Sehaty Foreign Exchange
Fouzouli Poem

Don't you sometimes feel like saying that to someone? You know, telling them it's none of their bloody business? Well, in my case, I don't recall ever actually saying it but I definitely have had the urge.

I'm bringing this up now because I was so incensed recently that it made me search for reasons. And I have a suggestion for a Nowrouz (New Year's Day) wish.

The words did come out of my mouth loud and clear but the person I was addressing didn't hear me. He was on the other side of the Internet. He had sent me email listing what he thought were factual mistakes in an article in The Iranian. He seemed like an expert on the subject. I asked him if he would write an article about a similar topic.

His answer: "I will have to read your magazine and see what your political point of view is." The conversation continued, although not through cyberspace, but with me angrily addressing my poor, innocent monitor. I said a lot of things that basically boiled down to this question: "Fouzouli?!" (Any of your business?)

First of all, the article I asked him to write had nothing to do with politics. Second, I didn't quiz him to see if he was a Shahi or a Hezbollahi before I asked him to write an article. Third, why would my political views matter?

When I finally calmed down, I realized I have been in the United States too long -- long enough not to question anyone's politics or religion. But for most Iranians, it matters a great deal. And certainly they would be 10 times more cautious if they were to write an article for an Iranian publication.

We often judge, accept or reject other Iranians simply for their political views or religious backgrounds.

My most memorable incident in this regard was when I was 20 or 21 years old and had to do my military service. The Iraqis had invaded Iran about a year earlier in 1980, when more so than today, religion was politics and politics was religion.

The sign on the entrance to the Revolutionary Guards' recruiting office invited people to join the war against the Iraqi aggressors. I walked in, signed my name, sat and waited. I had to answer a few questions. When my turn came, I was led into a room with three or four young Guards sitting behind desks. Each one was interviewing a prospective recruit.

My examiner took one look at me and I could tell that he knew I didn't have a chance in hell. Not even with the beard. He asked me one simple question: How do you carry out vozou (ritual washing) before prayers? I thought, gosh, that's easy. I showed him the whole procedure and smiled confidently. He said, "Thank you... NEXT!"

I was pretty sure that meant I had not passed the exam but I wasn't sure why. I answered the question right, didn't I? I recalled my moves and realized I had done something wrong. Terribly wrong. Instead of washing my right arm first, I had washed my left. It was not enough that I was willing to give my life for my country.

A lot of us have been in situations where our political or religious views and backgrounds have either been an obstacle or a blessing. But as individuals, we must have learned by now that what we think and believe in is nobody's business. Even our actions are our own business as long as we don't trample on the rights of others.

This Nowrouz, you may wish for a wonderful husband or wife, a new home with a big backyard, or for your children to stay healthy. While you're at it, it wouldn't hurt to sneak this on your list: That all Iranians, everywhere, will not just tolerate, but also respect one another's way of thinking, regardless of politics or religion.

Happy Nowrouz and a wonderful New Year to all.

J. Javid
New York

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Last Updated: 13-Apr-96
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