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Iran's heritage deserves respect from America and Europe

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 5:44 pm    Post subject: Iran's heritage deserves respect from America and Europe Reply with quote

Iran's heritage deserves respect from America and Europe

The greatness that was Persia continues to endure through the repeated turmoil of the Middle East

Martin Woollacott
Thursday October 13, 2005
The Guardian

As the protests and demonstrations which led to the fall of the Shah swelled in 1978, western reporters traveled the country to cover each new outbreak. Back in Tehran, a returning Time magazine correspondent was asked which trouble spot he had just visited. "Persepolis," he replied, "I'm the irony correspondent."
There had in fact been no big demonstrations near the ruins of the dynastic and ritual centre of the ancient Persian empire, but the Time man's instinct was nevertheless sound. The Shah's attempt to convince the world of his family's connection with the rulers of that empire
"( unfounded assumption or accusation by a Brit journalist) H.H." reached a point of folly with his coronation there in 1971 before an audience of royalty, politicians, and celebrities from abroad. This "picnic of unparalleled vulgarity",
( Fine, but how about the participation of respected members of your beloved ROYAL FAMILY in that "Picnic of unparalled vulgarity"?) H.H.
in the words of a former Iranian diplomat, had exactly the opposite effect to that intended. Besides the ruins and artefacts of a great empire the Shah looked like the parvenu he was, and to his more religious subjects he also looked like a man denying or diluting the country's Muslim faith.

(Another usual Brit Islamist in disguise) H.H.

Yet the Shah and his father, the soldier who seized
(Reza Shah did not SIZE the throne, HE was elected as Shah of Iran by the house of Iranian Parliament. Such was the Norwegian King Haakon- Get some history lessen if you are not prejudiced?) H.H.
the throne in Iran in 1926, were not wrong in seeking a source of legitimacy in the pre-Islamic past. The Persian empire lives on in the consciousness of modern Iran, providing a language of justice, protest and difference at home and shaping the country's relationships abroad. When Americans, for example, look at their dealings with Iran, they see a world power trying to cope with a small, difficult and potentially dangerous country. But when Iranians look at the same encounter, although at a practical level they register the same disparity, it is not absolutely fanciful to say that, at another, they see the relationship as one between equals.
One empire speaking to another - could this have been part of what Ayatollah Muhammad Khatami, the former president, meant by "a dialogue between civilizations"? Khatami never made it quite clear whether it was Iran alone, Islam alone, or a combination of the two, to which he was referring.

(Islam had no civilization to talk about. Where was the Islamic art & culture before they invaded Iran. Is there any monument in the entire Arab world before the Iranian took over the Arabs administration? If there was or is, please show us only one example! And Khatami is an imposter at best or out right traitor at worst)) H.H. But what is clear in his idea of dialogue is the need for respect, a respect to which Iran is entitled, in part, by virtue of its great history. Americans and Europeans misunderstand this at their peril.

How ancient history relates to modern problems is the question to be examined at a public forum on Iran organised jointly by the British Museum and the Guardian. It is certainly a difficult legacy. Italians shrugged off Mussolini's fantasies of a new Roman empire and derive their identity mainly from the Renaissance, while the Greeks are both proud of their ancient prowess and irritated by some of its consequences, like having to learn ancient Greek. India and China, emerging as substantial powers in the 21st century, have a relatively comfortable relationship with former greatness. But Iran labours under a double burden. First, its ancient past, not least because the role of another universal religion, Zoroastrianism, clashes with its Islamic identity. The analogous contradictions of Christianity with paganism, or modern Chinese secularism with Chinese religious tradition, are not of the same severity. Second, Iranians have a profound sense that the importance of their civilisation has never been as wholeheartedly acknowledged as that of others. Not by Arabs, who gloss over the contribution of Iranians during the Golden Age of Islam, not by Indians, who minimise Iranian influence in the subcontinent, and not by westerners, even though western scholars led in reconstructing the Iranian past.

Iranians reacted against the Shah's attempt to appropriate the pre-Islamic era, but they have also reacted against the Islamic Republic's attempts to suppress what remains of its traditions. Norouz, the old Iranian new year, is still enthusiastically celebrated, as is the fire festival of Charshanbeh suri. Iranians still call their children Cyrus, Darius, and Roxana after emperors and their consorts, even though the regime at one stage said such children would not get birth certificates. And, as Nasrin Alavi notes in her fascinating book We Are Iran, an anthology of Iranian blogs, even the regime seems to forget sometimes, for instance permitting IranAir planes to carry an image of Homa, the pagan Persian guardian of travellers.

The Iranian authorities have recently taken a different line. Under Khatami, western archaeologists returned to Iran to work on excavations with Iranian colleagues, there are new departments of pre-Islamic studies at some Iranian universities, and ancient Iranian history is back in the school curriculum. A surge of interest in the period brings new titles into the bookshops every year, although most are translations of western works.

The paradox of the Iranian attachment to the ancient past remains that it co-exists with much ignorance and with a striking gap between indigenous scholarship and that done abroad. As with other civilisations, much of Iran's history was brought to it by westerners - from the driven British army officer who scaled cliffs near Kermanshah to puzzle out cuneiform and other inscriptions to the French archaeologists who excavated Shush. The gap should have been closed by the growth of an indigenous scholarship. But, under the Islamic Republic, according to a publisher who specialises in Middle Eastern titles, there has been "not one book in 30 years" written in Iran on any period of Iranian history, Islamic or pre-Islamic, "that would stand the scrutiny of western scholarship". Others are less harsh, and things appear to be changing, but the impressive scholarship on Iran by Iranians is in the diaspora.

Those who know Iran well say that ordinary Iranians can have a surprisingly limited or scrambled view of their history. Yet they also have a grasp of poetry and literature which puts their western equivalents to shame. The manner in which they are able to pluck out a line of Hafiz or Ferdausi to illustrate a point is enviable. Iranian poetry, because its oblique and sometimes coded nature allows it to reconcile or evade contradictions, may offer the nearest to a synthesis of Islamic and pre-Islamic identity as can be found.

But as Richard Frye, the American Iranologist, has said: "Few nations present more of a justification for the study of history." This is a nation that has survived turmoil, has suffered from it, and has in its day several times brought order out of turmoil in the Middle East. In another time of troubles, it would be a wise course on both sides if empire could indeed speak unto empire.

The unbroken arc: what ancient Persia tells us about modern Iran. This public forum, supported by the Guardian and chaired by Jon Snow, is at the British Museum on Tuesday October 18, from Pam. Tickets are 10, available on 020-7323 8181 or at

(For your information, according to the latest news fro,m Iran, The Tent City which was erected for the " Picnic of unparalleled vulgarity" is going to be repaired by the IRI? So much for the power of the PERSIAN EMPIRE?!) H.H.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He trashed the Shah in this piece, only to call Khomeini great ... what do you expect?!

Iranians were fools for the 2500 year celebration, but they were great when a bunch of terrorists started that hideous Islamic revolution to butcher and maim thousands Rolling Eyes

amazing what this Guardian jerk thinks is greatness ...
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