Bahai News -- Iranian - Letters January 28


January 28, 2003

Page 3

* First reason to open this site

I just want to say thank you for your lovely works of compiling songs. Your link is my first reason to open this site and you fired-me-up again today with Jalil Shahnaz's music.

Keep going this beautiful job.

Thanks again.


* Bahai political theology

My article [There must be a reason] was not written to explain Bahai political theology, but to explain some virtues of constitutional monarchy which I perceive, as a subject of two Queens (Dutch and English, I have dual nationality).

I think the issue is important, on the one hand because Iran has had two revolutions which have led to disappointment because the coalitions that made the revolutions had no clear idea of what they wanted, and on the other hand because the debate in the progressive camp today is needlessly divided between shahis and anti-shahis.

All successful government systems in the modern world are democratic and secular, and I take it as given that the government of a progressive Iran after the IRI must be democratic and secular. The choice is between:

1) a presidential democratic system (USA, France),

2) a parliamentary system with a constitutional monarch who serves only to "prime the pump" at election time, when parliament, the real seat of power, is dissolved, and

3) a parliamentary system with some other figure, such an elected president or high court judge, who serves the same limited role of a constitutional monarch.

In my opinion, a parliamentary system is the state-of-the-art political technology. It is superior to presidential democracy in terms of flexibility and transparency and rationality: in flexibility, because it is very difficult to change presidents in mid-term, whereas parliamentary systems allow democratic ways of changing the prime minister if he or she fails to keep majority support in cabinet, parliament, or the party caucus. It is superior in transparency and rationality, because the key decisions of the executive are debated and made in cabinet, whereas in a presidential system they are made between the ears of the president, and the surrounding bone is often rather opaque.

In addition I note that England and Ireland have both had women prime ministers, but a woman president in USA or France is not even on the far horizon: I suspect that a parliamentary system is more open to political ability, and a presidential system more subject to popular prejudices. If the Iranian progressives can agree that they want a parliamentary democracy, and that there will be a referendum to choose between a constitutional monarchy and a figure- head president, they can work together instead of fighting one another.

In my article I have incidentally noted the fact that there were two Iranian thinkers -- Bahaullah and Abdul-Baha -- who understood the political requirements for a modern state at a time when these were still being vigorously debated in European countries. Much of what they say appears self-evident in retrospect, but it was not so at the time. European states were learning democracy by standing up and falling down.

The point I hoped to establish is that the *ideas* of modern democracy are not foreign to Iran (that is, they are modern ideas, not western ideas). Nevertheless, there is still a lot to learn from the experience of the European populations in practising those ideas in the last 150 years. That European experience should not be idealised, for it includes the popular election of Hitler.

The safe application of democracy requires serious thought about the constitutional form, mechanisms and safeguards, and I am sorry to say I don't see this thinking happening in the progressive camp. The 1979 revolution was based on what people did not want, rather than what they did want, and I see the same situation looming today.

Babak says that the quotation I used from Bahaullah's Bisharat "explicitly says that the monarch needs to be just". The reason I omitted this is that it is not there in the versions I have found. In both Persian and English versions, the following three points that are dealt with are Islamic and Babi laws in relation to jihad, burning or not reading certain offending books, and not associating with people of other religions.

Bahaullah says these old teachings do not meet the requirements of the present age -- that is, they should be forgotten. There is nothing about the king having to be a just king there. The text is online and it starts at line 6. There is an English translation online at where it is paragraph 41, in the 15th section. I bow of course to Babak's greater knowledge of these texts, I can only say that I was citing the versions I have been able to find. If the piece about a "just king" has been edited out, that is most interesting, and more information would be welcome.

I am aware of course that Bahaullah and Abdul-Baha wrote on many other issues, but I do not think that that disqualifies them from being included among the founders of modernist political thinking in Iran. I stand by my assessment that they were great Iranian political thinkers, ahead of their time in the Iranian context, and at least contemporary with political thinking in the Ottoman empire and Europe.

I am not sure if the Bahais themselves are aware of how engaged they were in the social and political problems of their time, and I am certain that this aspect of their writing has become a forgotten or at least unspeakable chapter of history for intellectuals in Iran since the 1979 revolution. The best short works on this are Abdul-Baha's Risalih-ye Siyasiyyah, which is available online (with English and French translations) and his Risalih-ye Madiniyyah, available online. The translation is available online.

The first of these is very short and is devoted entirely to the separation of church and state, while the second deals also with education and reform of the justice system, the acceptability of borrowing good things from other nations, economic development through international trade, military reform, bribery and corruption, democratic institutions and much more.

It is rather like the Muhammad Abduh's later work, especially in emphasizing the need for a broadly educated population as the foundation of democratic government, and I wonder whether Abdul-Baha might have influenced Abduh -- which would mean that "Islamic modernism" in the Arabic world had Persian roots! Abduh met Abdul-Baha in Beirut.


* You have published much worse

Why was the article "Sultanate of reformists " by Amir (12/18/02) shelved and not published as a feature this week?

It refers to your published article by Ahmad Sadri "Challenging the Government of God" (12/14/02 ) in detail, plus much more, and it makes very interesting analysis regarding so-called reform.

If you have qualms about some of the language, you have published much worse!


Shahla Samii

* Andisheh / Don Bosco friends

I have just moved to LA from London and would like to get in touch with friends that went to my school in Tehran between 1974/77. The school is Andisheh / Don Bosco. I would appreciate it if there is a listing set up for the school as the one for Alborz.

I am especially looking for Mr Kamran Vazan, Bahman Choobak and others.

Andre Minaspour

* May allah protect his wit

I can't seem to be able to write to Saman. But here's my piece: he is brilliant [You asked for it]. If you ever had to choose between posting my writings or his cartoons, go with him.

May the very allah who he banters with be the protector of his talent and amazing wit...

Roya Hakakian

* Iranians are not anti-Semitic

This is in response to "My husband claims she was the perfect wife" by Bev Pogreba. There are a few points that you might misunderstand: Following music, dance, and acting careers are not really related to religion. As it was the case in USA (check James Stewart and many other actors life stories), such professions were considered demeaning and below the dignity of a certain class of a family.

Most Iranian families with above average income, or those from more prominent families, and all higher ranking military officers have maids and orderlies on full or part time basis. Moreover they have a better network of families to provide child care. I never took out the trash, until I was living at a university dormitory in Connecticut in 1976.

Regarding the daily prayer, there are five daily prayers all in Arabic gibberish that most Iranians say without having a clue what they mean. Shiites usually combine the prayers and do it three times a day. The noon and afternoon prayers are done together and then the late afternoon and evening are done together. Also if a person travels more than a distance of 36 kilometers from his/her permanent residence for less than a month then each prayer is cut down in size. If your mother in law is staying at one place longer than a month then she has to do the full version.

I believe your comparison of a yamaka with a traditional felt hat worn by rural men and day laborers is somewhat of an insult. The felt hat for the men is an equivalent of a US farmer's baseball cap. It has nothing to do with religion. In fact even the turban on the head of the clergies, despite its symbolism did not start its life as a religious clothing.

As far as considering Jews to be unclean, in Islam all non-Moslems are considered unclean. The Jews and Christians are people of the book, therefore a Moslem is allowed to interact with them, but he has to cleanse himself and everything that came in contact with the infidel after each encounter (usually three simple wash under running water is sufficient).

The only difference is that if a dog or a Jew come in contact with a Moslem's possessions, he has to wash them thoroughly, according to the prescribed regulations for seven times (this one is invented with over zealous Shiite clergy). In most instances, people who could afford it would simply throw away a dish used by a Jew or touched by a dog. FYI, Islam as a whole is guilty when it comes to Jews. Even Mohammad and his disciples had the blood of Jews on their hands. So the hatred comes from the top.

Let's not forget that what goes around comes around. Jews hold the patent on racism (with their trade mark slogan "the chosen people") and it is no wonder that they suffer from it the most. I must correct you on the usage of Semitic.

Iranians are not anti-Semitic. In fact practically there is no anti-Semitic person in the world. Semitic people, as a branch of Africo-Asians, are made up of a number of groups of people such as Arabs (most hated by any red blooded Iranian), Assyrians (Ashuris), Lebanese, and Jews (and probably some other sub groups). As far as I know, Palestinians were not Arab, but after becoming Moslems they became Arab speaking and became part of the Arab community.


* Photo exhibit: Savak victims

You have a very interesting site. There was a show about 20 years ago at Shiraz University and there were some pictures of many dead and tortured people in Shah's time in Savak. I was wondering if you have any access to those pictures -- mostly of communists and maybe Mojaheds.


* Aghdashlou goes Hollywood

Did you know that Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashlou has been given a leading role in Steven Spielberg's latest movie: "House of Sand and Fog"? She'll be acting alongside Jeniffer Connelly! She will be the first Iranian actress in Hollywood ever.

Nastaran Namazi

* Add depth

In response to Melissa Hibbard's photo essay "First impression":

I have lived in most cities of Iran thanks to my father's job changes. In addition, I went to university and military service in towns my father did not take us. I was planning to work in Shiraz and that is why I came to Iran for a family visit as well as a job interview in 1978. For a person having been away from Iran for 30 years (with the exception of the short visit in 1978), your photos bring back good and bad memories. Any view of photos, black & white or color, from Iran is a pleasure. I looked at them all in the context of "countryside" photos of towns that I have not been to.

Based on my old view of the country, most people living in smaller towns and rural areas, some of which you have featured, despite their poor existing conditions are very proud of their life styles and heritage. They may not know what is going on in the next town let alone the world and god knows when they or their sons and daughters will enjoy the amenities of 20th century. You soon will get a better view of overall situation, both in cities and countryside, and will be a better judge of what is going on there.

Those western audiences who have not visited Iran or its neighboring countries, may get wrong ideas about the country by looking at your photos and have little explanation about other places and overall impression to go with it. Imagine an Iranian visiting USA taking photos of faces of homeless people gathered in poor areas of big cities for food and shelter and putting them on internet. The "first impression" will be a totally misrepresented one and as a result misinterpreted by those Iranians who look at internet photos of USA cities.

USA is a young marvelous country with amazing array of natural and cultural scenes well known to the world. I will choose photos that shows city landscapes and then perhaps some detailed photos of the cities with a few words about the cities. This helps people to get some idea about what they are looking at. Similarly, Iran is an old land with many natural, historic and cultural landmarks not so well known to USA and western culture. The image of Iran is mixed: Arabian nights, camels, carpets, caviar, oil, pistachio, Islamic but not arab, and add to that recent political labels.

My suggestion is to view Iran with the same level of interest as other major old lands such as Egypt, Italy and Greece specially when little resources are available about Iran in USA bookstores other than those politically-oriented magazines and books. That means your impressions of Iran are very important to general public and should serve as complementary to the current resources by adding more depth to the prevailing views of Iran in such areas as old and new, urban and rural, desert and forest, rich and poor. That is what I am trying to do: obtain knowledge about present Iran and then share it with everyone.

However, I am at the mercy of those who travel to Iran and put their essays and photos on Internet. I have been searching internet for photos of towns and cities of Iran since mid 2001. I hope I can go to Iran as soon as practical and update my collection of information based on personal observations. Let me know of your impressions and more diverse photo subjects.

Good luck and best wishes!

Homer Saidi

* I feel time is running out

Dear Sir, Madam.

My name is Myles Dolphin. I was recently looking-up Canadian soccer players who play abroad and I came upon the name of Tom Rajabzadeh, and the news you reprinted on your website on Friday, January 29, 1999. I was wondering if you could please put me in contact with him; here's why.

I am a 20-year old Canadian currently teaching English in Bratislava, Slovakia. Reading Tom's story touched me... I am in the same situation he was before he got a chance to play for his team 3 years ago. I have taught in Mexico and in China, but to no avail; playing for a respectable team wasn't an option and I feel as though time is running out for me.

I have many friends playing right now in Austria, in lower-level teams and I thought that maybe Tom could help me in finding a team for next summer (or put me in touch with someone). Please take my request in consideration... I am not out to spam his address, or anything else of that kind; I am just a fellow, Canadian soccer player looking to prove himself somewhere.

In any case, thank you very much for your time,


Myles Dolphin

* Cheering the Buckeyes

I would like to kill a couple of people at work!! [ Pretty ridiculous thought]

I live in Ohio and went to OSU, so naturally I was and am in heaven! I am glad you cheered on The Buckeyes.

Naghmeh from Ohio!

* Supportinng young writers

I am so much happy that you published the beautiful short story "Sepideh nadamideh bood". I am sure Mr. Sepasgozar will be happy to see his piece on your website. By doing this you are giving moral support to young writers and I appreciate your keen attention to this matter.

M. Roshangar

* I'd love to have the DVD

It was nice reading someone else's exact sentiments as my own regarding the Ohio State terrific game [Pretty ridiculous thought]. But being a graduate of Ohio State myself, I was of course prejudiced in their favor, in addition to the fact that I too almost always root for the underdog.

But I must admit by half time I thought the Buckeyes were messing up and not putting the ball in the air enough times. Silly me, I had forgotten the Woody Hayes philosophy of moving the ball on the ground inch by inch.(Good ole Woody: I remember in my time at OSU, we used to call the university The Woody Hayes High School. I miss that son of a gun)

True, that WAS a true classic ball game; the lead changed so many times. I'd love to have a DVD of that game as soon as the folks in Columbus put it out, wouldn't you? I was watching and taping only bit and pieces of the game, traitorous me.

Cheers and thanks again,

B. Kermane

* HIV: National security issue

I would like to draw attention to a very important healthcare issue that is becoming a national security issue. The public should be informed on how HIV is transmitted and how one can protect him or herself against it.

It is also imperative that those, who have already attracted the virus, must be treated with dignity and must receive necessary medical and emotional care. Their good treatment is not only a humane response but it is also driven by public self interest. This way the feel more inclined to out themselves, making the prevention effort much more easy.

Yours sincerely,

Amir Shoja

* Infertility

man daraye moshkele nazayi (INFERTILITY) hastam ke be modate hasht sal ast ke az an ranj mobaram. va dar in modat thte darmanhaye mokhtalef gharar gereftam vali ta hala ke hich natijeyi nagereftam. man zamani ke dar iran budam dar morede energy darmani matalebi shenide budam vali chon in masale mosadef ba khoruje ma az iran baraye edameye tahsile shoharam bud man natavanestam peygire in masale az in tarigh shavam.

hala tasmim daram ke dar tabestan baraye edameye darmane nazayi be iran bargardam. man faghat mikhastam ke shopma man ra rahnemayi konid ke aya energy darmani mitavanad dar hale in masale be man komak konad va agar ke momken ast man az che tarighi mitavanam az aghaye doctor ALI AKBARI vaght begiram

ba tashakore faravan az shoma. man montazere javab az tarafe shoma hastam.


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