Okay, I'm a racist
I must shamefully admit that I don't like Arabs
Sepetmber 19, 2000
Let me first give you my definition of racism before I get to the main
issue. Meanwhile I might remember the point I want to make. Nowadays we
are very quick in labelling people racist. I think we all have the right
(or even a social duty) to criticize what we think is wrong.
Criticizing a DEED can't be called racism even if the target of the
critics is someone from another country or religion or ethnic group. You're
not a racist if you criticize individual Arabs for bribing football referees,
for i=instance, but you're a racist if you hate them because they are simply
Arabs. You might not like it that they try to change the name of the Persian
Golf but their skin colour should not be an issue.
I used to think that Iranians living in Europe can not possibly have
racist tendencies because we are victims of racism on a daily basis. zehi
xiAl-e bAtel! The situation in Nordic countries and Germany is worse than
in Switzerland, where I live, but we are still the subject oif racism much
more than Iranians in America.
These experiences though have not changed our sentiments towards other
nationalities. We are famous for our hospitality. We have a false respect
for Americans and Europeans (for whatever reason), but we find it difficult
to offer the same respect to Afghans, for example.
We don't mind the U.S. having atomic bombs, but when we hear that Pakistan
is an atomic power the first thing that crosses our mind is why don't WE
have the technology when EVEN "Pakis" and "Indians"
have them. We treat our Afghan guests in Iran like the way the Swedes treat
Now, deny it as much as you want but we look DOWN at Pakistanis, Indians,
Afghans, Arabs, Turks, ... And that's not because of what they DO but for
who they ARE, and I call that racism. Even if Aryans existed as a race
and we were all their decedents, even if we were superior to all other
nations, even if we had blue blood with yellow stripes running through
our noble Persian vanes, what good would that bring the world?
Are we better human beings because we are Iranians? Then why do we treat
foreigners like Swedes treat non-Europeans? If we are superior to other
races, why do we make the same mistakes? Why do we look down at Pakistanis?
Why do we belittle Arabs? Are these the symptoms of having pure Aryan blood?
If our race makes us better human beings, then we have to prove it by treating
foreigners better than other nations do.
Having said all that I must shamefully admit that I don't like Arabs.
yeki biAd bezaneh tu sar-e man. I just can't help it. I role all my logic
and stick it in my ear, I wash what I preach in holy water (coming right
out of the nearest "AftAbeh") and eat it three times a day but
it doesn't help. I don't like them. Kill me. It gets worse every time I
read a history book and get to the part where Arabs invade Iran.
I try to calm myself by thinking that they ended tyranny in Iran, or
that the Islamic civilization that came later owed a lot to Iranian scholars
and artists. But damn it, it doesn't help. I start fantasizing what great
service we could have brought to humanity if the Persian empire was not
destroyed by Arabs, or what great scientific achievements we could have
had if they hadn't brought us Islam, and ... Okay, I'm a racist, bite me.
I even tried to convince myself that what I feel is not racism, after
all it's what they have DONE and per my own definition I'm not a racist.
No, forget it, that doesn't work either. Deep Inside I know it's racism.
I've heard many Europeans who are familiar with Iranian history, saying
that they feel pity when they think of that part of the Iranian history,
my feelings though are much stronger than a simple pity.
But hey, I know I'm not alone, at least one other Iranian feels the
same and that is the current Iranian president. He calls them "vahSi"
and he thanks God that after the Arab invasion we became Moslems but not
Arabs. I do feel guilty for thinking that way about an invasion that happened
14 centuries ago, but they don't let me forget it, you know. They tried
it again 20 years ago.
In any case, Ferdosi wrote:
ze shir-e shotor khordan o susmAr
arab rA be jAyi residast kAr
ke tAj-e kiAn rA konad Arezu
tofu bAd bar charkh-e gardAn, tofu
Peeewwww... I feel much better now. So Ferdosi was a racist too. He
didn't like Arabs either. A thousand years ago the greatest Iranian poet
felt the same as I do today. Hmmmm... who am I kidding? No, that doesn't
help either. Ferdosi wasn't a racist and he didn't dislike Arabs. To understand
the meaning of these lines which are taken out of context and shoved down
our throat for decades we have to analyse the cultural environment of that
The invasion was almost 400 years old but to my amazement the political
situation was very similar to the one we have today. There were Islamists
represented by Sultan Mahmud and nationalists represented by Ferdosi. He
wasn't a racist, he was a nationalist. Nationalism is a dangerous thing
though; it turns to fascism when it crosses the border, but Ferdosi never
Ferdosi praises kings of the past only out of his love for Iran. But
he's not a fanatic monarchist either. After finishing the Shahnameh
he goes to Sultan Mahmud and throws the book to his face and walks out.
He was a nationalist. He loved Iran, and he wrote the greatest book in
Iranian history to keep the Persian language and culture alive. But why
did he say something like that about Arabs? Here is a quick review for
those who are not familiar with the Shahnameh:
The Shahnameh begins with the first Iranian king Kiumars and
ends with Yazdgerd. Almost every story starts with a description of the
time and place or Ferdosi's views. Sometimes he gives his opinion in the
first few lines and then starts telling the story. The above verses come
from within a story and are not meant as Ferdosi's own opinion.
The story takes place in the time of the Sasanid king Yazdgerd. Omar
sends his best fighter Saed Vaqqas to invade Iran. Yazdgerd orders Rostam
to stop him at the border and defend Iran. Before Rostam departs, he writes
a letter to his brother. It's a farewell letter and a kind of last testament.
He talks about his fears. He's not afraid of losing his life, it's more
a fear for Iran. He's afraid to lose the fight because thenIran would plung
into a dark age.
Before the battle starts he sends a messenger to Saed Vaqqas with a
letter that's more like psychological warfare. It was a last attempt to
weaken the enemy's morale.
yeki nAmeh-i bar harir-e sepid
neveshtand por bim o chandi omid
Rostam praises Yazdgerd as the greatest king of all time and belittles
Vaqqas. He tries to frighten him with the greatness of the king, to make
him think that it's a useless war because Vaqqas is too insignificant to
have the slightest chance of winning. And he curses him too. These two
famous lines are a part of that.
"susmArkhor" is a simple "fohsh" from Rostam aimed
at Saed Vaqqas. Again, these lines are not Ferdosi's personal views. And
they are meant as kind of "trash talking" to unsettle the enemy
at a time of war by a man who is worried about the future of his country.
Ferdosi was NOT a racist. He did not dislike Arabs. He was a nationalist
who loved his country.
Damn. I guess I have to keep Ferdosi out and find a poet I can recite
when I'm swearing at Arabs. Besides, why do I stick to "susmArkhor"
and make Ferdosi turn in his grave? There are much juicier swears than
Wait a minute, Ferdosi was a chauvinist too, wasn't he? He says women
are only good enough to sit there and bear "ShirAn-e nar". Hmmm
... maybe I could use that in my chauvinist arguments. Or is that a misunderstanding