Iranian influence in
Now that that role in Lebanese affairs at both the cultural and political levels has become clearer than ever, it is probably high-time that we as Lebanese start learning what we can about Iran and its people. Being in the States, I can only learn and share with you literature that has been written in English (usually by Americans). In that sense, I am limited. But hey, something is definitely better than nothing. Here goes:
What We Must Learn From Iran is an article that was published in the Parade Magazine, which until today, I never knew existed. It just so happened that I had the time and patience to go through almost every section of Washington Post's voluminous Sunday Edition while at a Starbucks Cafe, and eventually discovered it. Anyways, the article is authored by Bruce Feiler, who is married to an Iranian woman. He wrote the essay after a visit to
What We Must Learn from Iran - a Synopsis
Evidence of youth rebelliousness in Iranian public life
With two-thirds of the population under 26 and lacking work, social restrictions had lessened. A friend explained that she now wore makeup outdoors and shook hands with male colleagues - something unthinkable five years ago. Another friend took us to a popular satiric film that poked fun at clerics. A woman at an internet cafe used her fake fingernails to e-mail her lover. Walking to dinner one night, my wife grabbed my hand. I slapped her away, saying, "We can be arrested!" Later we saw many lovers holding hands. Linda grinned as only a vindicated wife can.
Evidence of divisions within religious circles with regards to separation between "state & mosque"
...[W]e also met the wife of a Vice President who had opened a center for inter-religious dialogue [in Qom]. Mrs. Moussavi-nejad replied in response to a question that “like everywhere, there are fundamentalists here, but also open-minded people. Some prevail for a time, but then others succeed, as in
. I believe life will be better if we separate the spiritual aspects of religion from the political. If you read history, whenever religion has been used as an instrument for government, the religion has been harmed. Religion is too important for a few men to destroy.” America
Historical evidence from Biblical References to Iranian tolerance
The Hebrew Bible mentions Cyrus the Great 25 times. In the Book of Isaiah, God calls Cyrus His "anointed one," mashiah in Hebrew, or messiah. "I call you by name," the text says. "I hail you by title." Cyrus is the only non-Israelite figure in the Hebrew Bible to earn such a distinction.
Born around 590 B.C.E., Cyrus forged an empire from
Indiato . While earlier leaders banned their enemies' religions, Cyrus respected [original emphasis] the religions of other people. He bowed down to his subjects' gods and rebuilt their temples. He issued what is called the first declaration of human rights. "I respect the traditions, customs and religions of the nations of my empire," he declared, "and never let any of my governors and subordinates look down on or insult them." His empire lasted 200 years. Greece
The impression I get from this article (and other reports from friends as well as published literature) is that Iranian society is gradually but surely resisting the forces of religious fundamentalism and asserting its demands on the clerics who have chosen to assume political responsibilities. I might be wrong, but I see this trend as an irreversable move away from the ideals of the revolution and ultimately, a threat to the clerics' hold on power. However fast change will come though, it is more than clear that the stereotypical image of Iran as a bastion of popular religious fundamentalism appears to be very far from the truth.