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Iranian diaspora is generally lukewarm when it comes to religion

July 13, 2001
The Iranian

My co-worker, Hamed, is from Egypt. He is a devout Moslem. He prays everyday and fasts during Ramadan and goes to the mosque on Fridays and espouses all conceivable Moslem causes. He is in his fifties, with gray hair and light skin, and has somewhat of a typical Mediterranean face. You know, with flared up nostrils, kind of like Jo Di Maggio's.

True to his heritage, Hamed's vocal chords have a hard time producing the "P" sound. I mean he can do it if he sets his mind to it, but it requires a special effort on his part, sort of like the effort required for us Iranians to make the "Th" sound.

Where we work, parking is a big issue. My first day on the job, Hamed comes to me and asks: "So, where did you bark today?"

For a split second, I feel insulted. I think to myself; bark? He's calling me a dog, this despicable devourer of lizard meat and drinker of camel's milk? But then I realized what he was asking and I proceeded to give him an answer.

Hamed is very active in the Moslem community. Everyday he brings me different fliers advocating various Moslem causes across the globe; from the struggle in Palestine to the unrest in Chechnya, from the plight of the Albanians in Kosovo to the Islamic movement in the Philippines. This guy is all over the place.

I tried to tell him a couple of times that the Iranian diaspora is generally lukewarm at best when it comes to religion and religious issues. That weddings and funerals are the only times where a hint of religion penetrates our otherwise non-religious mindset. I told him that a great majority of us don't do our daily prayers and we don't fast and don't go to the mosque (unless, of course, they are giving away ration coupons). But Hamed doesn't want to hear any of it.

There is something to be said about Palestine, but Chechnya doesn't really concern me that much. My views on Chechnya happen to be in line with the views of the Iranian government. They don't support the Chechen movement out of pragmatism, because they don't want to ire the Russians and lose the arms deals. I don't support it because I don't want another Afghanistan in the Caucasus. Who said that every ethnic group should have their own independent country? I think they should pass a number of tests before they are afforded an opportunity.

Take Afghanistan, for example. With all due respect for our Dari (and Pashtu) speaking brothers and sisters, the situation over there is a mess. They seceded from us 250 years ago and after all these years still don't have their act together. All those different tribes and their chieftains and the jorgas and the feuds and the lack of resources and the lack of a central government, all have precipitated the severest of calamities upon this great people.

They had to fight the British, then the Soviets. And now, the Taliban, propped up by the major powerhouse; Pakistan, is running rampant, victimizing the destitute Afghan people. I think as a rule of thumb, if you can't stand up to the likes of Pakistan, then you should have no choice but to revert back to the motherland.

Suppose if every ethnic group in our country were to get their independence. What a bizarre scene it would be; we would have the Republic of Mazandaran, Republic of Bakhtiari, Principality of Boyer Ahmad, Republic of Azarbaijan (This one rings a bell!), The Armenian Republic of Jolfa, and so on.

Hamed is an idealist. He dreams of a world where all Moslems are united in a great struggle to spread the faith and to stand up to injustice. More power to him. He has been working in the U.S. for the past 15 years, with his wife and children still living in Egypt.

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