Bahai News - Activist promotes tolerance
Activist promotes tolerance
By ROBIN BENEDICK
Web-posted: 7:13 p.m. Aug. 12, 2000
WESTON -- Heather Hosseini knows firsthand what it's
like to be persecuted for her beliefs and snubbed by others for being
different. The Iranian-born dentist has fought back by making it her
mission to persuade people to embrace different races and cultures.
But there was one neighbor she couldn't win over, and
his constant complaints about junky cars coming to her house in a gated
Weston subdivision contributed to her family's decision to move. So did
comments from several black visitors who told her they felt uneasy about
having to check in with a guard at the subdivision's gated entrance.
About seven months ago, Hosseini and her family decided
to move to a semi-rural area of southwest Broward County so they would
have more space and freedom to host large groups of people. They bought
a home on six acres in Sunshine Ranches, where houses are spread out and
visitors can get to her without passing through a guarded gate. Hosseini
chose to sacrifice her close-knit, diverse street in Weston, with neighbors
from all over the world, for more freedom.
"I wanted to live someplace where all kinds of people
would feel comfortable coming to my house," said Hosseini, a Weston
resident for 12 years. Her husband, Sam, also an Iranian, is an engineer.
They have two children, Justin, 12, and Leila,
Hosseini, 40, was born in Iran and spent much of
her youth at school in England. Her parents fled Iran during the
revolution about 20 years ago. She came to the United States in 1983,
settling in South Florida and then moving to Dallas, where her parents
are. But the ocean and the mix of cultures lured her back to South
In 1987, Hosseini moved to Weston, where
she has a dental office. In 1991, she began lecturing to various groups
as a member of the Institute for the Healing of Racism, a national
organization that seeks solutions to racial and ethnic problems. In
1996, she started the Unity in Diversity Club of Weston. She regularly
has 100 people at her home for group discussions on racial harmony and
Hosseini thinks her roots in
the Bahai faith, the underdog religion in Iran, motivated her to work
for racial harmony.
Growing up a Bahai in Iran, she
remembers children throwing rocks at her and her sister when they
carried their Bahai books. Bahais, who believe in the existence of one
God and the equality of races and genders, are the largest minority in
Iran. She said her aunt was executed in Iran after being tortured to
recant her religion.
Hosseini has been snubbed for
her beliefs. She remembers two dental patients who didn't come back to
her Weston office after they found out she's Bahai. People have to learn
to be more tolerant, she said.
"You can go to the
dentist and have an Iranian dentist," she said. "You go to the doctor
and you have an Indian doctor. You're served by a Venezuelan at a
Chinese restaurant. … You can't get around it anymore. We have to
unite and accept our differences."
experiences in South Florida also led Hosseini to work for racial
equality: an African-American man from Weston was washing his car
outside his house when a white man asked him if he would wash his car
afterward; a Latin woman, pushing her baby in a stroller, was stopped by
a woman and asked what family she worked for; her friend of mixed
ethnicity was asked her race when buying something at a department
The clerk wrote "black" on the back of the
check. Hosseini complained, and the store no longer does
Said Hosseini: "I want to be part of making
us multicultural, of not just tolerating each other, but really
accepting each other."
Robin Benedick can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
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