mohammad) is that the Messenger will appoint Elia(Ali in Hebrew) as his successor. In addition, the verse attributed to Ghadir is the 67th verse of Sura Maida chapter from the Quran. It is interestingly located between verses concerning Jewish and Christian traditions and practices. Collectively , the verses indicate that Ghadir is the connection between divine teachings. Can we say that Ghadir is an extension of Islam into the future? Can Ghadir provide a road map for the bewildered generations of our time but also for truth seekers and freedom lovers from now to eternity?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Celebrating the Tree

When I was a child and we lived in Philadelphia I mingled easily with American children and naturally at Christmas time I wanted a decorated tree with real presents. I finally got the tree and a few presents but I also learned that traditions among religions are different. I learned that as Muslims we regarded Jesus as a Divine Prophet,a human being chosen as a Messenger. As many Muslims and Iranians living there, I enjoyed celebrating both Islamic and Christian occasions but also Iranian as well as American festivals. I was taught to cherish my religious identity but also to appreciate diversity.

I later learned that the tradition of celebrating with a Christmas tree probably originated in Iran , more than a millennium before Christ, the sarv (cedar), a coniferous indigenous species was decorated and celebrated. The bent sarv tree is a common art design in many Persian paintings and artistic works. Many references indicate that the forces of nature were highly honored in ancient Iran and the tree was considered to be sacred. Islamic teachings actually came later to fortify those beliefs and to further elaborate on nature protection and wise use.

Today, I read in our local papers that the Armenian Christians in Iran, who celebrate Christmas with their exquisite ceremonies, have announced that they will use artificial trees this year as a sign of respect for nature and the environment. In reply I wish to tell them, thanks for protecting our fragile environment and Merry Christmas !

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Persian Story

In the Name of the Creator

Classic story telling in Persian begins with a simple phrase : " One existed, one did not exist, no one other than God existed". Every Iranian child is familiar with this phrase. This is the primordial truth that every child understands. The essence of life and existence is here, in this short opening of Persian stories. Actually, there is a Persian paradox in this opening, there seems to be a baffling secret in the meaning behind the words.

As an Iranian who has lived in Iran for the past 4 decades , and has lived in the US for during some of the years in the first decade, I think there is much to say and hear about Iran. I belong to the most misunderstood nation of this age. I come from a generation which has undergone major upheavals and faces innumerable paradoxes, some resolved and many unresolved. I have joined the blogger community as a global citizen who believes in the need for objective dialogue and understanding as the framework for peace and prosperity for all in the world.

As a Muslim I find it fascinating that "Persian Paradox" begins on Christmas eve, a couple days after Yalda the Iranian celebration for the longest night of the year(the birthday of Mitra, the Sun Goddess), and in the week between two major Islamic Eids or celebrations, destiny has brought me to this moment ... We are in search for those threads, that connect us to make that beautiful fabric of human civilization today.

First Test

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