Monday, April 14, 2008

Geneva Workshop on Religion and Politics

I am now in Geneva. I arrived in the afternoon after losing a connection from Amsterdam to Geneva due to the delay that we had in Tehran. It took me more than 12 hours to get here. I am attending an international workshop on Religion and Politics held jointly by the International Institute for Dialogue Among Civilizations, The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and The Club of Madrid. That is the Center led by President Khatami, the Oslo Center led by Prime Minister Bondevik (Norway ) and the Club of former world leaders.

This is an initiative aimed at understanding the interplay between religion and politics in the West and Islamic societies. Issues dealing with secularism and democracy, political Islam, the importance of appreciating diversity will be raised tommorow, during the four sessions we will have.

We had an introductory session tonight and President Khatami and Mr Bondevik spoke while others had the chance to introduce themselves, Mr. Jospin the former French Prime Minister as well as the former Bosnian Prime Minister, many academicians and scholars and religious leaders were also there. I think we will have a unique opportunity tommorow to listen to some interesting views on these issues.

I have been asked to moderate the second panel on religion and democracy. This seems to be the "crunch issue", referring to the term used to underscore the major contentious issues in international negotiations. Can religion and democracy come to terms ? Can the Islamic state come to undertake the basic provisions of political freedoms, civil liberties and at the same time ensure an ethical and balance approach in governance? Well we have to wait until tommorow to see what is going to be said.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Ebtekar,
Good luck there! I wish Mr. Khatami would have asked Ms. Shirin Ebadi to join you in that important gathering as well!

Anyway, I have finally noticed that you have posted your email address in your profile here, so I have emailed you twice since yesterday! Sorry, I promise I will stop bothering you so frequently :-) I was just really excited about the chance to communicate with you directly!
The fake name I'm using to send political emails (even when I email Barack Obama here) is under the name of Nastasya Filoppvna, which comes from my favorite Novel, Dostoevsky's "The Idiot". So, please don't dismiss that email just b/c the name of the sender seems strange and fake!! It's me, your secret admirer! :-)

Anonymous said...

Bravo to Iran's Reformists!

Long Live PEACE for all Mankind!

We hope that Pope Benedict XVI will bring Mr. Khatami's message of PEACE to Mr. Bush when he arrives here tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Ebtekar,

I just read those 3 "Recent Interviews" here on this site! Great job! Thank you for everything you said in those interviews, you make us proud!

Next Year (2009), Iran's Presidential Elections:

Dr. Ebtekar for President!

It's time the new Majlis makes a new law, asking for an amendment to the Iranian Constitution which WRONGLY interprets the term "rejaal" as if it was meant in its Arabic sense, i.e., "men"!!!

Of course it should be argued that in Farsi, we don't use that Arabic word as meaning only men!!!!

That word should change, we are not Arabic speaking, therefore we should not use these Arabic terms in our constitution, we should make it crystal clear that ALL men AND women are allowed to run for presidency!

We need a referendum on that constitutional amendment!!!
Women should be allowed to run for president! Shame on IRI if they say NO!!!

Long Live President Ebtekar!

p.s. I think it would be clearer and more noticeable if you put those interviews on top of the page.

mohammed.husain said...

"we are not Arabic speaking, therefore we should not use these Arabic terms in our constitution"

If one were to take all of the Arabic loan words out of Farsi, one would have a very difficult time speaking Farsi at all because there are so many of them. There is no such thing as cultural purity, either in language or in anything else; it seems that many Iranians in their, perhaps well-intentioned, nationalism fall for this notion. In America we believe that borrowing words from other cultures (English is filled with them) enriches our language. So when someone uses the words "raison de etre" or "de joure" or "ipso facto" or "millieu" which all have a foreign origin, we see it as a sign of sophistication, not of backwardness. I'm not sure why Iranians would view things differently in light of the fact that they have been influenced so tremendously by peoples who don't see themselves as Persian.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Ebtekar,
I just read a disturbing news about some criminal hooligans in Iran having threatened the life of Iran's most precious source of Pride and Joy, Iran's first Nobel Peace Prize winner, its first ever female judge, your fellow Muslim feminist, the pride of ALL Iranian and Muslim women worldwide, our dearest Shirin Ebadi!!!

Actually, it is indeed a hopeful sign that apparently the Ahmadinejad government has taken steps to protect her and to investigate this matter in order to find and hopefully prosecute the sources of such despicable threats, but I hope the Reformists will make more noise about this matter, to show a CLEAR distinction between themselves and the current government.

The Reformists and indeed all other movements in the Iranian political diaspora (like that of Coalition Principlists) should demonstrate that they place a higher level of HONOR and importance on Human Rights and Women's Rights and Islamic Feminism in general, and Shirin Ebadi in particular as being the symbol of Feminism and Human and Women's Rights struggles in Iran.

This is the time to make noise about her in Iran as well as on the international arena!
This is the time when Iranians claim this great lady for themselves as opposed to allowing the enemies of Iran to take advantage of such awful news in their propaganda campaigns, trying to paint a dark picture of the Iranian society!

Please convey this message to Mr. Khatami, Mr. Karroubi, Mr. Rafsanjani, and even to the Supreme Leader himself, and let them know that taking BOLD and politically courageous stances, such as strongly advocating Shirin Ebadi's safety, and honoring her as a National Treasure, are precisely what they need to do, in order to show "Political Innovation"!

When the extremist far right parties in the Negahban Assembly don't support the Reformists' rights by assuring them a fair process in the Majlis elections, isn't it time that the Reformists strike a chord with their original base again, i.e., WOMEN, and go farther left in their political positioning?
Reformists' liberal policies need to gain more legitimacy and power again, even if not leading to a win for next year's presidency, but at least for gaining public support in the 9th Majlis elections in 4 years time!
One secret from the West: The neo-conservatives and those who advocate "Bombing Iran" are the biggest fans of Iran's extreme far-right radical Islamists! They give them reason to attack!

Long Live Iran and its Islamic Democracy!

Long Live Unity among ALL Iranians, secularists and religious ones, liberals and conservatives, progressives and pragmatics!

It's time to UNITE behind one common HOPE, and that's the promise of TRUE DEMOCRACY in Iran!

Shirin Ebadi is a National Treasure, please honor her accordingly!

Please don't let those Marxist traitors who call themselves the "Resistance" (the terrorist group, MEK) send their murderer agents to Iran to harm this great woman, this world-renowned symbol of Freedom and Justice in Iran! If that happens, these same murderers will then go and fool the world media by claiming that it was an inside job, stealing even her legacy from the 70 million Iranians she has dedicated her life to!

These threats MUST be the work of the same people who are bombing mosques in Iran! These are dangerous times for Iran, please be careful and vigilant, don't let our Revolution fall in the hands of these traitors who are working with the enemies of the Iranian nation (just like Ahmed Chalabi did for the Iraqi nation)!!!

One shaheed Benazir Bhutto was tragic enough, let's prevent the tragedy of another shaheed Shirin Ebadi!!! (God forbid!)

This is the time for Iranian Women to take to the streets, in demonstrations and peaceful marches, and condemn the terrorist activities of Iran's enemies!

Please Dr. Ebtekar, organize such demonstrations and show an unprecedented level of unity from Iran! Organize women, but all women, not just those extremely-pious women who wear their "hejab" so perfectly and wrap themselves in the black "chador" (as is usually seen in news reports), but include ALL Iranian women, all Iranians who love their Islamic Revolution!

This revolution is only 29 years old, it's an infant in the historic view of things, please protect it and don't let outside elements come and steal it!
Your UNITY will help save this lost child, and TOGETHER you can work to perfect it one day!

The enemies of Iran are no longer in their hide-outs under the protection of the world's wildest animal, Saddam Hossein, but in fact these murderers have somehow found their way back to Iran and are now apparently working inside Iran! Stop them please!

People wake up!!!!!
Your Revolution is about to fall in the hands of MEK!!!!

Please convey this message of a simple secularist, feminist, liberal-minded, nationalist expatriate (who once believed in and had high hopes for the Islamic Revolution), to the religious community in Iran:

Your Excellencies, Dear Grand Ayatollahs of Iran,
With all due respect, please note that today real danger is facing our nation. In my humble opinion, it is time you start seeing the light, and instead of condemning liberal-minded secularists in Iran who DO indeed understand the importance of Islam in the fabric of the Iranian society, you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them, and stand united in the face of unscrupulous enemies of the revolution!!!!

I think Ayatollah Rafsanjani should remember this warning that mohandes Bazargan gave to the second Majlis in his eloquent speech many years ago!

Today, Iranian political parties need to all be smart, united, above self-serving interests of their own particular ideologies, and get together again like they did in 1357-58 in order to save the ideals of the revolution!
Today, if the proponents of "Islamic Republic" get together with the proponents of "Freedom and Independence", Iranians can finally start to fulfill the dreams they held so dear 30 years ago!

Let's ALL UNITE to defend our nation as ONE!
Let's first finish answering last year's call for TRUE "National Unity and Islamic Solidarity", before we can be in a position to bring Iran into the era of "Innovation and Flourishing"! Iran is in danger of an outside Coup d'Etat or sinister plots for a Velvet Revolution!

Curb the enemy's plots by starting your own second phase of the Islamic Revolution, and remember who else was there and gave blood at the time!

1979 happened because 1953 had happened!
Dr. Ali Shariati, Ostad Motahari, Ayatollah Beheshti, and Ayatollah Taleghani were among the first martyrs of the revolution, but they owed much of their inspirations not only to Imam Khomeini, but also to Dr. Mosadegh!
Imam Khomeini was the charismatic leader of our revolution, but Dr. Mosadegh was the FATHER of our revolution, a revolution that started the day after the over-throw of his government by the CIA.
Remember this revolutionary song?

"dar bahare Azadi, jaye Mosadegh khali" = In the Spring of Freedom, we wish Mosadegh was here!

Dear Iranians, please watch this video:

Viva Iran! Viva its Independence and Freedom!

Anonymous said...

... here's the English-language version of that disturbing news!§ionid=3510212

Long Live Shirin Ebadi!

Long Live ALL Iranian Women! ... OK, and SOME good Iranian men too, why not? ;-)

Anonymous said...

If one reads the words that Pope Benedict addressed to Mr. Bush today, and one didn't know that they were the Pope's words, one could swear they were the English translation of some Ayatollah's words from Iran!!! These religious guys ALL sound the same!!!

It's a great thing you guys are doing by appealing to the other religions! If only politicians actually start listening to REAL religious scholars and leaders like the Pope, instead of listening to scary lunatics like John Hagee!!!

I'm sure you also have guys like him, preaching the gospel of WW-III in order to hasten the return of Jesus (or Mahdi in your case)?!
Those are the kinds of people who Scare the Bejesus out of most of us!!! and I think you Iranians must understand why our politicians keep asking your government to take extra steps (which seem unfair to you) in order to build "Confidence" for the rest of the world, when it comes to your nuclear program. It's because it seems there are those kinds of people (like Hagee) actually running the show in your country!

Gosh, just imagine if John Hagee was the Commander in Chief of the USA!!!!! Half of the world would vanish in one day, because he wants to see Jesus come and take all Christians up to heaven in rapture!!!!
Unfortunately, Mr. Bush and Senator McCain are both friends of John Hagee and have been endorsed by him!!!! and nobody in the media reports that fact as a scary thing, but they will spend weeks talking about Barack Obama's pastor, and scaring people of Obama's Muslim middle-name!!!!

Thank God for true religious leaders and scholars like the Pope, and like your Ayatollah Seyed Mohamed Khatami!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Dr. Ebtekar, would you please post this one instead of the one I wrote a couple of hours ago? Somehow my paragraphes got mixed up and I had a few lines repeated in my (already very LONG) text!

This is a response to my Muslim brother Mohammed, who has written comments here in response to some of my previous comments:

Salamo Aleikom brother!

Please allow me to clarify my earlier comments, by saying that I know exactly what you mean when you criticize those bigoted Iranians who take TOO much pride in their Persian heritage to the degree of wanting to completely erase and modify the last 1300 of their history!

I'm the niece of one of Iran's greatest historians, someone who's written more than 50 books about our cultural and historical past, including the history of Iran before Islam AND after Islam, and some of these anti-Islam Iranians (the ones you're talking about) were actually upset at him for NOT having painted as ugly a picture from the Arab invasion of Persia as they would have liked to have read!

So dear Mohammed, you certainly do not have to remind me of the good old days of the Islamic Golden Age, when there were no borders between Muslim countries, and the Arabic language had become the language of literature and science. That fact in itself was one of the reasons that exchange of ideas, and promotion of science and art had become so readily possible across the vast territory of the Muslim World.

The fact that our (fellow Persian-speaking) Imam Mohammad Ghazzali (aka: The Rene Descartes of the Muslim World) could write most of his books in Arabic, therefore his "Ihya'ul ulumuddin" (The Revival of Religious Sciences) could be read and studied all the way in Egypt,

the fact that our (fellow Persian-speaking) Abu Ali Sina wrote most of his books in Arabic, and not only influenced the Muslim world, but after those Dark Ages in Europe, his "Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb" (The Canon of Medicine) was also translated to Latin and was used as a text-book in the universities of Montpellier and Louvain as late as 1650,

the fact that our (fellow Persian-speaking) Omar Khayyam wrote his mathematical master-piece in Arabic, "Maqalat fi al-Jabr wa al-Muqabila" (Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra) and proved the Binomial Theorem long before Sir Isaac Newton did,

... all of these are true, are part of our shared history in the Muslim world, and are our COLLECTIVE source of pride and past glory! but, ...

What I was arguing about, was the fact that in our constitution, there was a very sinister and sneaky reason behind the use of that word "rejaal"!

You see my dear Muslim brother, I assume from the way you spell your name that you are an Arab, so you might not know that the borrowed Arabic words that have entered into our Persian language, do not always have the same meaning as they do in the Arabic language!

You see, just as using the terms "raison d'etre" or "deja vu" in English, is in order to convey PRECISELY a meaning that cannot be as accurately conveyed by just saying "reason to be" or "already seen", in Farsi too, we use Arabic words to convey a meaning that its Farsi equivalent can't quite capture!
When the ultra-conservative sexist Ayatollahs who drafted our constitution, were composing the law concerning the eligibility of a presidential candidate, they PURPOSEFULLY used the Arabic word "rejaal", not because we use that word on a regular basis in our language, we don't!!!! :-)
We have a word for men (mardan) and a word for women (zanan), and we use the Arabic word "ensan" when we want to say mankind.
They used the word "rejaal" because at the time, at the beginning of the revolution, they had not yet COMPLETELY taken over and eliminated all secularists from the law-making assemblies, and they knew that if they worded it as men "mardan", the secularists and indeed 50% of the Iranian population (Iranian Women) would object and say NO WAY!!!!
They also couldn't use the word "ensan" because the use of the word "mankind" in that sentence would have sounded strange, and also, "ensan" does CLEARLY include ALL men and women!
So what did they do to play their sexist trick on the rest of the law-makers???
They used this ambiguous foreign word, a word that we do not use when we speak, unless when we refer to politicians "rejaale ssiyassi", and everybody thought they meant to simply say politicians!!!
Nobody at the time objected because it was not understood as making any distinctions between women politicians and men politicians!!!

You see Mohammed, in Farsi, we do not have feminine words and masculine words, we do not conjugate our verbs differently for men or women or things, we do not even have 3 pronouns (he, she, it), we only have one, it is the same pronoun "oo", whether it refers to a man or a woman or an animal or a thing!!! Our language is quite "Politically Correct" on its own!!!
So, when a bunch of sexist people want to say things that are sexist, they will use Arabic! :-)

mohammed.husain said...

Wa 'alaykum as-salaam,

You've offered a lengthy explanation, and I'm glad you have a tempered nationalism. The nationalism I typically encounter here from Iranians in Los Angeles is a lot like you described, its excessive to the point of absurdity.

I don't know enough about the inns and outs of Iranian politics to comment on much of what you said. But just to clarify, I'm not an Arab, I'm actually a Pakistani American. Pakistanis speak Urdu, and our language too has a lot of loan words from Arabic and also from Farsi. Some loan words in Urdu also have slightly different meanings, for instance taroof in Urdu means introduction (socially), whereas I know in Farsi it refers to a particular kind of adab.

Well, thanks for the clarification, All the best.

Anonymous said...

Urdu doesn't borrow from Farsi. The common words are there because in fact Urdu and Pashtu and Farsi and Hindi and Tajik and ... are all from the same linguistic origine, whereas Arabic and Hebrew and Aramaic and ... are from a totally different origine. hence, Arabic words used in Urdu or Farsi or other Muslim countries' languages are "borrowed" words (due to historical events like Arab invasion, domination and attempts at assimilation), but you can't say Urdu borrows from Farsi, or Pashtu borrows from Dari, or Hindi borrows from Urdu, or ... because as I said, they are all cousins! kinda like similarities between French, Spanish, Italian, ..., or similarities between German and English which are btw, also from the same origine as ours, i.e., Indo-Germanic languages.