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Opinion

Close enough
We're not Arabs but we certainly have similar cultures, features, religions

By Shadi Akhavan
August 25, 2003
The Iranian

Having received my degrees in English and History from one of the more respected institutions of "higher education" in the U.S. , I can say that for the most part, I have developed the analytical skills to pretty much see every side of a piece of writing in front of me. Even though emotions of anger, confusion and a sense of misunderstanding might envelope me as I read, I can genuinely reflect on most items that come cross my path and see at least a measure of what the writer is conveying. Not at all that I agree with most things I read, but the good writer can usually get a majority of his/her audience to agree with some aspect of their argument (however minute this morsel of a detail may be).

As such, the ultimate conquest in any critical writer's framework would be to at least hold the reader's attention long enough to introduce them to a new concept of thought, a new idea they might not have considered meaningful, or to challenge a preexisting notions. After all, what can possibly be more rewarding and fascinating than allowing people to think of things in terms they may not have thought of them before, or open their eyes to a new horizon they may never before have considered.

I introduce this piece with this somewhat long-winded presentation on my outlook of writers and critical analysis not to educate anyone of the process, though if you think about it, it's quite fascinating. No, my point is that there's rarely anything I read these days that doesn't make me think, that doesn't stimulate me in some way. Well, there was one such article that I read on and decided, "OK, this is absolute rubbish. This guy has no idea what he's talking about." The consummate reader and writer, I decided to bookmark this article in my PC, come back to it, and see if I didn't feel the same way about it after a few weeks. I do, it's a load of misdirected, incorrect, racist ideology that I can't comprehend. Not even a little bit.

In his article "Forsaking Iranians: I pledge allegiance to the Aryan race", Ali Aliabadi seems to feel a great deal of distain for the Iranian people. Mr. Aliabadi, I am sorry to say, I do not consider you a member of my people. You see, from what I know of Iranian people, we are a cultured, knowledgeable, smart, passionate people. You may have run into a back-stabber or an unpleasant few Iranians in your time, but this is by no means an excuse to EVER forsake your ethnicity. I feel very sorry for you, as you've probably so turned your back on your own culture and its people that you seem to have forgotten what your culture is. That is truly the saddest thing about you.

Above and beyond that, Mr. Aliabadi makes to sorrowful point of separating his "Aryan" Iranians from what did he call them "Saddam Hussein look-alikes who drive Benzs." Mr. Aliabadi, do you realize that to most of the post September 11th world, you are just as likely a target for the claims of being a "terrorist" as your Saudi, Syrian and Egyptian Arab brothers? You would rather stand in with the great imperialists of the world, the Germans, Americans and British and join people in lumping all brown-colored peoples in with the "axis of evil"?

Perhaps you sir, who thank these western cultures for their plumbing, computers etc. have no practical education that it was the upon the great discoveries of many Arab cultures that we have these modern comforts, like plumbing, that you seems so enamored with? It would take just a few minutes of library research, which Mr. Aliabadi might be incapable of, as it seems the bulk of his opinions are based on biased personal experiences. Do some research sir, and you will find yourself proud to be in the company of our Arab brothers and sisters.

For example, I bet you didn't know (or just don't want to take the time to know) the Egyptians (also considered Arabs, in case you didn't stumble across this tidbit of information at some point during your evidently abbreviated education) did with their unwieldy mathematics system was, actually, pretty fantastic. Not only did they just use it in their day-to-day lives, but they built one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Something that we, today, can not replicate despite our more complex mathematics and our modern technology! Hmmm, makes you think they might be kinda smart huh? Yeah, but then again, who'd want to be affiliated with those bunch of Arabs who, as you so aptly put it, "brought their blood into our veins."

Also, I found out some pretty neat things about what Arab folks were doing during the Middle Ages. You know the time period from 750 to 1100 A.D where Mr. Aliabadi's German and British friends were going through a somewhat pathetic stage of self flagellation and boredom until the awakening of a time period termed the Renaissance??

Yeah, well while these folks were dining on rotten mutton the Arabs were actually thinking a little. In fact, it was three Arab scholars that were prolific during these times that helped save Europe from the Black Death. As Oxford University's research on Arab society's states; Razi (Rhazes), Ibn Sina (Avicenna), and Abu Ali al-Hasan (Alhazen) were the greatest medical scholars of mediaeval times. Al-Razi was the inventor of "Seton" in Surgery and the author of Al-Judari wal Hasbak, an authentic book dealing with measles and small pox.

Avicenna wrote Al-Qanun fil Tib known as Cannon, which was the most widely studied medical work of mediaeval times and was reprinted more than twenty times during the last 30 years of the 15th century in many different languages. Alhazen was the world's greatest authority on "optics".

The contagious character of the plague and its remedies were discovered by Ibn Katina, a Moorish physician. Hmm, I wonder where your German and British friends would be, Mr. Aliabadi, if there had never been a discovery of the causes and nature of the Bubonic Plague which to some estimates, wiped out 60% of the European population?

Now, getting back to today and our Iranian society. I believe Iranians are a beautiful, smart fascinating people, and, as with virtually every culture on the plant, we are not ethically pure (for whatever that term means today). Neither sir, are the Americans, the Germans, or the Brits, so you might as well forget about that dream right now.

The fact of the matter is, this is an attitude in Persian culture that has bothered me for some time now. I was recently asked by an Arab friend at dinner if Iranians were Arabs, not being the most tactful orator, I flatly stated "Iranians don't like being called Arabs. If you call them Arabs by mistake, you might as well be calling them trash." It had never occurred to me until that very moment, what a truly sorrowful attitude this is on the part of my people's behalf.

We're not Arab, OK, it's a historical fact, fine. But, for all you Iranians out there who look as if you're about to regurgitate your khoresh when someone mistakenly assumes Iranians are Arabs, just remember, there's much worse things we could all be. By taking such an abrasive stand toward your association with other "brown" people, you are indeed contributing to the sense of friction and cross-cultural/nations turmoil that have made it so difficult for the Middle Eastern countries to work together in the first place.

We may not be Arabs, but we certainly have similar cultures, features, religions and to disregard or belittle the impact of that culture on our own is in fact belittling our culture, something that you Mr. Mr. Aliabadi, seem to revel in. For that one fact, I feel desperately sorry for you. It must be a terrible thing to wake up every morning and hate yourself for being Iranian. I'm glad to say, I've never for one instant walked in your shoes in that respect. Ensha'allah, you will one day learn to love your people, your culture and all the wonderful bloods that have melded to make up the Iranian people today.

Now especially, in light of recent world events, is not the time for us to be focusing on the degrees of separation between Middle Eastern cultures.

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