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Your loss
Does it really matter what a Westerner would say about our culture?

Sanaz Fotouhi
March 2, 2005

Last week, for the first time in many years, I spent a day among the people of my country, sharing a tradition, feeling my religion. It was a touching experience, to see so many young people driven by their culture, and mourning the loss the great leader Imam Hossein. The energy, the presence, even if only for face, and participation of so many people made me believe that in the days when we mostly feel that Iranians are loosing themselves and their own culture to Satellite television and Western culture, there's still a root of belief and sense of belonging that will not let our nation fall into the abyss of miseries.

On the other hand, this morning when reading "Hossein hocus pocus" I was so enraged and angered by the comments of an author, with the pseudonym of "Pesare Gol" (who, I believe doesn't have the bravery to admit his real name), that my heartbeat increased rapidly, and I decided that there's no way that I can hold out my reply to rude commentary about a culture, any culture, mine or others.

A culture is a web of events, created through the centuries through language, religion, celebrations and respect and most of all understanding of these events and how they affect our lives today. To a person like "Pesare Gol" who sits in I don't know where and flips his satellite TV, and is "angered and dumb founded as to how anyone can spend one minute of their precious life mourning the loss of a man from another era," I say that you are right, that for you and the likes of you it is a dumb founding event because you should mourn your own loss first before reaching the understanding of mourning for another person. It is your kind who have sold our country and religion and culture to the West. 

Does it really matter what a Westerner would say to this culture? Isn't that the biggest of our problems? Our people care too much about what others' think. Does the Westerner care what WE think when he celebrates Christmas, or mourns Jesus' crucification to the extent of some people crucifying themselves to the cross?  I don't think they particularly know much about Jesus, the apostles or the Bible. (Trust me on this I have gone partially through a catholic school system) If you familiarize yourself with the Christian calendar, (and perhaps other cultures) you will find that it is even more eventful that the Muslim one.

Almost every day is the day of a different saint and every day has a prayer for that particular saint. So, don't think that the mourning and celebration of great characters of history is particularly unique to our system of belief. And I don't think it is a crazy idea if Americans came to the streets and beat themselves if they have the understanding of what they are doing. It is their way of life, and it should be respected.

On another note, is it equally dumb founding that hundred of Japanese men ride down on a log down a hill every year, believing who ever makes it down to the bottom on the log is to have a long life of virility? Do we laugh at that, or do we dismiss it as hocus pocus? Or do we not say anything to do that because we believe the Japanese on another level of culture?  By such differences of point of view, on how we see our own culture and how we see others, we let the hand of Orientalism deliberately push us down the inevitable drain of lack of self-respect.

In fact, I personally know of Western people and Asian people who are so fascinated by the events of Tasooa-Ashoora in Iran and who participated in the events in Tehran, wanting to know more about what's going on with awe and amazement, a genuine sense of wanting to know, not disdain, as unfortunately some of our countrymen hold.

Yes, I, like many, don't deny that this government has not done the best to advertise our religion and has misled our concept of what it truly is. But, this doesn't mean that we, ourselves, should not investigate into the truth of what we are told to believe. Even if we want to rebel we have to rebel with understanding, even if we want to change we have to change with understanding.

In fact, Tasooa-Ashoora, having been a week after the 26th celebration of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, which was not as highly celebrated, was in contrast a huge event with many participants. This shows that the events of Tasooa-Ashoora were organized by the will and from the heart of the people, not the will of the politicians. This shows that people are not blindly following what they are told and there's still a foundation of belief at the bottom of it all.

Our children are becoming more aware.  They are aware of the value of the real heroes of the war, a war which was pushed upon us by the west, exactly because of our own lack of self-confidence about who we are and what we wanted as a nation. Our youths are learning the value of their own culture, as well the value of Western culture. True that they should learn about the genius of Newton but along side it they should also be taught the genius of our cultural and religious leaders.

To you and anyone who thinks this process is ridiculous, I repeat again, you should mourn the loss of yourself first. If it wasn't for these great leaders fighting their way for us, and if we were to betray ourselves and their hardship for us, we would have been worse off that we already are. We would have been crushed by the same white man who supposedly laughs at our tradition to make us feel dumb, and when we feel dumb he comes into our country and steals our resources, our culture and our future. Then we would have really fallen down the abyss of misery but instead we still hold on. 

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