Monday, December 09, 2002

I was really interested in Thomas Friedman's column in the New York Times about calls for religious reformation in Iran - so much so I decided I didn't want major media outlets to be my only source of information on them. The most interesting thing I found while surfing the web was this speech of Hashem Aghajari in June 2002 in Hamadan in English translation. It is a good starting place to learn about the present as well as the potential future, containing calls for Islamic humanism, rights for women and non-muslims, and the right for individuals to interpret scripture apart from officially designated clerics. It is a lesson for us all, since in the middle of passionate criticism of government torture, he comments, "While [the leaders] of the Islamic Republic apparently do not recognize human rights, this principle has been recognized by our constitution. In many non-Islamic countries, they at least recognize these principles in dealing with their own people. Maybe when it comes to other people, they oppress them - [like] what Bush is doing, and most Western nations, if they had the power." Even the most passionate advocates of democracy in Iran feel our nation does not treat people abroad as respectfully as it treats it's own citizens - and democracy will not allay that anger.

This is the second most interesting thing I found. Even the most revolutionary disagree with our policy on Isreal - but they are no longer willing to accept it as a cover for ignoring corruption and lack of freedom at home.

As awesome as this is, let's not kid ourselves. Even a revolution isn't enough. Somehow Iran must build an economy based on more than oil, so that as a nation they can base their pride on their abilities rather than their orthodoxy, or even their independence and courage. In short, they have the same problem as Saudi Arabia, only somewhat less so. As for the United States being biased towards Isreal it is hard to doubt - it would be odd if the United States were the only country to be perfectly objective. To rebuilt the ancient pride of their civilization, Iran must learn to compete with us not by sponsoring terrorism, or even ambiguous organizations which only some consider terrorists, but by creating a nation which can teach modern industry to others such as the Palestinians. Surely the lessons of history - and how Arab nations have often treated the Shia - are not lost on them. Let Iran lead the way in creating a new form of democracy, and let them turn the West's talk of human rights against them, as did Ghandi.

This is a formidable task, but ultimately history will demand no less of my own country if we are to continue calling ourselves leaders. I have written and will write more of this, but not today.

Using google I've searched for English language sites that might offer me a little additional insight into Iran. I liked Steppenwolf, which has more English than Persian. For links to many Persian blogs go to Hello World.

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