Monday, November 29, 2010

Ghadir and Khatami

A ceremony was held in the modest office of Seyed Mohammad Khatami (former President), on the occasion of Eide Ghadir last week. After months of pressures and limitations against Khatami, hundreds gathered to visit the Reformist leader. A valuable artistic work of calligraphy of the Holy Quran dating back to seven centuries ago was launched in the ceremony. The calligraphy belonged to Yaghout who had created several versions during his lifetime. Ahmad Masjed Jamei the former Guidance Minister and current Tehran City Councilor spoke concerning the occasion and the history of calligraphy and artistic designs. Khatami then spoke about Ghadir and the attitudes and policies of Ali Ibn Abitalib. Khatami stressed upon the point that the most respected and honored for Ali were those who disapproved or criticized  him. Ali, on the other hand, did  not approve of those who boasted about his personality and praised him unconditionally. During the years of his leadership in the ruling system, people were free to express their views and there were no repercussions for those who openly criticized or opposed the government of Ali (AS). Khatami was making a very clear allusion to the current circumstances in Iran. He was in reality, reminding those currently in power, of the astute and grand personality of Ali Ibn Abitalib, who tolerated his opponents and allowed them to speak out.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Kingdom of Solomon

We went to a local cinema to see  The Kingdom of Solomon, tonight. The film which has been recently produced in Iran , is screened in many cinemas in Tehran. We went to Azadi Cinema which is a large cinema theater with more than 6  cinema halls in one building. The cinema was built only two years ago by the Tehran Municipality.The is film written and directed by Shahriar Bahrani , the same director who created The Holy Mary ( Maryam). The Kingdom of Solomon is written on the basis of verses in the Holy Quran dealing with the Prophet Solomon or Suleiman. The film has employed very strong special effects and is considered to be successfully directed to give a sensation of power and dominion.

The film mostly deals with the battles that  Solomon  has waged against the devils and jinns in favor of the Children of Israel (Jacob).  The film does not deal with all aspects of Solomon's life as narrated in the Quran. It deals only with the more violent dimensions while , the close relationship of  Solomon with nature and animals in particular, is overlooked. The beautiful verses related to the encounter between the Queen of Sheba or Belghis and Solomon is also not portrayed in this movie. Certain observers believe that the film has been used as a political weapon against the opposition groups who protested against the Government last year. I believe some of the conversations do seem to convey such a  political mentality. Overall, I enjoyed the film and I think it is a step forward for the film industry in Iran.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brecht and the Filtration of Weblogs

My late father was a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, but also very fond of arts, particularly theater. Years before the Islamic Revolution in 1979,  my father would regularly check the local theaters and prepare tickets for the family. He once took us to a performance entitled : The Exception and the Rule,  a famous work written by  Bertolt Brecht. The play was considered very intellectual and in a sense revolutionary in those days. As a young 15 year old teenager,  I was fascinated by the idea that one day an exception could replace a rule;  not in written, but in practice where the rules actually count.
Some years later, the Islamic Revolution of 1979, came to abolish autocracy and despotism and to establish a rule of divine law and ethical practice. Like many young men and women, I was part of that revolutionary and progressive movement. We struggled  for our dignity, our freedom and our future.  The Constitution which was drawn up in the early months after the victory , was written by revolutionaries who had experienced a taste of detainment, torture and pressure during the despotic reign of the Shah.

Article 6: In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the freedom, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of the country are inseparable from one another, and their preservation is the duty of the government and all individual citizens. No individual, group, or authority, has the right to infringe in the slightest way upon the political, cultural, economic, and military independence or the territorial integrity of Iran under the pretext of exercising freedom. Similarly, no authority has the right to abrogate legitimate freedoms, not even by enacting laws and regulations for that purpose, under the pretext of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the country. 

Article 24: Publications and the press have freedom of expression except when it is detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public. The details of this exception will be specified by law. 

The Constitution has thus been considered as one of the most progressive texts although many believe there are certain restrictions and contradictory clauses  in the text, which leave room for interpretations out of the context of the Law.
Now and particularly following the disputed elections last year, the government has imposed severe restrictions on the activity of journalists and bloggers.  While State media including the Radio and Television  are monopolized and only disseminate the official versions, private weblogs and sites have been filtered on charges of criticizing or questioning government policy and supporting  domestic opposition groups. Social networks like Facebook  and opposition news networks are totally filtered. Anti-filter software and emails that provide open information  are the tactics taken up by people to counter these measures.
My weblog in Farsi was initially filtered  a few months ago and then obstructed, after which I created a blogspot blog( which was also filtered last week.

A new development in this regard is the filtration of this English blog , Persian Paradox for the first time. Readers in Iran will now have to use a anti - filter to have access to this blog, for international viewers there should be no change.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Sacrifice

Eid Ghorban or Adha is an important occasion for Muslims worldwide . It is a commemoration of the  Abrahamic tradition. This day is the day when Abraham took to respond to his divine dreams;  to sacrifice his dearest son Esmail or Samuel. It was a  test of faith and steadfastness.
It was a demonstration  of Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his most cherished son and to stand in face of God  with a pure and dedicated heart. This purity and dedication he realizes is the key to human dignity and salvation. Abraham complies with the revelations he has from God but only to see that once he has dedicated his heart, the sacrifice of Esmail is abandoned and no longer required. Now, Muslims worldwide celebrate the victory of faith and purity that Abraham achieved.
This Eid is the culmination of Hajj and a ceremony, the rituals of which are enlightening and meaningful, not only  for Muslims but according to the Holy Quran, for all humanity.

Monday, November 8, 2010

For the Environment, Against War

The sixth of November has been designated as the International Day for the Prevention of the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict by the UN. The Center  for Peace and Environment has convened an international seminar each year (except for 2009, for obvious reasons) commemorating this occasion. Members of the international community in Tehran as well as Ambassadors from various countries of the world are invited to take part in the ceremony.
 I stressed upon the vulnerability of the region and the previous wars which have inflicted irreparable  damage on the ecosystem of the Persian Gulf and the natural resources of the Middle East in my opening speech. I referred to the breakdown of infrastructures in Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq and how that may lead to vast pollution and unhealthy conditions. I also mentioned the degradation of natural resources in Iraq and  Afghanistan due to the long occupation and war. I called upon the international community to urge restraint and peaceful resolution of conflicts particularly dealing with Iran. Dr. Mohaghegh Damad who is a scholar of Islamic studies also noted of the references in Islamic scripture and texts to the importance of protecting nature and resources in times of war and conflict.

Consule Vidal the UN Resident Coordinator delivered the speech of the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon who stressed that we should also regard nature as a potential for conflict resolution and mutual collaboration among nations. In the panel disucssion, the Ambassador of Croatia who is also a Professor of Environmental Studies, spoke about the environmental dangers of war in residential areas after demolition of homes . The representative of the Red Cross, in his speech, also  indicated that his organization plans to be more active in the area of environmental challenges during natural disasters and relief programs.

The session ended with a question and answer session as well as a final communique in which all participants stressed upon the importance of maintaining peace and preventing conflict for the protection of the environment in all parts of the world, particularly the Middle East.