Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

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Agnimitra
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Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 21:14

-- New Thread --
This thread is to explore the long-running and present day identity issues of Iranian civilization. The idea is for Indians to better understand the pulse of different popular factions in Iran in order to engage with them more effectively.

Posts will include reports on cultural tensions, the different voices of people's aspirations there, ideology, historical research and discussion, etc.

Posts can also include news reports of Arab-Persian and Turkish-Persian rivalry and other reports that are likely to influence the Iranian identification with Islamic culture vis a vis its linkages with Indo-Aryan and Caucasian cultures.
Last edited by Agnimitra on 18 Aug 2011 21:20, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 21:15

X-posting post by shyamd ji.
-----------------------------------

Big development

Fear of Iran prompts 'rapid reaction force'
Weapons to come from China, funds from Saudi Arabia
Posted: August 15, 2011
9:56 pm Eastern

© 2011 WND

Saudi Arabia is developing a Sunni rapid-reaction military of soldiers from Central and South Asian Muslim nations to confront the expansion of Iranian influence and Tehran's nuclear threat in the Arab world, Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin reports.

The effort, which has been under way for months, according to informed sources, will include participants from Pakistan, Indonesia and the Gulf Arab countries. Training will be held in facilities the Saudis will finance in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

According to sources, Pakistan and Jordan will provide the instructors for the new mobile force. The Saudis are looking to China to help supply weapons. In exchange, some sources say that Riyadh will offer Beijing naval facilities in the Saudi kingdom to access the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

Such a development would be a big boost to China's plans to expand its forces and give it bases from which to combat pirates attacking Chinese and other ships in the Arabian Sea.

The sources say that Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, who heads the Saudi National Security Council, quietly has been visiting China, Pakistan and the Asian Muslim nations to finalize plans to implement the mobile force.

The trained forces will remain in their respective countries, subject to call in the event of a crisis. Sources say that the initial force will consist of some 5,000 soldiers.

The intention, they say, is to have a force totaling up to 15,000 battle-ready troops. The rapid reaction force is expected to be ready by 2014.

The troops from their various locations will be on call at all times and will be transferred on short notice to countries in the protective umbrella. They will be airlifted by standby aircraft located in the Central Asian countries.

Saudi Arabia is part of the Gulf Cooperation Countries, or GCC, which also includes Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The Saudis recently reinvigorated the GCC's military council, called the Peninsula Shield Force, in response to what Riyadh and the other GCC members perceive as a growing military threat from Shia Iran.

Analysts agree that Tehran's military is greater than the combined military of all of the GCC countries. In addition, they are convinced that Iran's nuclear enrichment program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

Sources say that Riyadh is adamant about halting Iran's development of nuclear weapons, even if it means an all-out Saudi-Iranian war.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 21:20

quote RajeshA
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The clipping of Iranian wings is very good! It is good because the Shi'ite led Mullahcracy in Iran has de-facto promised the Iranian masses, that they can pack a punch, and bring the Muslim world under their leadership. The siege and defeat of Israel was going to bolster their claim as the leader of Islam. The Shi'ite Crescent was going to be their arm, reaching all the way to the borders of Israel.

Now that is coming undone!

By pushing Iraq into the Shi'ite Column, the West had bolstered the Shi'ite power. Now bringing down the Alevi leadership in Syria, they are tilting the power equilibrium back in the other direction.

It is a typical scenario of monkey dividing the bread between the 2 cats!

Iraq turning Shi'ite had the effect of bringing Shi'ite revolution too close to Saudi Arabia for comfort, so there is a sword at the Saudi throat! Taking away Syria from Shi'ite influence has the effect, that the West is taking away that sword from Israeli throat.

So the net effect is turning the sword of Shi'ism away from Israel towards Saudi Arabia.

Since the Shi'ite Mullahcracy in Iran proved to be implacable, and was determined to attain its leadership position in the Islamic World over the body of Israel, there was no other way than this. Iran has been constantly trying to paper over the sectarian differences in Islam by making Israel the common foe. That is why Iran was willing to fund and support Hamas, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and even some Taliban factions in Afghanistan. That is why Iran has not really reacted to the Shi'ite killings in Pakistan.

Now if Israel goes out of reach of Shi'ite power in Iran, the only other way for the Shias to assert their leadership is through a direct showdown with the Sunnis. Either Iran picks up the gauntlet and confronts the Sunnis, or Iran would have to refashion itself.

The first option would see, Iran (and Iraq) asserting its full might in the Gulf - Bahrain, Kuwait, and in the Al Ahsa province of Saudi Arabia, making the Gulf countries even more dependent on the West and Turkey. Should the Shias succeed it would mean, all money for Pakistan would dry up. That is good for India, making taking control of Pakistan much easier.

Should however the Iranians fail, one could see, Iran even rejecting Islam altogether, as their Islamic sect looks more and more defeated versus the Sunnis. If Iran is sufficiently weakened by then - broken up with Azeris, Kurds, Baloch having left Iran, then it is possible for Iran to fall into India's lap like a ripe mango. Then it is possible for Iran to reject Islam and to again look for its Aryan roots. Again it would become much more easy then to squeeze Pakistan between the Aryan resurgence on its two flanks.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 21:21

quote RajeshA
---------------------

devesh wrote:what the hell with the "Aryan roots?" what is this nonsense? is not the biological evidence enough to put to rest the propaganda?

As we know, "Aryan roots" in Indian context, have far more to do with history, culture and linguistics. But all this offers India and Iran a common context, and in fact, that context has also been at play for some time, in our relationship with Iran, even in the Shi'ite Theocratic period.

And sometimes, even false propaganda can be useful for establishing associations where otherwise there would have been none, if it helps in geopolitics!

I spoke of "Aryan roots" meaning, that Iran breaks away with Islam altogether, and looks for its pre-Islamic past for succor. With Iran reconnected with its pre-Islamic past, Dharmic India can build her relations without too much ideological baggage.

devesh wrote:also, Iran winning against the Sunni block is not necessarily good for India. Islam's affect on the Persian psyche is unique and also predictable. ever since the fall of the Mughals, Shia Iran has backed every Islamist group in the Indian subcontinent. they have calculated that Islamic rule (Shia or Sunni) is better than Kafir rule.

Priority is the break up of Pakistan and a drying up of funds for Pakistani groups, who are waging Jihad against India. At the moment all those groups happen to be Sunni.

Secondly, an Iran win against Saudi Arabia does not mean, that the revenue from all those Oil Wells would flow to Iran necessarily. Look at the Ralph Peters map. The major beneficiary of a geographical realignment may be an Arab Shia State centered in Basra. And they may not necessarily have the same historical priorities as Persians to influence the Indian Subcontinent in the same way! I have discussed this scenario earlier as well.

It seems to be the case, that the West is acting as the monkey, and Sunnis and Shi'ites are the two cats. West is not interested in seeing Iran strengthened to a degree, where it controls the Gulf. In fact, Iran may have to part with its Oil Fields as well, e.g. in Khuzestan!

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 21:22

X-posting my post from West Asia Thread
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RajeshA wrote:I spoke of "Aryan roots" meaning, that Iran breaks away with Islam altogether, and looks for its pre-Islamic past for succor. With Iran reconnected with its pre-Islamic past, Dharmic India can build her relations without too much ideological baggage.

Any tendency of Iranians to hark back to an "Aryan" cultural paradigm is based not so much on their clarity of what it means to be "Aryan", but rather on their present grievances which they want to be freed from. I have seen that even among those who want the "Aryan" bit over the Islamic, they have no intention of "going back" to some historical forms or lifestyles or even philosophy. What they emphasize is a basic credo of living, as per their abstraction of an "Aryan" past.

IMHO we need to understand their aspirations and real orientation better in order to be able to engage the Iranian people. The problem in Iran as I see it is the majority's frustration with Shi'a Islamists' ideological necessity to do the following, which effectively crushes the human rights of people in general:

(a) Restrict people's freedom to explore lifestyle options, cultures, religions, etc. -- Here the regime's liberality is based on their threat perceptions. They're quite open to people checking out Hindu and Buddhist cultures, because they believe there's little chance brainwashed Iranians will ever actually adopt those identities at the cost of their basic Islamic identity, even if they dabble and borrow from those traditions. On the other hand, Sunni Islam and Zoroastrianism are seen with great suspicion. Baluchi migrants have been petitioning in vain for years to have an exclusive Sunni mosque and center in Tehran. Also, Judaism is seen with suspicion, because knowledge of Judaism seems to undermine some assertions made in Islam (and Christianity) about what the Judaic concept of God and spiritual life really was in practice. Iranians are not allowed to learn Hebrew. Mullahs rant about Sunni and Zoro conversion threats. But Iranians can buy and read Bhagavad Gitas, Buddhist literature is widespread, yoga is popular, and most Hindu baby names are legit in the Islamic Republic's book. Ordinary Iranians want to have the freedom to decide on their own. Most of them are quite happy being Persian Mohammedan, even the liberal, rebellious types. What they seem to want is a relaxation of Shari'ah, and a 'metaphorization' of all aspects of Islamic practice into pure philosophy and thought. For example, one of the most popular poets among youngsters in Iran from the recent past has been Sohrab Sepehri. Check out his "religious" orientation here. He spent years staying in India, Japan, the US and Europe, and absorbing the cultures and philosophies (India and Japan were admittedly his favourite; he didn't much like America). They prefer Sohrab's attitude and spirituality even over other more ideologically motivated popular contemporary poets like Ahmad Shamlou, and Shamlou wasn't Islamist at all. IOW, the people don't want ideological obligations based on social justice, etc., but a rather more open paradigm of self-discovery.

(b) Be very exclusivist and seek dominance over other sects and religions, and restrict their freedoms to operate and thrive -- Other sects are not allowed to proselytize or preach to society freely, effectively rendering them handicapped and unviable. Sharing and teaching is the essence of the social aspect of any culture. Moreover, courses in theology, philosophy, Islamic worldview (beenesh e Eslami), etc are part of regular high school and college coursework. In these courses, they not only teach Shi'a Islamic doctrine, but stereotype other doctrines and practices and fill people's minds with strawman arguments against all sorts of cultural influences. Most educated Iranians today, with their limited exposure to the outside world via satellite TV and more enlightened contemporary Persian literateurs, can see through the BS and the fact that their very opinions are manipulated and they feel patronized and insulted.

(c) Base themselves on an explicit and implacable political enmity against Israel, the US and a lot of the West -- This is probably the most serious issue with most Iranians, even among those who seriously believe the US, UK and Israel are controlled by evil, scheming cabals, that 9/11 was an inside job, etc. Even these types want to have freer business and social intercourse with these countries. Even if they believe that the state of Israel was grabbed and imposed unjustly on the Mid-East, they still think it is mainly an Arab problem and Iran need not sacrifice so much for an Arab cause - and still put up with cultural slurs and suspicions from their Arab neighbors from time to time. Saddam went to the gallows cursing the "Majoosis" (word meaning Zoroastrian, applied by Arabs to Iranians), even under US occupation.

If the idea of an Aryan primary identity were to be sold to Iranians, it should take into consideration what they would be comfortable accepting, and what they would not be comfortable giving up. I think the Aryan identity for them means a Pax Zarathustriana, under which all different religious and cultural groups are protected and can thrive, and where common human rights are upheld irrespective of social affiliation. The basic slogan of Zoroastrianism is ethical consistency and goodness -- "humana (su-mana), hookhta (sookta), huvarashta (su-varishtha)", i.e. good thoughts, good words and good deeds. This overarching identity for them would also encompass the continued existence of Islam and devout Moslems within Iran.

Most "Aryanists" in Iran treasure their post-Islamic spiritual, philosophical, scientific and cultural heritage as well. They are not going to distance themselves from the likes of Ibn Sina, Rumi, Hafez, Sohrevardi, Molla Sadra, etc. A proponent of a Dharmic cultural paradigm would need to demonstrate to Iran that, far from jettisoning such a heritage into the dustbin of "jaahiliyyah", an Aryan society is liberal, accepting, and syncretic. In fact, it is their own Islamist society that historically murdered several other such great cultural icons because of conflicts over Islamic Law and doctrines, and cultural suspicions of non-Islamic Zoroastrian influences. If such an Islamist society can selectively tolerate some of these personalities and let them live and even use them to great social benefit, then surely an inherently liberal and progressive Aryan paradigm can carry along with it and celebrate this Islamic heritage as well! The counter-argument used by Mollah types that Zoroastrianism is "past expiry date", and "what about our Molana Rumi and Hafez" is bogus.

In demonstrating the above capacity of a Dharmic operating paradigm, India can provide a fine example -- provided we know how to articulate it with a robust understanding of, and strong conviction in, our real civilizational nationhood. Unfortunately at this point we don't really speak in one voice. Our nationhood is either articulated by weak, wishy-washy, ingratiating lefties, or Tejo Mahalaya eliminationist cases. But if we can understand the all round potential of our civilizational identity to absorb and abstract from past experience, and to spread peace, progressive values, ethical living and human rights in the present, then we just may be able to do something good for ourselves and others as well. Then the rise of India will be good for everyone, although there may have to be some "adjustment" pain.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 21:23

quote brihaspati ji
-------------------------

Carl wrote
In demonstrating the above capacity of a Dharmic operating paradigm, India can provide a fine example -- provided we know how to articulate it with a robust understanding of, and strong conviction in, our real civilizational nationhood. Unfortunately at this point we don't really speak in one voice. Our nationhood is either articulated by weak, wishy-washy, ingratiating lefties, or Tejo Mahalaya eliminationist cases. But if we can understand the all round potential of our civilizational identity to absorb and abstract from past experience, and to spread peace, progressive values, ethical living and human rights in the present, then we just may be able to do something good for ourselves and others as well. Then the rise of India will be good for everyone, although there may have to be some "adjustment" pain.


I am not sure that India is that relevant in the discussion. Having said that, I do find a curious note that should really be relevant for "west Asia".

Why did Indian "nationhood" get to be claimed by "weak/wishy-washy/ingratiating" "lefties" on one side and "Tejo Mahalaya eliminationist" another side in India with no "middle-grounders" - whereas no such extreme dichotomies survive in "west Asia"? Perhaps it is because the overwhelming presence of "middle-grounders" or majjhim-panthis in India who failed to take any concrete position to preserve that very nationhood? Whereas absence of such middle-grounders in west-Asia led to absence of confusion and paralyzing ambivalence in trying to balance all opposing forces, without having any clear cut scale of values and objectives needed to be decisive?

A very simple gedanken experimente. If anyone thinks that the "wishy-washy leftie" and "Tejo Mahalaya eliminationists" are diamterically opposite positions, which of these two positions she/he clearly is able to reject mentally in favour of the other? If she/he is able to reject both and thinks that a third "middle" position is feasible - can he clearly outline what that third "middle" position is and why exactly he thinks it is a middle position? Note that it cannot be claimed that there exists a third alternative - which is not exactly a "middle ground" - when we are talking of two diametrically opposite extreme positions - any position not in the extremes will lie somewhere along a "line" joining the two extremes. Any third alternative which is not relative to the two extremes - is entirely irrelevant for the extremes framework.

To be a middle position it has to be somehow equidistant from both, and cannot be too far away from either - as otherwise it loses its sense of being in the "middle", and therefore necessarily contains elements of both. Thus a middle position is unable to reject the two extremes even while it claims that it is rejecting both - because it tries to compromise between what is essentially uncompromisable.

What middle positioners land up in - is the classic dilemma of the "majjhim panthis" - the paralysis of concrete action. It is true of west Asia and India both. The faction ridden, but ideologically fanatic - even in factional infighting - Byzantine Christians could still hold a line just south of the Bosphorus, and even intrigue against or sponsor a Crusader onslaught as late as the 1200's in the Levant, 600 years after losing the fight - and holding the fort for almost 850 years. That fight which however simultaneously wiped out the Parthian/Persian power to hit back in the next 1400 years.

Is it that merely a coincidence that the prevalence of "majjhim panthis" - Buddhist-and-derivatives in Persia, Sindh and Bengal preceded rapid military capitulation before Islamists?

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 21:24

X-posting my post from West Asia thread
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shyamd wrote:Carl, that was a very interesting piece.

Just fyi, the Iranian Foreign ministry is becoming more "persian" than islamic. Todays diplomats are offered insight into the Persian empire and persian culture.

There is a renewed crackdown on persian symbols, it appears quite worse in the liberal/posh north where many have converted to zoroastrian.

Shyamd ji, yes the crackdown is there and is selectively targeted at the "posh" north Tehran types. We can infer this from the fact that, parallel to suppressing Persian or Zoroastrian symbols, they also put in draconian laws against things like walking pet dogs in public, etc....usually done by the more non-Islamic types there.

Similarly, couple of days back the Tehran police went to town rapelling down highrise apartment buildings, tearing down all satellite dishes. All satellite dishes beaming foreign channels into Iran are illegal, and they are found in all parts of the city. But the thing is, they focussed this crackdown mainly on suburbs like Ekbatana, which are populated by the hip crowd.

The strange fact that most Iranians will personally admit is that the regime doesn't mind it if people put on an obediant albeit hypocritical show of hejaab and Islamic shari'a in public, while doing and believing whatever they want in private. Many younger Iranians find this pervasive show-bottle Islam (tazaahor) disgusting.

I think the bait and switch tactic by Iranian consular staff and diplomacy of projecting a "Persian" identity is unconvincing at this stage. They know that "Persian" has a much more positive ring in Western ears than "Iran". But even their published literature and pamphlets use that in a dumbed down fashion, and as a segue to the beginning of Islamic Iran.

Its also interesting to note that the level of Persian exhibits at museums in the West and elsewhere is a reflection of what the Iranian government wants to project. Usually Persian historical and art exhibits are subsumed under Islamic arts. Very little of pre-Islamic Persian artifacts seem to be shared and projected. And if they are, they get subsumed under titles like "Central Asian" or "West Asian". Some people say that Iran doesn't share its exhibits because of its poor relations with Western countries. But precious Persian artifacts are being auctioned off in even the Gulf states. Iranian intellectuals cry themselves hoarse over this, but their government doesn't seem to be motivated to move against misappropriation, and show little official sign of assertive claims and advertisement. Ordinary educated Iranians complain about such things. e.g.:

تحریف میراث ایران در جهان عرب
"The 'transposition' of Iranian heritage in the Arab world"

The above article is just about the post-Islamic cultural output of Iran being subsumed under vague rubric like "Central" or "West" Asian, and often made part of other specific countries like Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan. The case with pre-Islamic Iranian heritage is that it is seldom even exhibited to the world (unlike during the Shah's regime).

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 21:25

X-posting my post from West Asia thread
--------------------------------------

brihaspati wrote:Is it that merely a coincidence that the prevalence of "majjhim panthis" - Buddhist-and-derivatives in Persia, Sindh and Bengal preceded rapid military capitulation before Islamists?

Brihaspati ji, that is an interesting idea with valid points. Here's my take in an attempt to flesh it out a bit -- As far as Parthian Sassanid Persia was concerned, while it is true that Buddhist derivative relativistic attitudes and movements were prevalent, there was also a hardcore, eliminationistic Zoroastrian "cultural nationalist" ruling element in that society. This emerged from the time Persia was overrun and its culture, libraries, etc destroyed by Alexander's armies and the subsequent Hellenic rule. As a reaction to that cultural assault, there was a Persian reaction in the form of Aryan cultural assertion and eliminationist tendencies against Hellenic influence. After the initial destruction and depradation, the Greeks tried hard to create some kind of syncretic Greco-Persian culture. They tried to adopt Persian sophistication in terms of manner and style and even intermarriage with aristocratic Persian families, and wanted to be accepted as part of the new ruling elite. But the Zoroastrian literature of the time simply refused to grant religious ligitimacy to the new rulers' attempts on the basis that Macedonians were just not "Aryan". Only "Aryans" were acceptable to Mazda to create good rule on Earth. This developed into an anti-Hellenic and later anti-Roman Zoroastrian hard core of cultural nationalism. W.r.t the inner social relations, the emphasis on legitimacy based on bloodlines and long eugenic inculturation seems to have lead to more elite-consciousness amongst Persians themselves, increasing the distance between Persian priest-aristocracy classes and the masses. Note that even among the two-and-a-half Parsis who migrated to India to keep the sacred fire alive, they had this class distinction. The Mobeds (priestly caste) among India Zoroastrians are very conscious of their bloodline. Other non-Mobed Parsis are actually termed "be-deen" (religionless)!

Between the liberal ethics of Buddhist derivatives coming in from the East and the hardcore of structured priest-ruler nexus of power, the masses felt disempowered and devalued. Between the supposedly divine inter-civilizational power games for cultural and political supremacy between elites, the masses didn't have a strong feeling of being stakeholders.

I am not well informed about the facts of the dynamics in Sindh and Bengal, but I strongly suspect that those societies at the time also had this polarity. The masses may have been caught between a Buddhist-derivative cultural relativist attitude and a hard core priest-aristocrat elite.

My musharraf has a theory which says that when a region is subjected to a level of violation that breaks its moral spine, then the overall moral-emotional tone of the society is depressed and this kind of ideological polarity emerges. In Persia it was the Macedonian invasion. In Bengal/Orissa area perhaps the Ashokan era warfare and other factors may have played a role in the Buddhist attitude side by side with orthodox Brahminical opposition?

So my thoughts on your gedankenexperimente are that this polarity exists on a particular mental platform. The actual "third alternative" is not bisecting the line between these polarities, but on a different moral-emotional platform.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Neshant » 18 Aug 2011 21:30

they are way too hot headed and impulsive to be allies unto anyone.

their ansestral identity has been surpressed and ruined by arabian islam they keep shoving down their own throats.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 21:41

^^^ Neshant, maybe. Thanks for your input. But the point is to understand the different hot-headed voices in there and work with it.
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Article in today's ATimes about a particularly galling case of censorship in Iran. Article covers the frustration, helplessness and subterfuge prevalent in a pretty large section of society there.

Persian classic too sexy for censors
Many authoritarian regimes censor books for political reasons. But Iran goes so far in also tampering with books for self-claimed religious reasons that the Islamic Republic's censors form a league of their own.

The latest example came this week, when censors refused a publishing house permission to reprint an edition of one of the country's best-known classical epic poems.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance decided that some parts of the epic poem Khosrow and Shirin by Nezami Ganjavi needed reworking, despite the fact that the book-length masterpiece has been a classic of Iranian literature for 831 years.

The news not only astounded the publishing house, which had expected routine approval when it sought to publish its eighth edition of the book, it also shocked Iran's intellectual class, despite decades of inurement to the censors' heavy hand.

"This poem existed for nine centuries and ... Iranians were Muslims during those nine centuries," says Iran's best-known contemporary female poet, Simin Behbahani. "No one [during that time] had any objections to [the] Khosrow and Shirin poem and didn't think of censoring parts of the poem ... Nothing would be left [of the poem] by now, if they had. Those who talk about censoring the poem should be ashamed."

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has given no official explanation for its decision to belatedly censor the epic. But one objection reportedly concerns the poem's reference to the heroine Shirin embracing a male body.

That the body is that of her husband and the embrace is a key to understanding her suicide at the end of their tragic love story seems not to have mattered one bit to the censors.

If the embrace is indeed the reason for the censorship, it would be in line with decades of similar objections by Iran's censors to anything they construe as indecent. According to their guidelines, indecency can come in a million unexpected forms.

Faraj Sarkouhi, who edited the Iranian cultural weekly "Adineh" before he was imprisoned for "propaganda" in the 1990s and fled to Germany following his release, says that Iran's censors are obsessed with the idea that romance can be a corruptive force in society. They make Iran a hell for literature, without regard to whether it is contemporary or classical.

"It is very harmful for literature, because in stories you write about the life of the people; and in the life of the people there is love, there is sleeping together, kissing, drinking, good things and bad things, because the human being has very different aspects," Sarkouhi says.

"In a story you have to portray all of these different aspects. But they don't want some parts of life to be mentioned in literature and in this way they really kill our contemporary writing and they also censor some parts of our classical literature."


At times, the censors' zeal reaches levels of absurdity that stretch the imagination. Authors' works - including translated versions of world literature - are regularly modified to make them conform to the censors' own standards.

Sarkouhi notes that the dialogue in a recent Iranian version of one of the novels of German-Swiss author Hermann Hesse was altered so that a reference to wine instead became a reference to coffee.

The censors did not care that the change left a character saying incomprehensibly that the high alcohol content in the coffee he had just consumed had given him a headache.

Similarly, if a man and a woman who are not married are in love, the censors feel no compunctions about adding a paragraph to marry them and legalize their situation.

To defy the censors and still describe the reality of their characters' lives accurately, some contemporary authors turn to coded language.

Thus, a phrase such as "they kissed and that night slept together for the first time" becomes "they looked at each other and then told one another it's better to have some more time". The phrase "have some more time" has become a synonym in Iran for going to bed.


But classical authors, long dead, are unable to play such games and, in most readers' minds, should be untouchable anyway.

If the author is someone like Nezami Gangeva, whose Khosrow and Shirin and another epic poem, Layla and Majnoun, are pillars of both Persian and world literature, the public's feeling of indignation is still stronger.

Equally galling for many Iranians is the censors' claim they are doing it all for the good of society.

Poet Behbahani, who is 84 and a cultural pillar in her own right, says she finds it incomprehensible that officials are concerned with the morality of a woman embracing a dead body when people who protested against Iran's last presidential election were widely reported to have been raped in detention.

"In this country, they take a young, poor boy to prison and rape him there," Behbahani says. "We have heard about it many times and I hope it is a lie. Is it possible that those able to rape such an innocent and fragile creature can also think one would derive pleasure from embracing a dead body?"


Nonetheless, if outrage is high over the censors' latest crackdown, there is little ordinary Iranians can do but hope the refusal to publish Khosrow and Shirin will change in the future.

Sarkouhi notes that the intensity of the censorship has ebbed and flowed over the decades since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

He says it was even heavier during the last decade, when the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance regularly banned the republication of up to 70% of previously published books. Today, he estimates, the number of license refusals for republication has eased to about 50%.

The ultimate responsibility for writing the censors' guidelines lies with one of Iran's many powerful committees that date back to the Islamic revolution.

Half the members of the Council for Cultural Revolution are appointed by Iran's clerical leadership and the other half are named by the parliament. It's the same body that closed Iran's universities for five years after the revolution in order to Islamicize them.

Meanwhile, while the council prepares the guidelines that the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance follows, there are additional forces that regularly take authority into their own hands to bedevil publishers' efforts to get official permission to print books.

Those other forces include clerics, Friday prayer leaders, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Basij militia, and the Information Ministry, just to mention a few.


"Books are a very sensitive problem in Iran," Sarkouhi observes. As this week's events illustrate again, that means not just some books but all books - no matter how venerable they may be.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Sanju » 18 Aug 2011 22:50

Carl,
Interestingly, the Iranians have been fed the same caste crap (in the pre-islam period). As in, "the Pre-Islam religion had caste systems and the upper castes did not like the lower castes etc and Islam came and removed all that".

However, they still follow some class system where people with certain last names are identified as Priest/Mullah class. From my interaction with them I find that they are very well educated, generally get along very well with Indians, are not overtly religious and seem to have some identity issues. These are my opinions based on personal interactions. Though the identity issues may have to do with being in a sort of exiled state for many among them.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 23:06

Sanju wrote:Interestingly, the Iranians have been fed the same caste crap (in the pre-islam period). As in, "the Pre-Islam religion had caste systems and the upper castes did not like the lower castes etc and Islam came and removed all that".

However, they still follow some class system where people with certain last names are identified as Priest/Mullah class.

Yes, alleged bloodlines to the Prophet's family are advertized by the title "Syed". When an Iranian has that bloodline from both his father's and mother's side, he gets to be called "Tabataba'i". Shi'ism is based on "Ahl-ul-bayt" - the Members of the House (family) of the Prophet, whom all must be disciples and servants of. Apart from obligatory zakaat, a Shi'a in good standing must also pay "khums" to people of this bloodline who maintain their duties as shepherds of the faithful. This priestly scholar caste is then supposed to live simply off this khums and use any surplus in charitable causes. In fact, Shi'a laymen are supposed to take shelter of an approved member of this Ulema and study and follow his risaaleh (book of do's and don'ts derived from fiqh for daily living). So its unbelievable that they say there is no idea of caste whatsoever in Islam, particularly Shi'a Islam.

Moreover, harsh and humiliating racism was rampant for quite a while after the Arab Islamic invasion. Iranians know that; it has even been openly portrayed during popular religious TV serials during the time of the Iran-Iraq war. This attitude was not just towards the Persian dhimmis, but towards the converts as well, who were dubbed "mawaalis" by their Arab overlords. This situation prevailed until the end of the Ummayad dynasty. So again its strange they would say that Islam swept into Iran and removed caste barriers. Rather, it created a new hierarchy and system.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 18 Aug 2011 23:14

X-posting Brihaspati ji's reply in W. Asia thread:
----------------------------------------------

Carl wrote:
brihaspati wrote:Is it that merely a coincidence that the prevalence of "majjhim panthis" - Buddhist-and-derivatives in Persia, Sindh and Bengal preceded rapid military capitulation before Islamists?

Brihaspati ji, that is an interesting idea with valid points. Here's my take in an attempt to flesh it out a bit -- As far as Parthian Sassanid Persia was concerned, while it is true that Buddhist derivative relativistic attitudes and movements were prevalent, there was also a hardcore, eliminationistic Zoroastrian "cultural nationalist" ruling element in that society. This emerged from the time Persia was overrun and its culture, libraries, etc destroyed by Alexander's armies and the subsequent Hellenic rule. As a reaction to that cultural assault, there was a Persian reaction in the form of Aryan cultural assertion and eliminationist tendencies against Hellenic influence. After the initial destruction and depradation, the Greeks tried hard to create some kind of syncretic Greco-Persian culture. They tried to adopt Persian sophistication in terms of manner and style and even intermarriage with aristocratic Persian families, and wanted to be accepted as part of the new ruling elite. But the Zoroastrian literature of the time simply refused to grant religious ligitimacy to the new rulers' attempts on the basis that Macedonians were just not "Aryan". Only "Aryans" were acceptable to Mazda to create good rule on Earth. This developed into an anti-Hellenic and later anti-Roman Zoroastrian hard core of cultural nationalism. W.r.t the inner social relations, the emphasis on legitimacy based on bloodlines and long eugenic inculturation seems to have lead to more elite-consciousness amongst Persians themselves, increasing the distance between Persian priest-aristocracy classes and the masses. Note that even among the two-and-a-half Parsis who migrated to India to keep the sacred fire alive, they had this class distinction. The Mobeds (priestly caste) among India Zoroastrians are very conscious of their bloodline. Other non-Mobed Parsis are actually termed "be-deen" (religionless)!


Actually, Parthians were not homogeneous in religious terms. The leading clans - like the Suren-Pahlavs considered even the Sassanians as heretical, and their modifications/editing/new additions to the classical zoroastrian literature as an "instrument" of "repression of the masses". Contrary to what you are leading towards - the Suren-Pahlav-Sassanian controversy should immediately show that there were already perceptions of "ideological compromise" within the society and tendency towards the middle-road pushing of adapting the "good-elements" of oh-so-culturally-contributing external ideological shenanigans.

Actually they might have been facing exactly a similar approach as done in India - during Islamic advent and the neo-Islamic-EJ advent. A section of the elite - a faction keen to get on to power - sees potential in buttering up the the supposed cultural-contributions of ideologies they perceive as well-organized militant entities - and try to use the latter to obtain personal power. This is how syncretism starts in such societies. So the divisive forces in Iranian society could well have risen out of exactly such syncretism champions - who would continuously compromise on the ideology/religion to please as many militant factions as possible to ensure personal dominance.


Between the liberal ethics of Buddhist derivatives coming in from the East and the hardcore of structured priest-ruler nexus of power, the masses felt disempowered and devalued. Between the supposedly divine inter-civilizational power games for cultural and political supremacy between elites, the masses didn't have a strong feeling of being stakeholders.


There is no evidence that at this stage -prior to the Islamic invasion - "Buddhist" derivatives were religions of the "masses". As in rest of Central Asia, and north India - most records handed down, do not speak of a "mass" religion, but a religion followed by urban concentrates of elite and mostly dominated by transnational trading interest networks. Huen Tsangs narrative should be illustrative. He traveled through the west coast of India and traveled through Sind right during this preiod. Sindh at this time would be part of the Parthian/Persian Buddhist circuit, and long been part of the same circuit of Manichaeism/Nestorian interregnum, as well as factional infights within Zoroastrian schools. He tells very clearly of what he saw as the decline of saddharma and the growing corruption in the "Buddhist" church. He also notes that the real religion of the masses were changing and growing away from the shadow of urban Buddhist control.

I am not well informed about the facts of the dynamics in Sindh and Bengal, but I strongly suspect that those societies at the time also had this polarity. The masses may have been caught between a Buddhist-derivative cultural relativist attitude and a hard core priest-aristocrat elite.


No. Sindh is clearly a case of rural masses turning towards "Nilakantha" worship, while viharas lay in ruins from lack of patrons, and the urban Buddhist estabslishment being led by sramans who doubled as rich merchants with slaves and opulent houses. Description not mine - but of the "traveler" most sympathetic towards Buddhism. We also know from Islamic chroniclers that these very same merchant-monk Buddhists intrigued with Islamics of Baghdad/Kufa, came tos ecret treaties and understandings during earlier and failed Muslim invasions and provided Qasimian army with provisions in their successful bid on Devala.

Bengal is less well-recorded. But there are indirect evidences too. Not to be discussed here.

Moreover, please do not paint the Buddhists of this period as "liberal" in the current sense. The Sindhi Buddhists - and their brethren up the Persian circuit, were dominated by iconoclasts, who appear to have taken an active militant interest in trying to wipe out less-iconoclastic brothers.

My musharraf has a theory which says that when a region is subjected to a level of violation that breaks its moral spine, then the overall moral-emotional tone of the society is depressed and this kind of ideological polarity emerges. In Persia it was the Macedonian invasion. In Bengal/Orissa area perhaps the Ashokan era warfare and other factors may have played a role in the Buddhist attitude side by side with orthodox Brahminical opposition?


There are too many vague definitions and identifications we are using now. A so-called "reform movement" that pretends to be holier-than what it derives from as something so fantastically new and liberating, and which also finds oh-so-good elements in everything that is aiming to destroy the preexisting values and structures - so much so that - none of these new ideological aggressions can entirely be rejected, is not the result of intensive "violation". In many cases, the hesitation lay within elite factions long before the crisis - so that these factions were never really sure of what they identify with, not sure of what to reject and what to accept.

Two factors bring this to open manifestation - external military imposed defeat and loss of power, and interest and belonging to transnational trade and financial flow networks that overlap with the aggressors. Bengal of the immediate pre-Islamic period would be a long way from Ashokan "violence" [which again was concentrated narrative wise more towards upper India and Odra and not Banga] - but just like Sindh and central-eastern Iran - would be part of transnational mercantile networks, which also doubled as Buddhist pilgrim and theologian networks.


So my thoughts on your gedankenexperimente are that this polarity exists on a particular mental platform. The actual "third alternative" is not bisecting the line between these polarities, but on a different moral-emotional platform.
[/quote]

Agreed and I recognized this escape route already - hence I also pointed out that in that case for a truly detached "third" alternative, it should be placed independently and not relative to the context of two supposed "extremes" as an alternative to the "extremes". At most it becomes a candidate third extreme point.

If this third alternative finds selective elements of two extremes good and worth incorporating, it is deceptively hoping that this will bring in support from both extremes for its own agenda. Moreover it is not really able to reject any of the extremes. But if it is unable to replace every defining characteristics of both extremes - such an alternative is a disaster. Most of the time, it restrains the alternative from being able to clearly reject the most virulent of the extremes fearing alienating the most militant group, while lacking any clear cut independent value-system to be able to formulate a complete replacement.

Result - confusion and lack of decisive action, and almost always complete surrender to the most extremely aggressive.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 19 Aug 2011 00:16

brihaspati wrote:If this third alternative finds selective elements of two extremes good and worth incorporating, it is deceptively hoping that this will bring in support from both extremes for its own agenda. Moreover it is not really able to reject any of the extremes. But if it is unable to replace every defining characteristic of both extremes - such an alternative is a disaster. Most of the time, it restrains the alternative from being able to clearly reject the most virulent of the extremes fearing alienating the most militant group, while lacking any clear cut independent value-system to be able to formulate a complete replacement.

Result - confusion and lack of decisive action, and almost always complete surrender to the most extremely aggressive.

This is very true. In fact, "replacing the meaning of every defining characteristic" is what is usually meant by finding a point on a different platform. I didn't mean that in the sense of verbal sleight of hand to escape taking a real position, but as a comprehensive and aggressive transition based on clear recognition of one's defining values and their opposites.

brihaspati wrote:A so-called "reform movement" that pretends to be holier-than what it derives from as something so fantastically new and liberating, and which also finds oh-so-good elements in everything that is aiming to destroy the preexisting values and structures - so much so that - none of these new ideological aggressions can entirely be rejected, is not the result of intensive "violation".

It is possible to liberate a person from the effects of ignorance without necessarily doing damage to his physical environment. AFAIK, the point is not to break affinity between the human subject and the teaching. Similarly, what something "derives" from need not necessarily be understood in terms of form, but rather in terms of substance.

brihaspati wrote:In many cases, the hesitation lay within elite factions long before the crisis - so that these factions were never really sure of what they identify with, not sure of what to reject and what to accept.

I agree. So what are pre-requisites for real reform in Iran (or even India)? A charismatic political or religious leader behind whom intelligent factions can rally? A complete, new ideological package that masses can subscribe to?

Whether or not Iranians veer towards asserting their "Aryan" identity or look for some reformed school of Islam, I think India needs to create a narrative w.r.t. the Middle East that casts a shadow on their own identity perceptions and creates some space for thought and influence. India needs to project a narrative via media and cultural channels, that challenges their local ideologically driven narratives of history and philosophy. For that, we need to determine what the market for it is there, and what handles are available.

brihaspati wrote:Actually, Parthians were not homogeneous in religious terms. The leading clans - like the Suren-Pahlavs considered even the Sassanians as heretical, and their modifications/editing/new additions to the classical zoroastrian literature as an "instrument" of "repression of the masses".

No doubt. There were competing religious and ideological factions within Iran at that point. There was still a strong sense of their cultural identity, especially vis a vis Arabs and others. But it is true that once the house collapsed, Persian aristocrats were maneuvring themselves to remain close to new power centers.

The "purer than you" militant ideological factionalism is a feature of a civilization that starts defining itself primarily as "not-Other", where Other can be some competing culture - usually one that it senses some violence from. This Packee "purity" is not based on principles and education, but on forms, slogans and instructional control. IMHO this is what makes it different from the purity of the truly progressive and expansive platform that I was trying to indicate.

brihaspati wrote:So the divisive forces in Iranian society could well have risen out of exactly such syncretism champions - who would continuously compromise on the ideology/religion to please as many militant factions as possible to ensure personal dominance.

So this is a corrupt, manipulative elite pseudo-syncretism that panders to militant groups with values and principles controdictory to real liberalism. Or it could also be the product of an effete academic philosophy of relativism, ignoring the notion of any absolute positions or need for use of force in order to defend core principles. Either way, it is contradictory to the rudiments and axioms of a better civilization.

brihaspati wrote:Moreover, please do not paint the Buddhists of this period as "liberal" in the current sense. The Sindhi Buddhists - and their brethren up the Persian circuit, were dominated by iconoclasts, who appear to have taken an active militant interest in trying to wipe out less-iconoclastic brothers.

Not sure what you meant by "current sense". Iconoclasts are also found in the over-smart "liberal" section in the West today, directed mostly at the symbols of their own civilization. I'm never surprised to come across occasional reports of professors in Europe and America expressing admiration for the ideology and symbology of Islamism.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby brihaspati » 19 Aug 2011 01:17

Oh no! they were iconoclasts in the literal sense - going out with fire and hammer, in very non-ideological and real objective sense.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby brihaspati » 19 Aug 2011 01:42

Carl wrote
I agree. So what are pre-requisites for real reform in Iran (or even India)? A charismatic political or religious leader behind whom intelligent factions can rally? A complete, new ideological package that masses can subscribe to?

Whether or not Iranians veer towards asserting their "Aryan" identity or look for some reformed school of Islam, I think India needs to create a narrative w.r.t. the Middle East that casts a shadow on their own identity perceptions and creates some space for thought and influence. India needs to project a narrative via media and cultural channels, that challenges their local ideologically driven narratives of history and philosophy. For that, we need to determine what the market for it is there, and what handles are available.


A charismatic political leader is a route. But the problem of manipulation of single individuals are greater than collective ideological direction changes, remains. I think the Iranians have had enough of "religion" - especially of the Islamist variety. The mullahs made a blunder in joining actual governance, in spite of a centuries old debates within Iranian theocracy about this and strong misgivings about this. The mullahs seemed to be quite astute in staying just the right distance away from power so that the necessary corruptions in running a state - did not stick to their skins, even if they managed such corruptions from behind for their personal power.

But Khomeini made the blunder, and this is what I had written long ago as the key to the future of Iran. Everything must be done to link the mullahcracy - and not individual mullahs - as a whole, to ideological and personal corruption, and in turn link it not to inherent faults as human beings but linked to how the faith in particular hides, nurtures and protects corruption - personal as well as collective. A

There is an underlying current of suspicion of overtly religious claims within state power as a deceptive "mask" to "exploit the masses". The mullahcracy are very much aware of both the problems I mention, and this is the reason they have been and will increasingly - try to direct this distrust souring gradually towards violent opposition - outwards against "foreign" devils - Israel a good target to use using the Islamist brainwashing and anti-Semitism [even if Jews are tolerated], as well as the sunni world, and the "west".

The Iranians could be urged to revive their "Aryan" identity as distinct from the Arab given Islamic identity, make Islam look more and more Arabic. The collectivization - social-justice false pretensions of Islam could be challenged with "socialist" alternatives that refrain from connecting that "Iranian socialism" to "religion". The Leftist tendencies lie dormant and flowing within urban Iran - and the urban Iran has grown way beyond the fragile enclaves that started the Iranian revolution finally hijacked by Khomeini with active American help.

It is the mullahcracy and its organized infratructure that is the main danger to the Iranian nation and people. Military reverses at the hands of external forces, corruption and abusive coercion of expression, freedom and self-assertion, all seen to be emanating from the mullahcracy who in turn base their position and authority on the textual claims - needs to be constantly hammered in. They will need a strong ideological replacement - so why not a modern "socialist" version of zoroastrianism, with "Aryan/Airanyian" nationhood built in to invest in emotionally.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Cosmo_R » 19 Aug 2011 01:55

^^^ 'Fear of Iran prompts 'rapid reaction force'

One question: just exactly what are they going to react rapidly to?. The KSA offer to PRC of naval access means nothing since they (PRC) could not use it the same way the US does using Qatar/Bahrain. IOW, they could not carry out interdiction of say IN ships without drawing KSA into the conflict.

Iran's game plan is right out of the TSP playbook: acquire nukes and use Hamas/Hezbollah/Sadr to carry out asymmetric warfare against the Sunni states.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby devesh » 19 Aug 2011 02:28

why not "persian" instead of "aryan"?

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 19 Aug 2011 08:52

devesh wrote:why not "persian" instead of "aryan"?

Because that's a word some of them are inclined to using, and they have their own definition of what that encompasses:

The term "Persian"/"Farsi"/"Parsi" as seen domestically in Iran is considered too specific! Other very closely allied ethnicities like Gilaki, Mazanderani and even Lor, Kurd and Azeri may feel left out. So, although "Persian"/"Parsi" is a word that has a respectable and recognizable ring in the West and India respectively, it can be problematic for them domestically!

"Irani" is probably the most accepted word domestically for their independent civilizational identity. Most of them, including Turko-Iranians, identify with the term. But "Irani" isn't a term that is necessarily well respected and distinguished outside Iran, such as in the West and India. So this is the opposite problem, i.e., outsiders can't really relate to it as distinct from Iraqi/Afghan/Turk. At best it remains a hyphenated national identity.

So, some Iranians refer to the word "Aryaee", since it is more ethnically inclusive, ancient, but also civilizationally distinct. It also indicates linkages with a larger Indo-Iranian and even the Caucusus/European ethnicities, a linkage that is there in their consciousness. Moreover, "Aryaee" gives us Indians a handle too! For instance, an Iranian can legally give his son or daughter a Vedic name like "Varun" or "Maya" as long as he can show it has an Avestan cognate, because it is "Aryaee". But he cannot name his son "Carl" because they don't consider that "Aryaee".

Lastly, "Aryaee" is an identification not popular amongst the more religious sections, and predictably so. Therefore, it is a word that creates a division of particular interest - not along race/ethnic lines, but along religious/ideological lines. "Aryaee" is more acceptable to those Iranians who are not fully or partially submitted to Islamist identity.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 20 Aug 2011 08:05

Linking Wikipedia article here for reference:
Iranian identity versus religious identity
Since the establishment of Islamic Republic, "principle-ists" {Islamist fundamentalists} have initiated the policy of de-Iranianization of the Iran, by replacing the notion of Iranian Identity and Nationality with Moslem Identity, both inside and outside Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini has emphasized this goal in several of his speeches, for example, on Dec 1980 (as published in Kayhan):

"Those who say that we want nationality, they are standing against Islam....We have no use for the nationalists. Moslems are useful for us. Islam is against nationality...."[113]
"These issues that exist among people that we are Iranian and what we need to do for Iran are not correct; these issues are not correct. This issue, which is perhaps being discussed everywhere, regarding paying attention to nation and nationality is nonsense in Islam and is against Islam. One of the things that the designers of Imperialism and their agents have promoted is the idea of nation and nationality."[113]

Mehdi Bazargan, the first Prime minister of Islamic Republic, once said: "Imam [Khomeini] wants Iran for Islam and we want Islam for Iran." Due to the commitment to Pan-Islamism inherent in Iranian Islamic revolutionary ideology, the Islamic Republic's ideological attitude toward Sunni Islam is positive.[114]

At the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, one of the most-notorious clerics in Iran, Sadeq Khalkhali known as "the hanging judge",[115] who was renowned for his brutality and mass executions in post-revolutionary Iran, tried to destroy 2500-year-old Persepolis, and after that the mausoleum of Ferdowsi. He was stopped by the efforts of the locals.

Iranian government in several occasions constructed dams and rail roads in the vicinity of ancient archeological sites that date back to pre-Islamic era. In January 2007, the Minister of Energy, Parviz Fattah directly ordered the opening of the Sivand Dam. Referring to the critics, he said: "I will make a museum next to the dam with my own money!"[116] Sivand dam project has been one of the most condemned projects in post-revolution Iran due to its potential to destroy Iranian archaeological sites. Some Iranians are furious about the construction of the dam and argue that there is no objective in the world worthy to justify the construction of a dam, so close to Pasargadae.[117] Hossein Marashi, the Iranian Vice President for Cultural Heritage and Tourism said: "We can not sacrifice the dam for cultural and historical sites."[118] Sivand Dam became operational in 2007. Ahmadinejad's government, however, refused to buy the detectors needed for monitoring humidity of the Pasargadae.[119] Also "Karun-3 dam" was constructed during Rafsanjani's presidency which led to destruction of ancient archeological site in Izeh.[120][121]

Defaming Cyrus the Great, Islamist negationist Sadeq Khalkhali wrote an article entitled "Kourosh-e Doroughin" (Impostor Cyrus) shortly after the revolution. In 2001, Nasser Pourpirar wrote two books entitled "Twelve centuries of silence" and "A bridge to past", claiming that the Sassanid empire and Parthian Empires never existed, and are the fabrications of Jewish and American orientalists. :eek: [122] Abbas Salimi Namin attributed Persepolis to Russian civilization. :roll: Islamist negationists Abbas Salimi Namin and Purpirar were coworkers for the hardline "Kayhan Havaei" (a weekly review of the daily Keyhan in English) after the revolution. Namin, a computer engineer and former member of Haghani circle is a close ally of Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic. Ignored by Iranian scholars, such figures managed to enter and influence traditional clerical circles and the policy makers of the Islamic Republic.[123] Interestingly several of these Islamist negationists were formerly associated with Marxist groups before acting as agents of Islamic Republic.[123]

Ruling clerics sought to stamp out many traditions, like Nowruz, a celebration with some Zoroastrian links that stretches back thousands of years to the pre-Islamic era, to mark the arrival of spring. The celebration is considered by many here the most Iranian of holidays.[124][125]

Several proposals have been made by conservatists to replace or shorten Norouz celebrations but rejected because of public protests. Ayatollah Khazali, a member of the powerful Guardians Council and the Experts Assembly for Leadership, has proposed that the celebration of Ghadir (Shiites commemorate these festivities as the day prophet Mohammad is recorded to have named disciple Ali to be his successor) should replace the traditional Iranian celebration of Norouz.[126]

Ali Khamenei in many occasions attacked the Iranian fireworks festival Chahar Shanbeh Suri and also called for shortening Norouz, claiming that the holidays are seriously damaging Iranian economy. Following an order by Ali Khamenei the fire festival has been banned by the regime since it is of Zoroastrian origins and is not Islamic. However, due to internal opposition, the government had to step back.[125]

Arabic vs Persian
The most detailed and explicit statement about Arabic was made by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in 1981 in an important Sermon linking the fate of Persian language directly to that of Persian nationality: "both shall vanish as soon as Islamic unity is attained".[114]

The tradition of banning names dates to the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in the early 1980s, when Iran's conservative leaders sought to purge the country of both Western culture and its own Persian, pre-Islamic past. Fundamentalists consider it unfortunate that Iranians used to be Zoroastrians, or that the ancient Persian empire achieved its greatest triumphs before Islam's arrival. To that end, they compiled a long list of forbidden names that included Zoroastrians gods and goddesses, commanders of ancient Persian armies, and other such tainted, best-forgotten figures. Indeed, Arabic names, except for a handful of Sunni villains, were fine. Persian ones, despite originating from the language actually spoken in Iran, had to be checked against the official list. Along the way, other politically inconvenient realities were fought on the baby name terrain. Wishing to quell an uprising by ethnically Kurdish Iranians in the north, the government had once banned Kurdish names.[127] Street names had changed from old Persian names to Arabic and Muslim names.This whole shift of the Iranian identity toward a more Islamic one created a kind of crisis.[128]

Iranian society on the other hand, identify itself as Iranian. In Iran-Iraq war for example, all Iranians irrespective of their religions and ethnic groups defended the country. Abdolkarim Soroush, foremost Iranian religious intellectual, once suggested to adapt the religion to Iranian culture by organizing Ashura and other Islamic festivals according to Iranian calendar instead of Islamic calendar to avoid conflicts between Iranian identity and religion.[125][129]

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 22 Aug 2011 13:01

Excerpt from an article in 2009, at the height of the post-election unrest.
Iran's identity crisis
But now that it begins to be accepted that the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was hardly out of the realm of possibility, not to mention accurately predicted by independent polling groups, we may be able to take a sober look at what is really happening on the ground in this country seemingly too complex to grasp.

Iran is having an identity crisis. Since the Iranian revolution turned into an Islamic Republic few voices other than the party line have been accepted in the public realm. Nonetheless, the vacuum left by the flight of the wealthy elite after the revolution (now mostly in Los Angeles) has led to the rise of an upper class that has benefited from the industrial development of Iran over the last 20 years. Over the years this class has increasing become disenchanted with Iran's international isolation, strictures of Islamic governance and what it sees as the blatant exploitation of religion for political ends. They have long desired a rapprochement with the west in addition to the adoption of western modes of democratic governance. The government has largely left them and their satellites alone in their northern Tehran suburbs.

Meanwhile, the seemingly viable mixture of theology and modernity introduced by the revolution has allowed the integration of an extremely large conservative segment of the population into Iranian society. This is the exact inverse of countries like Turkey and Egypt where national development and professional training have benefited almost exclusively the secular classes. Thus, a generation of Iranians from traditional Muslim backgrounds has been reared in the mores of the Islamic revolution and come to adopt its ideals and ambitions as a matter of choice and identity. Over the years this multi-constituted class has prided itself on its many anti-imperial achievements and Iran's very survival in the face of countless internal and external challenges. Educated, on guard, and devoted, they are the life blood of the regime and far from the puppets of a few old clerics that they are made out to be.

Unfortunately, as these two segments of society have matured over the last three decades, they have entirely ignored one another. Living in separate sections of the cities and working and socialising among their own, they have thus come to understand themselves and Iran in entirely different trajectories. Thirty years of mutual distaste has now burst forth upon the streets in the form of an election contest.

Ironically at the root of both groups is an obsessive concern with Persian pride and visceral aversion to political corruption. One of the many Mousavi posters shows him with the caption "New Introduction to the World". His supporters hold plaques "Where is my Vote?" and "UN where are you?" A few miles away Ahmadinejad supporters wave Hezbollah flags, wear Palestinian scarves and hand out flyers describing the alleged political plots of Hashemi Rafsanjani, the now reviled former president in a critical standoff with the supreme leader (this is the story that deserves the most attention). They cry "Death to those traitors ready to sell the country" and "Supreme leader, we are ready".

Over the last few days I have attended both pro- and anti-Ahmadinejad rallies. Compared to Sunday when I got caught in the crossfire of tear gas and the batons of nervous young soldiers, the mood at both rallies on Tuesday was of genuine caution and reserve.

I am sure in the coming days there will be more protests, rallies and burning buses. But this release has been long coming. Like the French suburban riots in 2005 these are just painful cries to be heard from a class long ignored by the state. There is little ideology or political infrastructure behind them. Mousavi's demands are far from revolutionary nor is there any indication that there is even a viable strand of dissent among his supporters in that direction. As he pursues a legal resolution to his complaints and encourages calm, the violent elements of his movement will increasingly be marginalised. So, anyone expecting (or encouraging) another Prague Spring or Tiananmen Square severely misunderstands the situation here. Instead, the long-term solution to the predicament in Iran today is much more complex than any political reform could provide – Iranians have to solve an identity crisis generations in the making. From my estimation, the calming climate of the mass gatherings is the first indication that Iranians would rather tackle that challenge than return to the dark days of the early 80s.

Added comments: The brutality of the crackdown, involving rapes of arrested protestors in prison, raids on student dormitories resulting in the killing of a few of them (including very pious types) and government doublespeak has caused a rift in the traditionalist upwardly mobile class referred to in the article above. The yonger generation amongst this class are still very pious, but they are seeing the hypocrisy of the government and its cynical use of religion. Many of them are joining the "reformist" camp.

For a while, it looked like the respected Ayatollah Montazeri was becoming a rallying point for such people. However, he passed away at the height of the protest movement and pulled the "moral" carpet from under the feet of the protestors, who were being accused of disobedience to Islamic doctrine. Ayatollah Montazeri's voice criticizing the government gave them moral courage. Protestors still do not want to be seen as against Islamism. They were chanting "Allah O Akbar" from the rooftops at night.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Johann » 23 Aug 2011 00:15

Carl wrote:Shyamd ji, yes the crackdown is there and is selectively targeted at the "posh" north Tehran types. We can infer this from the fact that, parallel to suppressing Persian or Zoroastrian symbols, they also put in draconian laws against things like walking pet dogs in public, etc....usually done by the more non-Islamic types there.

Similarly, couple of days back the Tehran police went to town rapelling down highrise apartment buildings, tearing down all satellite dishes. All satellite dishes beaming foreign channels into Iran are illegal, and they are found in all parts of the city. But the thing is, they focussed this crackdown mainly on suburbs like Ekbatana, which are populated by the hip crowd.


Really, too much is made of the difference between North and South Tehran.

There's no real difference between what the young people of North Tehran and South Tehran *want* - the difference is what they can afford to have. South Tehranis will take the metro, or jam in to a car and head north when they need a few minutes of relative freedom, even if they cant afford a cup of coffee in the upscale cafes.

How do you think those people in North Tehran got so rich and stayed that rich, or maintain their relative freedom? Because they are *well* connected with the regime. Their parents are just as likely to be bureaucrats and business partners of the powers that be. Part of the shock after the 2009 Green Revolution was that the regime was willing to torture even the kids of the well connected no matter how many phone calls were made and bribes were offered - that was new, and very un-Iranian.

The real difference is between Tehran, which as a whole is pretty irreligious (and often crassly materialistic regardless of ideology or affiliation), and much more conservative cities like Tabriz, Esfahan, Qom and Yazd on the other hand even though they are dwarfed by Tehran.

Cities in Iran are like countries in Europe, or states/ ethnicities in India - there's a distinct stereotype about the culture and character about people from every city.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 23 Aug 2011 23:31

Johann wrote:There's no real difference between what the young people of North Tehran and South Tehran *want* - the difference is what they can afford to have. South Tehranis will take the metro, or jam in to a car and head north when they need a few minutes of relative freedom, even if they cant afford a cup of coffee in the upscale cafes.

Johann, that's partly true. Police targetting liberal areas in Tehran is a warning against a more general "tendency" across all classes towards "rebelliousness" or "straying" or taking liberties against shari'ah and the Islamist mission. The actual activities are tolerated as long as there is no political dimension to it. But when the politics is heavy, the targetting begins. The most common are the female dress police who specifically pull up apparently upscale belles and criticize their hejaab in public. The female (sometimes male) police themselves belong to the underprivileged strata. The idea is to show that, if it becomes expedient, then public humiliation is possible. The governing nexus in Iran seems to depend on playing one class against the other depending on circumstances.

Johann wrote:How do you think those people in North Tehran got so rich and stayed that rich, or maintain their relative freedom? Because they are *well* connected with the regime.

Of course. But the "understanding" always included the potential to be humliated, as I mentioned above. Useful people are allowed to do all sorts of things as long as its not too public, and as long as there is no political troublemaking. But the authorities are not averse to turning around and humiliating them if it wants to appeal to the conservative have-nots whenever expedient.

Johann wrote:Part of the shock after the 2009 Green Revolution was that the regime was willing to torture even the kids of the well connected no matter how many phone calls were made and bribes were offered - that was new, and very un-Iranian.

The post-election crackdown was shocking for the level of systematic brutality used. Although not comparable with the scenes during the 'Arab Spring', it still shocked many sections of Iranian society - including upwardly mobile sections that are considered more "religious" and agree with many of the ideological positions of the regime. This crucial section of religious-but-educated and progressive youth felt sympathy for the the "uptown" types who were being verbally and physically humliated by the regime, because these days they are often common friends at school and university. Moreover, quite a few of these religious-but-educated youths either joined the protests or were inadvertently caught up in the Basiji crackdowns, such as the night raids on student dorms in the university quarter in Tehran. Either way, some of them tasted the brutality.

Johann wrote:The real difference is between Tehran, which as a whole is pretty irreligious (and often crassly materialistic regardless of ideology or affiliation), and much more conservative cities like Tabriz, Esfahan, Qom and Yazd on the other hand even though they are dwarfed by Tehran.

True. Tehranis have a chip on their shoulder when they meet small town "shahrestanis", and the vernacular jokes are a dime a dozen. The small town folk know that and naturally don't like it. There is also a real conservative community in places like Yazd and Kerman, etc. Tabriz has some Azeri chauvinism and Hamedanis are wary of the floating Tehrani student population "corrupting" their culture. And of course the Kermanshahi or Sanandaji Kurds are pretty territorial, etc. But I haven't noticed this divide being politically significant in terms of identity issues. The metropolis-hinterland difference is seen in some Indian states also. As far as the national Iranian identity is concerned, one often finds strong grassroots support and ethnic nationalism from these other cities. It just happens to be intermingled with a national brand of Islam also at this point of time.

The relations between the growing class of religious-but-educated-and-successful Iranians and the traditionally liberal educated-and-never-been religious types is interesting. One sees the delicate nature of this relation even among expat Iranians.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 25 Aug 2011 01:32

Iranians who travel overseas for study, work or tourism, as well as exiled Iranians, play a significant role in shaping Iran's cultural identity. More so than is the case with Indians. We don't have a political edge to emigration, no element of exile, or growing up with anti-Western demonizing propoganda, no element of religious ideological training.

India is a prominent destination for Iranian students, workers, and tourists. Moreover, India provides a home base for Zoroastrianism. AFAIK, of the main holy fires of important nodal Zoroastrian centers (Atash Bahram) of ancient Iran, only one remains in Yazd. However, the rest were rescued and are still burning inside Fortress India.

Further, a significant portion of Iranians seeking asylum abroad declare themselves Baha'i. Interestingly, the West, especially the US, reserves special treatment for this segment, even issuing them special ID cards. Again, India happens to be a prominent Baha'i base also. The Lotus Temple in Delhi is an international landmark for them.

Our advantages over the West in terms of cultural interface with Iran lies in our cultural affinity as well as non-adversarial relationship. Given all this, there is a fair space for some cultural wizardry to influents Iran's identity poltics. There is a lot that India can do by way of concerted facilitation of cultural and people-to-people contacts w.r.t. young Iranians.

According to some estimates, about 200,000 young Iranians annually leave for the West or India to study or work. Nobel laureate and resident Iranian, Shirin Ebadi, says that the "brain drain" was a post-revolution phenomenon, not amounting to much before the Islamic revolution. Clearly, some of it has to do with the initial flight of the elite after the revolution. However, now we are talking about a second wave of "brain drain". Supposedly, part of the seduction was orchestrated by the CIA, according to this NYTimes article last year: Beyond Iran Sanctions, Plans B, C, D... The objectives of orchestrating and using this "brain drain" were supposedly to deprive Iran's nuclear program and its general scientific establishment of talented human resources.

When brain drain was reported to Imam Khomeini, he retorted: "They say there is a brain drain. Let these decayed brains flee. Do not mourn them, let them pursue their own definitions of being. Is every brain with - what you call - science in it honorable? Shall we sit and mourn the brains that escaped? Shall we worry about these brains fleeing to the US and the UK? Let these brains flee and be replaced by more appropriate brains. Now that they (the Islamic Republic) are filtering, you are sitting worried why they are executing [people]? Why are you discussing these rotten brains of [these] lost people? Why are you questioning Islam? Are they fleeing? To hell with them. Let them flee. They were not scientific brains. All the better. Don't be concerned. They should escape. [Iran] is not a place for them to live any more. These fleeing brains are of no use to us. Let them flee. If you know that this is no place for you, you should flee too."

Post-revolution Iran has done a pretty decent job of compensating for the flight of educated elites by educating youngsters from more conservative Islamophile classes. These also tend to be from economically lower-middle class or lower class backgrounds. However, observations are that this class of religious-and-educated youth tend to imbibe some liberal and reformist influences as they move up. This is partly due to expanding their intellectual horizons and developing a more rational mindset. It also happens because they mingle and make friends with classmates from more liberal, educated families. Consequently, sympathies are created.

In order for Iran's cultural identity to shift decisively, it is important for this group of chosen educated people from conservative backgrounds to defect to the reformist camp. Therefore, in addition to challenging the Islamist state by sucking out human resources, the cultural conversion of the replacement educated class is also necessary. This would be a comprehensive victory.

Many such Iranian expats in the West remain pious. They immediately join the local Shi'a or Moslem community, etc. However, they soften and question some of their indoctrinations. Given their American-Islamic environment, they first tend to question certain hard doctrines of Shi'ism, and almost become philosophically Sunni. This pan-Islamic swing would be the antithesis of an Aryan cultural identity. Of course, Iranian tendencies towards pan-Islamism will only place them at a subservient status in terms of power politics. But pan-Islamism cannot be allowed to proceed far enough to dilute and disperse their national urge for distinction and civilizational superiority in the first place.

The answer may lie in the other segment(s) among educated Iranians and especially their expats -- non-religious Iranian expats, or Baha'i or liberal/Sufi Iranian expats form their own groups. These two (or more) groups (Islamic and non-Islamic) do not intermingle well at this point.

It is very useful to facilitate greater interaction between these two groups of Iranians, and the expatriate environment is conducive to this cause. Facilitation is possible via:

-- Cultural fora where they assemble around their classical culture
-- Cultural assertiveness in the face of plagiarization or misappropriation of Iranic culture is a powerful method to bring them together. E.g., renaming of Persian Gulf to "Arabian Gulf" catalyzes their unification in favor of Iranic identity.

-- The rise of pan-Arabism and the 'Arab Spring', as well as Turkish neo-Ottomanism will also potentially catalyze Iranian cultural nationalism - but only if the milieu is tilted in favour of the Aryan identity instead of allowing pan-Islamic identity to prevail.

If India facilitates the bringing together of the two polarized groups within Iran ('pure' Islamists and non-Islamists), it would be welcomed as a friendly gesture by any Iranian government, since it is a stabilizing influence. The only adjustment required is a reorientation of Iran's political identity as a civilization state with its own native philosophical origin.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Rony » 25 Aug 2011 05:48

Carl wrote:As we know, "Aryan roots" in Indian context, have far more to do with history, culture and linguistics. But all this offers India and Iran a common context, and in fact, that context has also been at play for some time, in our relationship with Iran, even in the Shi'ite Theocratic period.


Agree with Devesh. Calling Iranians 'Aryan' is unnecessary. 'Persian' can be used instead of 'Aryan'. Indians should avoid calling *anyone* (Be it the Iranians or Germans or anyone) other than Indians as 'Arya'/ 'Aryans'.

Carl wrote:And sometimes, even false propaganda can be useful for establishing associations where otherwise there would have been none, if it helps in geopolitics!


If my experience of interacting with Iranians is anything to go by, this wont cut any ice and would be seen as Indian 'weakness'. Its like MMS hoping that we can 'establish associations' with Pakis by invoking Punjabi brotherhood. Only Indians would be fooled by this, not the Iranians. The Persian type Iranians like the Islamic Iranians see India as a 'unfinished business'. In one of the forums i frequent, there is regular flame wars between Indians and Iranians since the Islamic types claim Mughal Empire as 'Persian Empire' and hence India as Persian 'cultural colony' and Hindi a "Persian sister language" while the Persian Iranians also feel the same for different reasons-(as per them) 'Aryans' came to India from Iran, ergo, Indian civilization is a subset of Persian civilization and India a cultural colony of Persia.'Persian' Iranian empires like Darius, Parthians etc etc always invaded India-ergo, Persia has territorial claims to India.This is the mentality of the 'Persian' Iranians (who hate the Islamists btw) i interact with. When Indians say Iran is *also* a Aryan nation just like us, that only feeds into the 'Persian' Iranian superiority complex with respect to India.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 25 Aug 2011 21:57

Rony wrote:Agree with Devesh. Calling Iranians 'Aryan' is unnecessary. 'Persian' can be used instead of 'Aryan'. Indians should avoid calling *anyone* (Be it the Iranians or Germans or anyone) other than Indians as 'Arya'/ 'Aryans'.

Rony, The portions you quoted were from RajeshA ji's post which I had X-posted on this thread. My own comments are in these posts here and here. Please give it a dekho.

But to say a word in support of RajeshA ji's attitude -- If it is expedient to flatter and usefully employ another's narcissism then so be it. Historically, it was not uncommon for Indic strategists in the northwest to embrace invasive Turkic or Iranic forces, 'convert' them and turn them around. Part of their strategy in doing this was to dub them 'Chandravanshi' or 'Suryavanshi' kshatriya tribes and bestow on them a glowing Vedic mythological ancestry. This, coupled with a robust show of strength and a clear alternative of being ignominiously kicked back out into a Central Asian void was usually enough to convert the buggers and employ them usefully in the good service of Indic civilization. It civilized them, and although they retained their racial pride, they were obedient and deeply respectful of Vedic culture and the brahminical order. Later on, these people would offer the first line of defence, putting up a terrific fight against the first ghazi marauders.

Iran has the option of increasing isolation and unreliable alliances with others, which will not be enough to carry it through the period it needs to develop a self-reliant deterrent and a robust industrial ecnonomy. At best, it can try to pimp itself to sundry Islamist causes ever more subserviently to a resurgent Arab and Turkish Sunni caliphatism. If India can provide a context which can relieve themselves of a burden, allow them to reassert their unique civilizational identity, and give them the strategic depth and security they need to make an impact, then that can buy their respect and grateful humility today. Bestowing glowing mythological titles on them is a small price to pay IMHO.

But we have to be upto the task of effecting the defections and conversion necessary. We need to engage, educate and cultivate them in what the implications are of "Aryan" cultural identity (or whatever else we choose to call it). Unless you doubt our ability to do so, there is no reason to complain about petty ego issues.

Handled and re-trained properly, Iran can indeed be an imperial falcon that flies out and casts its shadow on the expanses of C. Asia and the ME, but comes home to rest on Bharat's shoulder and wrist.

Rony wrote:If my experience of interacting with Iranians is anything to go by, this wont cut any ice and would be seen as Indian 'weakness'. Its like MMS hoping that we can 'establish associations' with Pakis by invoking Punjabi brotherhood.

If...and this is a big IF....the alleged Iranian contempt and hatred for India was to the extent that it gave any possibility of meaningful cultural exchange a flat tyre and renders the effort a non-starter (like it is with RAPEs), then you would be right. But this is not so, at least in my experience! Iranians that I mix with are very respectful of India's cultural stature, and are in fact the ones to broach the subject of commonality. In fact, I have uniformly observed that Iranians tend to have contempt for Pakis (who try to suck upto them), but not Indians.

When I say that we should reach out and work on common identity elements, I do not mean sucking upto anyone like Pakis! Rather, we do it as educators, as helpers, as cultural facilitators. THEY are at the receiving end of the help, not us. We do it with goodwill and in a detached manner, with knowledge. Everybody knows where the real provenance of Arya samaj is. We possess all the cultural and philosophical elements. In fact, even about "Erfan" (gnosticism, or sufism) which Iran prides itself on, they themselves say, "erfaan avval dar Hend naazel shod, pas be Iran aamad" (Divine knowledge first descended in India, then came to Iran). Same case with many classical arts, linguistics, etc. Moreover, we have a functioning, pluralistic democracy and yet are still a religious people for the most part - something many young Iranians would envy. So to make things short - we have to work from our strengths and help them. Once you know what you are and what India is, there's no further reason to get involved in petty querrels.

Lastly, martial contempt is a feature of their style, and applied even more so towards Arab, Turkish and Moghol fellow-Moslems. Here's a verse from the great poet Ferdowsi, author of their national epic, the Shahnameh:

ze sheer e shotor khordan va susmaar
Arab ra be jaay reseedeh ast kaar!
ke taaj e Kiyaani konad aarezoo
tafoo bar to ay charkh gardoon, tafoo!


From drinking camel milk and lizard eating
The Arab has reached this position of success?!
He now covets the imperial crown of Kian (persian imperium),
I spit on you oh the Wheel of Time, I spit!

We need to understand and dovetail appropriately, allowing them to realize their full potential in a way that adds to our success as a civilization.
Last edited by Agnimitra on 25 Aug 2011 23:39, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Jarita » 25 Aug 2011 23:14

It appears that Osho tapes and books are very popular amongst the educated youth of Iran.
Yes the attempt to trump Indian civilization exists in first interactions but that is quickly short circuited when one snorts/laughs at their assertions.
Scenario
Iranian: Aryans originated in Persia
India: Sarcastic lopsided smile - not sure what you are talking about - Aryan means noble
Iranian: Aryan race that is in north India
India: Are you kidding me? You still believe in that rubbish which has been disproven by DNA analysis. Don't tell me you swallowed that Nazi gibberish

After that conversations take a different more conciliatory tone. To a posters point, no need to suck up, unlike Pakis who are in denial of their civilizational roots, we are comfortable in ours.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 25 Aug 2011 23:42

^^^ Jarita ji, that's exactly it. Friendly jibes can fly both ways. :wink:

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby RajeshA » 25 Aug 2011 23:49

Carl ji,

I would cross-post some of my earlier comments on the issue of Iran, if I may.

**************************************

X-Posting from West Asia News and Discussions Thread

Mauli wrote:The value of a nuclear Iran

A nuclear-capable Iran may be exactly what is required to destabilize the Wahhabi establishment, reduce support for extreme groups such as al-Qaeda - and usher in a new era of democracy across the Middle East.

http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LL18Ak02.html


I disagree. A nuclear Iran would strengthen the hold of the Mullahs over the system. Iran has very much the potential to get rid of the Mullahcracy as more of its disenchanted youth becomes empowered. In fact, Iran has the potential of leaving Shi'ism behind completely and to revert back to Zoroastrianism, in rebellion to the Clergy. A nuclear Iran would stop that in its tracks.

India can deal with Wahhabism, of course, only if India develops the right mix of strategy.

**************************************

X-Posting from West Asia News and Discussions Thread

Continuing from Managing Pakistan's failure Thread

ramana wrote:RamaY, If you take the long view Shias despite their lower numbers will overpower the Sunnis due to their doctrine being more flexible. In addition by taking over Persia, modern Iran, they have latched on to the more creative of the Middle East people. Further historically Iran has been the power in ME for millenia: Cyrus, Sassnian, Safavid etc. So in long run I would bet on the Iranis. No wonder Saddam last words were "Beware of the Persians!"

So Pakis, KSA. oil, nukes etc are all aberrations and like all aberrations will subside. Outsiders can prop up locals and paly balance of power only so much.


I'll bet on the Persians, but not on the Shias.

For a long time, Iranians could connect to Shi'ism as a sort of alternate nationalism. As Shi'ism was everywhere else hardly the religion of the ruling establishment, it did not dilute the equation. However American intervention in Iraq has changed all that. Again the most important centers of pilgrimage now lie in Iraq - Najaf and Karbala. So it seems Iraq has appropriated Shi'ism from Iran, and Iran is not the sole arbiter of Shi'a identity. That makes it difficult for Iranian nationalists to simply accept Shi'ism as another form of Iranian Nationalism.

Secondly the youth of Iran, which forms more than two-thirds of the population was born after the Revolution, and they have lived under an oppressive system, much freer than in many other places, but still oppressive for the youth, especially a literate youth. Not all, but I guess a lion's portion of this youth don't want the current theocratic system, making them less receptive of Shi'ism.

Thirdly, outside Hezbollah areas and Iran itself, everywhere else the Shias are getting hit. In Pakistan, they are almost wajib-ul-qatl. The more radicalized Pakistan gets, or Somalia gets, or Yemen gets, the more difficult it would be for the Iranians. At the moment, Iran can ride the 'Muslim wave' and reach across the sectarian divide, to Hamas, for example, but it is to be seen, how long that continues.

Being the more 'creative' amongst the Muslims is not necessary a plus point. It makes the Iranians weak. The brutality, that the Talibanized Sunnis have displayed, would not be intimidated by creativity or be defeated by it. Moreover, the Sunnis have access to better weapons through their connections to the Anglo-American axis. The Americans have not really as yet succeeded in diverting the Sunni storm towards the Shias, but they have many allies in the Gulf, and it could still happen. Some of the potential Sunni brutality was visible in Iraq with the suicide bombings in Najaf and Karbala. This can escalate if the Americans and the Gulf Sheikhs put their heads together. And once it starts, I presume, that even more Iranians are going to be pissed off with Islam altogether.

Internet and Globalization has also made the Iranians much more aware of all the possibilities in the world, which too is going to pull away Iranians from Shi'ism.

So, I expect Iran to become less Shi'aized and a lot more Iranized or Persianized.

As such, I don't think it helps to invest too much in a Shi'a Theocracy in Iran.

IMHO, we should try to build relations with Saudi Arabia, and take over the security role Pakistan has been playing there, so that the Saudis can dump Pakistan. By siding with Iran, we get nothing in Pakistan, but if we win over the Saudis, we take away a leg on which Pakistan stands.

Access to Afghanistan is something that Iran can offer, but our case in Afghanistan would always remain weak as long as Pakistan hinders a direct land route to the area. It is in Iran's interest to have India's money and influence in Afghanistan a factor. After America pulls out, Iran would return to supporting the groups against the Taliban, and would appreciate India's help there. So even if we enter a full-fledged military alliance with Saudi Arabia, with even a nuclear umbrella, it would not affect much our role in Afghanistan, which in the absence of the Americans is next to nil.

We could still help Afghans against Pakistan by giving them money to buy arms and take them up against the Pakis. For giving them money we don't need land access to Afghanistan. Afghans can also come to India to get military training, if there is any such program.

What India should do is to open the gates to tourism from Iran and let the youth come to India and experience freedom. What India should do is to allow young Iranians to rediscover their old religion - Zoroastrianism. All this is possible without any enmity with Iranian establishment. Indian strategy should be to switch sides from the Saudis to Iran when another Revolution has killed the old Revolution. Till then we support the Saudis.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 25 Aug 2011 23:57

Thanks RajeshA ji. Please continue to post. Also relevent to bring in your posts relating to Kurdistan and Tajikistan.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby RajeshA » 26 Aug 2011 00:21

Carl wrote:But to say a word in support of RajeshA ji's attitude -- If it is expedient to flatter and usefully employ another's narcissism then so be it.

Carl ji,

If I may say so, this has to be done with a definite plan and consequently.

I believe Indians should show a lot more deference for Iran's Zoroastrian and even pre-Zoroastrian past. One should emphasize the similarities where possible between Hindu beliefs and earlier Iranian beliefs. For this we give Iranians a brotherly status. Never a superior status! That is we respect them because they (as Vedic-related) are our brothers, and only because of that.

However we should act mockingly at their Islamic character. We should mock them that they fell to Islam and have allowed the Islamists to take over their civilization completely. For having fallen to Islam, we should treat them as losers and people to be scorned at.

Of course, one would still show them respect at formal levels, but in Internet fora, that should be the attitude.

In order to move Iran to such a position as India's younger ~Vedic brother, Iran would also need to be cut down to size, for otherwise they may not accept this position. Iran needs to lose its extremities - Khuzestan, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Baluchistan, etc. either at the hands of the West or at the hands of the Sunnis.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 30 Aug 2011 17:49

Music finds a voice in Tehran
Silence in the land of music, orange juice from a bottle of beer - all signs of a complex Iranian society loaded with opposites. Night could not be more contrasted from day, when parties take on a Western character, with abundant alcohol and music of the dancing kind. There are many women around, few in the hijab.

[...]

The waiter at the coffee shop moves rapidly to the entrance for a quick glance outside. Within, a young Iranian musician has started to play the saxophone. He has five minutes to perform, he cannot risk a raid on the "guerrilla" location for a little music.

As he begins, fresh orange juice is served, in beer bottles. There is music, and alcohol, around in Tehran. "You have to know that in the Islamic Republic of Iran everything is possible," says Ali (not his real name), correspondent for an English-language Iranian newspaper.

[...]

Strict Islamists want to ban music - but it is everywhere. Traditional Iranian music plays in the taxi of Ahmad, 23, as he speeds through mountains and deserts. His car is two decades old. The music is much older.

[...]

But there is danger. "Last night many people were arrested at a private party in a house nearby," says Hanna, 30. Nevertheless, the music, and the dancing, go on.

Amir, 25, the DJ for a party, is at more risk than most. He wants to leave Iran as soon as he can. He has been arrested before, for playing music. And some revellers are at greater risk; the police pick on some known people at such events. The regime arrests "certain protesters", says Hannah, as she offers "a drink or something".

[...]

The US Embassy has remained closed since 1979, the time of the Iranian revolution that ousted the US-friendly shah. Communications are conducted through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. "It is a game played by the US and Iran behind the scenes," says Hannah.

[...]

The police often claim to find drugs around all such activities. The majority of executions are reportedly carried out in relation to drug offences, but there are also cases in which political activists have been executed.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said earlier this year that "instead of heeding our calls, the Iranian authorities appear to have stepped up the use of the death penalty".

Agnimitra
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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 30 Aug 2011 22:02

RajeshA wrote:I believe Indians should show a lot more deference for Iran's Zoroastrian and even pre-Zoroastrian past. One should emphasize the similarities where possible between Hindu beliefs and earlier Iranian beliefs. For this we give Iranians a brotherly status.

More cultural fora need to be organized highlighting this. Iran can sometimes be a culture starved country. A performance by classical maestro Shajarian attracts many there -- especially youngsters -- and when he refused to perform for government radio after the 2009 post-election crackdown, it was a strong message. So culture is an especially potent space in Iran for identity politics. More symposia, academic discussions in universities, etc need to be organized, with India willing to send representatives of Zoroastrianism and Vedic religions.

Moreover, academic and comparative cultural fora need to be created to re-assign the correct identity labels to post-Islamic cultural icons that Iranians are proud of, such as Rumi and Hafez. The Zoroastrian ontological foundation of Hafez and the proto-Manichaen basis of Rumi need to be highlighted and discussed further. Many other "Sufi" icons like Hallaj and Sohrevardi also had deep non-Islamic influences, for which they were executed. This needs to be discussed further. Similarly, in modern times, the clear and widespread use of Buddhist and Puranic imagery and metaphor in Sohrab Sepehri's poetry (widely read by youth) needs to be highlighted.

RajeshA wrote:In order to move Iran to such a position as India's younger ~Vedic brother, Iran would also need to be cut down to size, for otherwise they may not accept this position. Iran needs to lose its extremities - Khuzestan, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Baluchistan, etc. either at the hands of the West or at the hands of the Sunnis.

Actually I believe that may be counter-productive. Even if the split happens, the "Aryan" identity needs to be marketed as one that can potentially draw together and consolidate Iranic nations vis a vis the rise of the Arab and Turkic blocs.

Remember that the shifts being seen in Iranian identity politics will be in response to the power and prestige it offers. If pan-Islamism offers more in terms of soft-power and influence, that's the way they will go! We can already see with the Khomeinist Islamic revolution that they became a lot less anti-Sunni. Traditional festivals such as "Omar-koshaan" (celebrating the assaassination of Caliph Umar by a Persian general taken slave) are banned, etc. There is every possibility that as Iran eyes the creation of independent Kurdistan, a composite Iran, as well as Tajikistan and Baluchistan, the movement towards less Shi'ism and more pan-Islamism is on the cards. This would be the opposite of Indian interests, IMHO.

IMHO, unless there is a vigorous movement to overthrow the Islamist regime in Iran, it is a matter of time before Iran emerges as dominant power in ME/CA. Other Iranic nations will then tend to gravitate towards Iran. Right now Saudi/GCC are trying to do something, but I am not sure what will come of it. For the amount of fiunds they pour into their "contain Iran" activity, they seem to get very little results, compared with what Iran does. Turkey also is checkmated by Iran playing the PKK card. I think it is incorrect to assume that Iran is as worried about an independent Kurdistan as Turkey and Arabs. Its just that at this point they seem to want to draw Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, etc. away from the West and into Iran's sphere, and so they won't push it too much as long as Erdogan, etc. makes positive overtures... Iran's next president may very likely be Qalibaf - an Iranian Kurd. So we can see that Iran is going to play the Kurdish card more and more in the near future.

For the last few years things have been moving to Iran's advantage. Unless something changes, they will become more pan-Islamist with a Shi'a tinge. What India can do is to muddy the waters more by strengthening the "Aryan" identity. At least one-third of Iran's population are behind the current Islamist regime. Another one-third (or less) may be opposed to it, but they are not organized enough. The rest are neutral. The non-Islamist identity needs to be strengthened by giving it more definition and making it more attractive. The attractiveness of the "Aryan" identity will depend not only on cultural wizardry, but also pragmatic power benefits. If there is geopolitical benefit in providing an umbrella "Aryan" identity for the Iranic nations that they hope to attract around them, then they will move towards that. If there is more benefit in a pan-Islamist identity, then that's what they will choose. So India needs to become more involved, and cast a long shadow in CA/ME, as well as promote the internal potential for Aryan identity politics in all these nations like Kurdistan, Tajikistan, north Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, etc.

India needs to work from the "periphery" inwards in terms of influencing Iranian identity politics. Kurdistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and even Baluchistan are places we need to be more closely involved in.

India could, for example, facilitate Zoroastrian groups working in Tajikistan. There is substantial conversion activity in urban centers there. Same case with composite Kurdish religious identity trying to figure out a basis for their political identity. Same case with Azerbaijan, which has a very strong Zoroastrian influence. Or even Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Vedic outreach to Iranian students and tourists visiting India.

Added later:
Lastly, India can offer itself as strategic depth provided Iran aligns more with its Aryan identity. There are many benefits to Iran if that happens. As it is, they complain that India doesn't support them and increases their isolation. We can be Iran's conduit out of international isolation, and a conduit through which Iranians can interface with the West without loss of face or an apparent sellout. Moreover, by people-to-poeple contact, our democratic institutions and culture can filter through to their society. Etc, etc. Thus, by imaginatively emphasizing the identity issue, India can offer itsel as Iran's civilizational Nest, from which the Iranian falcon can fly forth and cast its shadow in CA and the ME.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 12 Sep 2011 10:06

One important demographic that was highlighted during the controversial 2009 elections comprised educated Iranian women. These women, from all socio-economic strata (not just from the affluent "Westernized" elite) form a vocal group who usually tend to give the mullacracy high blood pressure. It may be useful to get some idea of the indicators around this demographic.

Compared to other nationalities in the region, Persian women are traditionally known to be far more assertive in the family environment, more culturally educated and aware, and more feisty! In the past, their culture-conscious nature and initiative was tied to religion, and the socio-economic structures of society also limited their field of activities. Today, women flock to universities, and a large number of them are in the job market. This changes their social security limitations, and their voices and actions are beginning to form a political force of their own.

Overt acts of intimidation and suppression of women are common when Iranian conservatives want to assert their power. The younger generation of women react to this. There is an element of "immaturity" or unreasonableness in the reaction, as there is in the original suppression. The younger women will use any opportunity to assert their rights, to take their own decisions, and even make their own mistakes. As one female Iranian friend told me in all seriousness, "Its not about the significance of a particular restriction taken by itself; if you're not allowed to fart, then that's all you want to do. Even that can become a big issue."

However, the reactions and adventurism can cause some social upsets. Nowhere is this more visible than on the marriage scene. The divorce rate in Iran is very high and increasing (while the number of people choosing to actually get married is decreasing). Almost every family today knows a divorcee. Below are a couple of reports that give some background on this. Most of the divorce occurs among the more independent educated women who want to find their own spouse by a 'love marriage' rather than via the traditional 'arranged marriage'. This is true in India too. But the problem in Iran is that the restrictive Islamic "moral" policing doesn't provide any space for boy and girl to really mingle and get to know one another before marriage.

The way youngsters meet is on the sly. Girl is in a public store or workplace, and exchanges hot glances with Boy. She sidles up within earshot and then tells her female friend standing next to her to call her at ###-###-####. Boy is ready and notes down the number. Then it all begins telephonically. Within a few sly meetings they decided this is passionate stuff right out of Persian love ballads, and tie the knot. Within the next year or 3 years, its divorce time. Clearly, there is immaturity at play here, but a lot of that is forced by circumstances imposed by Islamist policing.

Shi'a Islam has two modes of marriage - nekaah and seegheh. The former is regular marriage as we know it, breakable only by initiating divorce. The latter is "temporary marriage", based on some hadiths where the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) allowed Moslems posted in outlying areas to take a wife from among the locals for a temporary period and use her to fulfill his needs while giving her the rights of marriage, including a monetary sum. In Iran, some people use the seegheh as an engagement device. Armed with a seegheh-naameh certificate, the couple can go out together in public and even co-habitate. However, this doesn't seem to really be widespread.

Another Islamic legal device which is being used increasingly is the mehr, the monetary sum that the husband pays to the bride on marriage...or rather, which she can demand at any time during the marriage or at the time of divorce. This mehr amount is now used by women as a negotiating tactic, because Islamic law makes it easy for a man to seek divorce, but not the woman. However, if the man is unable to come up with the mehr on demand, then he can get put away. These days grooms must sign on the dotted line under a mehr stipulation often running into thousands of dollars!

Such are the strange laws and loopholes that Iran's social intercourse must slyly weave past or jump through in the mullacratic circus trying to defy modern times and their inevitable influence on social structures. The conservatives often rage against "Western cultural invasion", but they must recognize that something is wrong with the Arabo-Islamic law and constitution also.

So it is a fact that Iran has made good progress in terms of education and other forms of social empowerment over the past 2-3 decades, but as a result it appears that its society has outgrown the religious legal and constitutional system that enclosed is thus far. This is another argument for why Iran needs a transition and reform from an exclusivist religion-imposed legal and constitutional system towards a democratic and civil society paradigm where religion and religious values can also freely enjoy patronage in the public space -- as we have it in India. The "secularism" of India is what Iranians ought to be looking at and appreciating, instead of Western "secularism" which is seen to be anti-religious and "decadent".

Iran’s Divorce Rate Stirs Fears of Society in Crisis
TEHRAN — The wedding nearly 1,400 years ago of Imam Ali, Shiite Islam’s most revered figure, and Fatemeh al-Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, is commemorated in Iran’s packed political calendar as a day to celebrate family values.

But in a sign of the Iranian authorities’ increasing concern about Iran’s shifting social landscape, Marriage Day, as it is usually known in Iran, this year was renamed No Divorce Day. Iran’s justice minister decreed that no divorce permits would be issued.

Whether the switch was effective or not, the officials’ concerns are understandable. Divorce is skyrocketing in Iran. Over a decade, the number each year has roughly tripled to a little more than 150,000 in 2010 from around 50,000 in 2000, according to official figures. Nationwide, there is one divorce for every seven marriages; in Tehran, the ratio is 1 divorce for every 3.76 marriages, the government has reported.

While the change in divorce rates is remarkable, even more surprising is the major force behind it: the increasing willingness of Iranian women to manipulate the Iranian legal system to escape unwanted marriages.

The numbers are still modest compared with the United States, which typically records about a million divorces a year in a population about four times as large. But for Iran, with a conservative Islamic culture that strongly discourages divorce, the trend is striking, and shows few signs of slowing. In the last Iranian calendar year, ending in March, divorces were up 16 percent from the year before, compared with a 1 percent increase in marriages.

“In May, a registry office I work with recorded 70 divorces and only 3 marriages,” said a lawyer who requested anonymity for fear of retribution by the Iranian authorities. “The next month, a friend at another office said he recorded 60 divorces and only one marriage.” He noted that both offices were in central Tehran and not in the city’s affluent north, which is considered more liberal and Westernized.

Not only is divorce on the rise, but marriages are also failing early, with 30 percent of divorces in any given year occurring in the first year of marriage and 50 percent in the first five years. Some people, doubtful of the government statistics, suspect that the numbers are even higher.

Conservative commentators call the problem a social ill on par with drug addiction and prostitution. Senior officials and members of Parliament have increasingly referred to the issue as a “crisis” and a “national threat.” Explanations for the rising divorce rate vary. More liberal commentators emphasize factors like rapid urbanization, high living costs and a jobless rate that official figures put at close to one in four among 16- to 25-year-olds. Conservatives often point to what they say is growing godlessness among the young and the corrupting effects of the Western media.

“High dowries, high living costs, lack of jobs and financial support make young people fear marriage,” said a member of Parliament, Gholamreza Asadollahi, who also blamed young people who had lost their belief “in the unseen power of God to solve life’s problems.”
{how about the all too visible power of your moral police on the streets and yours gender discriminative laws in the courts?}

But most experts agree that nothing has contributed as much as a deep-rooted awakening in Iranian women that is altering traditional attitudes toward marriage, relationships, careers and, generally speaking, women’s place in what is still an overwhelmingly patriarchal society.

Twenty percent of Iranian women are employed or actively looking for jobs, according to government figures, compared with 7 percent in the first years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Female undergraduate students outnumber men in Iran’s universities almost two to one.

“This economic freedom has had an effect on the behavior of women in the home,” said Saeid Madani, a member of the Iranian Sociological Association. “In the past, if a housewife left her home, she would go hungry; now there is a degree of possibility of finding a job and earning an income.”

But something more is at work than simple economics, many experts say. “Women have found the courage to break with tradition and say no to the past,” said Azardokht Mofidi, a psychiatrist and the author of several books on psychoanalysis. “They are no longer prepared to put up with hardships in marriage, and their expectations have risen to include equality in relationships.”

Nazanin, a woman nearing 50 who has been divorced twice, has experienced the change in attitudes. Married at age 18, during the politically charged years of the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war, Nazanin divorced two years later in the face of a society that still held firm to the Persian adage that a woman enters her husband’s home wearing a white wedding dress and leaves it in her white funeral clothes.

“For years, I hid the fact,” said Nazanin, relaxing without a hijab in the modest, sparsely decorated apartment where she lives with her adult son. “For a while, my family told the neighbors stories and lies, saying he had gone to work abroad. At work, because I was still young, I kept wearing my ring and didn’t tell anybody.”

After she broke up with her second husband 14 years ago, her religious parents were once again mortified, but friends were more accepting. In the years since, Nazanin says she has seen a reversal in society’s attitudes.

“Now, it has become so normal that society has become neutral,” she said. “Our generation has completely lost its sensitivity to divorce. It’s so common that you can see it in your own family. You just accept it.”

Even so, she would give only her first name and refused to be photographed, for fear of being punished by the authorities.

Iran’s rising divorce rate is all the more noteworthy given the laws on divorce. While husbands are empowered to end their marriages in a matter of weeks without stating any reason, women must establish sufficient grounds for divorce in a process that can take several years, even with professional legal advice.

Facing such an uneven playing field, marital lawyers say, Iranian women have increasingly turned to leveraging their legal right to a mehrieh — a single payment agreed on before marriage that constitutes a kind of Islamic marriage insurance. Husbands are obliged to pay this sum to wives when they divorce.


Under what are known as “divorces of mutual consent,” a woman may forgo part or all of her mehrieh to provide a financial incentive to her husband to let her leave. In recent years, there have been exponential increases in the value of mehriehs, which now often reach the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars. Some conservatives have raised the idea of capping mehriehs to reduce the divorce rate. Clerics and government officials promote the idea of having a purely symbolic mehrieh, like a handful of gold coins or a Koran.

Whether such measures can stem the tide of divorce remains to be seen, particularly in a society where it seems to be losing its stigma.

“At first I was afraid of how society would treat me after divorce,” said a seamstress named Sara, 33. “But after all the support that I got from my friends and my father, my uncle and aunts and the people who I turned to for advice, I thought, ‘No, the period in which people were prejudiced against divorce is over.’ No one ever judged me.”

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 13 Sep 2011 00:49

The Semantics of "Secularism"

In Iran and other Islamic countries, the ideological discourse is conducted between two apparently irreconcilable poles -- Islamic religion-based law versus irreligious secular law wherein religion is seen to be restricted and derogated. The "secularism" they are given to observe and evaluate is the secularism of Europe or even the US. Thus, even those Iranians who are liberal minded fear political instability if reform is undertaken because, they say, just as Islamisation angers certain elements of society, secularisation also angers other elements... The latter are not just the pan-Islamist hardcore, but also include a portion of "the moral middle class". So, even the middle-class fence-sitters who have conservative social mores but are not enamored of the Islamists in power remain fence-sitters because they fear the devil they don't know more than the devil they do.

As Iranians see it in Western countries, "secularism" supposedly overturns and rebels against religious values and lifestyle, to encourage decadent dissipation and loosen traditional social bonds. The whole religion-secularism dynamic is seen in terms of restraint and revolt. "Live and let live" is seen as a sellout to tolerating moral degenerates and allowing one's children to become influenced by them, etc. So, they think, the only safe alternative is Islamic law, whose comparitively vapid culture is a reasonable price to pay for avoiding the dishonor of tolerating "gays" and other degenerates! There is no confidence in this section of the Iranian public that a clean religious spirit can predominate in society where a section of people want to follow a different lifestyle without persecution.

OTOH, religious society as opposed to secularism when interpreted by Islamists or Christian rightwingers usually translates to exclusivist sectarian supremacism. Their religious symbols must dominate the public space at the cost of other religions. This creates further problems in a multireligious or multi-ethnic society.

Moreover, the religious establishment makes it a practice to actively harrass citizens who break its regulative principles or celebrate festivals not safely connected to their religion. This is a further problem in nations that have a multi-layered historical culture, with an Abrahamic tradition on top of a pre-existing tradition. As it is, Islam does not have an exhuberant and colorful culture like Indic (and original Iranic) traditions do. The colour and celebration of nature from pre-Islamic Persian culture is preserved in their society to some extent, although even that occasionally comes under attack. As a result, people can sometimes feel culture-starved, and they feel the seduction of Western freedoms. But these freedoms are seen to come at a moral cost.

This is where Indians should insert our understanding and practice of "secularism" into the Iranian social discourse. Even with all our faults, Indic civilization has a liberal cultural exhuberance and celebration, and still is pious and conservative. The Iranians already know that. Moreover, modern India is secular and multi-cultural, but our version of secularism does not necessarily derogate religion, but merely abstracts common spiritual principles and then seeks to treat all religious sects equally in the public space. Different religious and cultural traditions are allowed to run on separate virtual machines as long as they do not encroach on the legitimate rights of others. Indian Moslems even have their Shari'ah in civil matters.

Iranians see this false dichotomy between "religious" and "secular" paradigms because they compare themselves with Western secularism. But we should refer them to India's paradigm. The West's version of "secularism" is "separatoin of church and state" and "keeping religion out of the public space". But India's version of "secularism" is encapsulated in the Sanskrit motto "sarva dharma sama bhava" -- "all religions exist equally", i.e., no discrimination by the state between one religion and another. Yet, the public space in India is deep dyed religious! Public discourse in India is full of religious symbolism and reference. But this usually does not have a sectarian edge, and is moral and value-based -- not political and ideological.

All our national movements invite the support of different religious scholars and leaders. Take the current anti-corruption "revolution" happening in India as we speak. Religious leaders from Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Christianity, etc spoke in support of Anna Hazare. They all took turns speaking on his behalf against corrupt political leaders while Anna was fasting.

I don't think religious Moslems in Iran or even Afghanistan would have much problem with such a paradigm. During India's freedom movement, one of Mahatma Gandhi's strongest supporters was the Khudai Khidmatgar faction -- a party of Pashtuns lead by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (known as "Frontier Gandhi"). The numbers and relative liberalism of such supporters in Iran would be manifold greater. So, most religious Moslems also don't mind a society in which everyone lives equally practicing and preaching their religion and espousing values supporting justice and freedom.

OTOH, a small faction of ideological fanatics want to hijack religion for political ends. In pursuit of that goal, they have no qualms about causing chaos and murder of their own citizens who disagree. That is the core of the Islamist state. This needs to be made clear to the fence-sitters that form a sizeable constituency in Iran.

What is required is a transition involving changes to the law and constitution of the country, from an Islamist Shari'ah constitution to an Aryan one. If the "moral rage" of hardcore Islamists cannot even permit that, then it needs to be bracketed properly for all to see, and not allowed to juxtapose itself against a decadent example of "secularism" and confuse matters.

Others in Iran tentatively suggest that Iran will eventually be more accommodative of other religions within their borders, but this is wishful thinking, and at best will be temporary and conditional relaxation of persecution. It will not be emblazoned in the letter of the law. Can an Islamist state based on shari'ah give "full equal rights" to all citizens "who are not religious or have another religion"?? Is there any such Islamist state in the world, now or in history?? Iran can't even satisfy the demands of their Baluchi and other Sunnis, which is a real shame. Khomeini's motto of "no compromise" is going to be a slogan that is its own undoing.

All we Indians need to convey is that the Law & Philosophy (i.e., the Constitution) of the land be Aryan, while Islam (and all other religions) be allowed to thrive in freedom. This is exactly what many Iranians also want, but they are oblivious to the contradictions in their arguments. Some vascillate because of uncertainty about what "secular" means. Some indulge in wishful thinking about how the Islamic Republic will become liberal once the US is kicked out of the region and Iran can spread her wings.

The real wedge that will disprove them is Islamic sectarianism itself, and Khomeini's "no compromise" legalistic ideology of velayat e faqih. Even if Iranians don't ever care to fully integrate their Christian (Ossetian and Armenian) or Zoroastrian brothers, Iran will never be able to assume the mantle of pan-Islamic leader in the ME and CA, because they are surrounded by Sunnis. Baluchistan is Sunni, Kurdistan is majority Sunni. If they must eventually stretch their fiqh to accommodate Sunnis, then logical questions arise.

Other nationalist Iranians fear social instability of demonstrations against the government, and cite the breakup of the USSR, etc leading to national humiliation and loss of face. But India is undergoing a quiet revolution right now; it is completely non-violent, without completely overturning the constitution, without mayhem and murder, without external sponsors, without sectarian religious agendas (although Anna Hazare used lots of Hindu symbolism) and one which is actually uniting the whole nation, even far flung areas like the North East. That is the sort of thing that Iran could take inspiration from -- an Aryanization of its Law and Philosophy effected by civilized Dharmic means only -- not by Communist guerrillas, Islamist militias or thugs, or Western-sponsored "color revolutions" rascals.

Instead of the polarization and mutual hatred between the "religious" and "secular" Iranis, there should be a deeper movement. Lots of religious Iranis who go on Hajj come back with a changed idea of their identity. They were taught about pan-Islamic "ettehaad" and all that, but when they go to Mecca, the Saudis treat them like dirt. Iranis are taught that the Ummah is so grateful for all sacrifices Iran made for Islam, but when they go to Arab countries they wake up and smell the coffee. So even religious Iranis are becoming far more inclined to an Iranian identity rather than a pan-Islamic identity.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby SBajwa » 13 Sep 2011 04:21

Somebody needs to exploit the fissures!!

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Neshant » 13 Sep 2011 06:21

India has no problem with Iran. Its largely stayed out of our business and vice-versa.

My interaction with these Iranians however have been mixed. Some I've run into have been rather hot headed personality wise. They emphasize their Persian-ness but are in a kind of paradox because their religion forces them to worship an Arab god and hate/exterminate their ansestral & cultural heritage.

As far as Saudi Arabia, my guess is they are probably building a rapid reaction force after seeing how NATO brazenly invaded Libya to seize its resources.. more so than any threat from Iran. US no doubt wants to start a war between the two (Iran and Saudi Arabia) if for no other reason than to get the weapon sales moving.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 14 Sep 2011 22:06

Neshant wrote:As far as Saudi Arabia, my guess is they are probably building a rapid reaction force after seeing how NATO brazenly invaded Libya to seize its resources.. more so than any threat from Iran.

There is a traditional animus between Arabs and Persians since the birth of Islam and Omar bin Khattab's brutal invasion. However, the Khomeini Islamists have tried their best to play that down and go over and above to ingratiate themselves with Arabs. Still, Ferdowsi echoes in the Shahnameh:

Arab har keh baashad beh man doshman ast
bad andeesh o bad khooy o Ahriman ast!


"Whoever is Arab is an enemy to me,
Perversity and distemper and Ahriman (Zoroastrian Satan) is he!"
Last edited by Agnimitra on 14 Sep 2011 22:49, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 14 Sep 2011 22:48

SBajwa wrote:Somebody needs to exploit the fissures!!

How, what and when? There is a timeline and a tide that must be taken when it is full, or the opportunity for positive change in the region will be materially and psychologically lost. The following was how Guru Gobind Singh ji's framed his letter The Zafarnaameh (written completely in Persian verse) to the senile Islamist tyrant Aurangzeb. It was written after the Guru's narrow escape from Anandpur Saaheb where he was beseiged and attacked by Aurangzib and his opportunistic Hill Raja loyalists. Aurangzeb had already murdered the Guru's 4 little sons and caused much material damage and the Guru was apparently on the run. And this tyrant was big on pure Islamist rhetoric and missionary zeal! Still, the Guru was actually inviting him for talks, but he is firmly bracketing Aurangzib within the adrenalized idiot's own misdeeds and their consequences. Watch this:

keh bar sar e toraa qarz e qasm e Qor'aan
beh gofteh shoma kaar e khoobi resaan!


"The burdens of Qur'anic oaths are on your head;
You now ought to fulfill your speeches with works of goodness!"

be baayad to daanesh parasti koni
be kaar e shomaa cheereh dasti koni!


"You should magnify Wisdom at this time (not your legalistic BS),
Handle the job taken up by you skillfully (visit my place for discussions)"

chehaa shod ke chon bachegaan koshteh chaar?
ke baaqi bemaanad ast peycheedeh maar!


"What all happened that you killed four childlike souls (my sons)?
For what remains now is a coiled serpent (the Khalsa)!"

cheh mardi ke akhgar khamooshaan koni?
ke aatash e damaan ra foroozaan koni!


"What manliness have you shown by extinguishing a few small sparks (the Sahebzaadas)?
For you have made the rolling flames more furious!"

cheh khosh goft Ferdowsi e khosh-zabaan:
shetaabi bovad kaar e Ahrimanaan!


"How nicely the sweet-tongued poet Ferdowsi has said:
That 'Hasty actions are the work of devils'!"

The Islamist regime's political, social, and economic failures must be bracketed, exposed and pilloried. Loyalists and other opportunist hangers-on must not be allowed to conflate issues and confuse the public.

A philosophical discourse needs to be given proper shape without the wishful thinking of "moderation" and "reform" within the same juristic framework (though that can be a first step). Nor should any unnecessary loss of face vis a vis Iran's Western/Zionist enemies be forced. India must skillfully create a cultural-political platform and forum into which real reformists can retreat and control the internal discourse there.

This has to be done withot delay without waiting for US-engineered implosion of regime, etc. Otherwise if the demonstration of the masses are successfully frustrated, then their mentality will be broken and sink towards apathy, hoping for some change in the future. Change may happen, but it will not be to the positive extent that India would like to see, merely a compromise of sorts. Or the people will be distracted and conciliated by some geostrategic gains Iran may make at the expense of Israel/US in the region. Every apparent loss for the US is a big thing for the Islamist pulpit. Or the people's frustration will be redirected at the external enemy once again. Etc.

Also, violent or sudden counter-revolution is not at all necessary to achieve these goals; calibrated but clear-minded and firm changes will do the job without sacrificing political stability. However, a reserve force of anti-mulla vengeance needs to be mobilized and given shape in order to threaten the regime and strike back if necessary. But for God's sake don't call them MeK!!

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Re: Iran's Identity Faultlines - Islamic / Aryan

Postby Agnimitra » 20 Sep 2011 22:28

Link to post on Iran News thread -
Iran's Islamist narrative of 'Arab Spring' developments
Mahan Abedin's analysis of Ayatollah Khamenei's speech contextualizing the 'Arab Spring' according to Persian Islamists' ambitions and fears.


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