Iranian diaspora is generally lukewarm when it comes to religion
July 13, 2001
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
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
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.