Dr. Fariborz Raisdana is known as an economist who breaks political-correctness barriers and as a passionate lecturer in whose lectures one barely notices the passage of time. Born in Tehran and an alumnus of Tehran’s Melli University, he went on to receive a Doctorate in economics from the University of London. Dr. Raisdana’s has done a lot of research in the field of sociology with a particular interest in socio-economical issues.
On his recent academic visit to Toronto, Dr. Raidsdana has given two lectures, one at York University and another at North York Center both of which were greeted exceptionally well by the audience. On Sunday, May 3rd, we met up with him to chat on a variety of issues. Beloe is an excerpt from that interview.
Saeed Soltanpour (S.S.):
Let us start with women’s work status in Canada. The Canadian Government has had to deal with passing a law for equalizing the income of women with that of men’s in the past. How would you asses the current status of Iranian women in the work place as they face political and cultural barriers in Iran?
The number of women in the workplace has certainly had an increase in comparison to the Shah era. The level of education and knowledge of Iranian women has followed suit but the true progress of women is obtained by themselves, not by the government.
Women are part of a progressive movement to get their democratic rights and so they are trying to educate themselves as efficiently as possible to enter the workplace. Also, Iranians have historically been very ambitious for a higher level of education. When I asked a 75 year old senior cab driver in the middle of a hot summer day as to why he does not take time off to rest in such conditions, he replied with the terrible financial complications he was facing and the struggles to pay off his niece’s tuition fees to guarantee her a future.
The climbing number of women graduating from high schools and universities has had a serious impact on the labor market. The more labor force available, the cheaper the labor will become. Additionally, the nature of the capitalist system along side the lack of investments as well as the transferring of funds to foreign countries as a safe haven has had a horrible consequence.
For example, a couple works full time and cannot make enough money to pay for all the bills, especially their children’s daycare expenses. They then decide that it’s better for the wife to stay at home and take care of the kids. This is because the wife does not have a comparable income to the husband and staying at home would also cut some day care costs. So you can see that while we want to have an equal environment for women to grow in, they prefer to stay at home and take care of the kids.
In Canada every house owner has to pay almost 1% of the market value of his/her house as tax to cover the costs of police, schools and fire departments. If the Iranian government does not spend petrodollars to run the country and instead invests it in other infrastructure for future generations, would the Iranian people be ready to pay their share of taxes?
The education system in Iran has been under the tremendous influence of the Liberal economists and social liberal academics that spend much of their efforts to show off liberalism as the savior of people and the world. They systematically are admiring the free market. They accuse those of us who believe in a fair tax system of interrupting the free market. They call us dictators which is completely baseless. There are some urban areas around Tehran that are at risk of collapse as a result of 5 Richter earthquakes which would be a tragic disaster. There are many neighborhoods where kids do not have a patch of grass or a park to play in. When people are poor, they cannot contribute to a democracy. The current situation will not lead to freedom and democracy.
Canada is technically a secular society but this isn’t 100% true in practice. For instance, York University in the last 34 years has always taken into account Jewish holidays while ignoring many others. Prof. David Noble tried for so many years to avert the closure and finally succeeded in November 2008. Now, some of the activists are demanding Iran to be a secular country in a short period.
How do you see the progress of secularism in Iran?
Dr. Rais dana:
Yes, you are right. Ghda, a Palestinian friend of mine from UK raised her concerns that if Jews, Muslims and Hindus are fighting to get something for their communities, as long as their demand is not interfering with public freedom and rights, then we, as seculars, should not be allowed to deprive them of their request.
I think that Jack Chirac, the former president of France, made a terrible decision on banning hijab for Muslim girls. Can I ask him why he wears a tie? Why TV hosts have necklaces with a cross-attached?
To have a secular society we need a democratic approach. Liberalism cannot guarantee secularism. We are criticizing Liberalism from the left. We say Liberalism is not enough. The invasion of Iraq by the US and the illegitimate establishments of groups, such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban by the US who supposedly is a role model for the world are laughable. I live in Iran and love my fellow Muslim people. I keep a good relationship with them and enjoy this relationship all while fighting against the ruling government.
There are serious differences between us and those so called intellectuals who are living in an unreal world.
How can the Iranians in Canada help to improve democracy and human rights back home?
We thank many of the Iranians out here in the West for all the support they’ve shown whether it’s been for imprisoned journalists or fundraising for earth quakes. Remember, we have to defend the rights of the people from the working class regardless of their beliefs.