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The heart that still beats
The challenge of bringing Iranians together

By Mohammad Ala
May 9, 2003
The Iranian

Iranians are among the most successful minorities in the U.S. There are more than 3,000 Iranian university professors teaching a variety of subjects. Iranians have established more than 4,000 websites, and are contributing to the advancement of science and art in the U.S in many different ways. How can some of this energy be channeled toward our people in Iran?

Iranians have the most access to mass media in comparison to other minorities in the U.S. For example, there are twenty-four television and four radio stations which are owned by Iranians. How can we get these media to help our cause?

In a recent study, when different nationalities were interviewed about how strongly they cared about their country, 49% of the British people indicated that they cared about Britain. In the case of the U.S. this number was 72%, whereas for Iranians this number jumped to 92%.

For the majority of Iranians, regardless of how many years they have lived in other countries, their hearts still beat for their homeland. Some individuals may find it surprising that when they meet second generation Iranians who have been born in another country they speak the Persian language fluently and care about Iran.

With all this love and care, Iranians can learn some habits from other cultures. The main one is tolerance for different views and opinions on a variety of issues including religion. We need to learn to discuss various issues, avoid becoming offended so easily, and take issues so personally.

Even our television and radio stations have not learned to be tolerant of various views. God forbid if you ask them to respect personal rights they get offended and start labeling individuals. This seems to be more so in Southern California than many other parts of the U.S. or Europe. People in Southern California are less tolerant of views different from their own.

Iranians are learning to work together and respect each other's viewpoints. We are learning how to focus on common goals by accepting different opinions. We are learning that we cannot expect one person to lead us. Therefore, we need a group of us to lead our organizations and/or our country.

Technology has enabled many Iranians inside Iran to keep pace with the new changes. Many Iranians inside Iran contend that they should not be taken as people who do not know what happens in the world in terms of religion, politics, or other issues.

Movies and music made in Iran are unique and refreshing to many individuals even non-Iranians. Many good books are being published in Iran. American employers are looking for Iranian university graduates. Good values are being created in Iran.

Iran is also changing. Our challenge is how to bridge the gap between our people who live inside Iran with those who live outside of Iran. My experience has been that it takes time and money.

Recently two Iranian students who are studying at an American university contacted me saying that they were planning to visit Iran in the summer of 2003 to analyze the grammar of modern standard Persian by relating it to the past and contemporary linguistic theory. More specifically, they were planning to collect information about the Dari language/dialect because this regional language is mostly spoken. The students were asking for support. I immediately circulated their request among those who I know but received few replies and no support.

There is no better way of learning about a particular culture than through immersion into that culture and living in that country. We need to help our young people to advance their dreams either by traveling to Iran or by publishing their music or their books or by any other means that we can.

Much of the Iranian heritage and culture is in danger of being lost or forgotten. The recent looting of the Baghdad museum proved that we shouldn't take our history and culture for granted. We have to protect our endangered heritage by supporting it with any means that we can. One way to accomplish this goal is to seek to build bridges between the people in Iran with those Iranians who live in other parts of world.

Author

Mohammad Ala is President of Iranians for International Cooperation and founder of Iran-heritage.org and persiangulfonline.org. Dr. Ala is Professor of Production and Operations Management and Director of Productivity Center at California State University, Los Angeles.

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