Farsi is nectar but...
... what about Shi'ite?
October 13, 2004
My concern, heightened since September
11, has been with Arab Nationalism and since the latter
tragic events, I have come to appreciate the Arab Nationalism inherent
in Islam. But more of that later as I still have to come to
grips with the loss of friends who worked on the
88th floor to write about it. If anyone has the magic answer of
how to fight nationalism without sounding like one or a left wing
intellectual, please let me know.
Anyhow the main purpose here is
to reply to those who doggedly consider Iran and Farsi as an absolute
must and anything else somehow
unacceptable. As an aside, quite a few of the young Iranians now
don't think Farsi is right and are using the correct term Parsi
instead (in Persian - but then I guess they'll all be accused of
being members of Sumka while all they are trying to do is
preserve a culture).
When I wrote my original article, I had to make a fine balance in
order to get the message across, and I removed some of the very
blunt points showing the sheer lunacy of Iranian pride. Unfortunately,
we Iranians, specially those educated, but not learned, of which
there are plenty, are not very good at understanding subtle points.
the term Farsi, please consider how conceited
is of us to insist other people adopting this word instead
of whatever term they have used before. No German national
would ever consider imposing the German work "Deutsch" on
English speakers, and neither would it or should it be tolerated. But
for some strange reason (possibly guilt resulting from their colonial
pasts or lack of knowledge) Westerners tolerate it from third-world
Also there is another aspect to this senseless pride
of trying to get others to adapt or conform to your "correct" view
of the world. And a funny instance of that is we have done to the
word "Shia", having turned it into "Shi'ite".
Obviously some very proud person, similar to those who are
trying to impose the term "Farsi" on the world must
have talked some hapless journalists during the Iranian revolution
into correcting "Shia" to a literal translation
and its correct Arabic lettering, with the consequence that
my religion's name is now SHIT! And it's become a common joke as many
people now instead of using "sugar" say "Shiite".
gives these people the right to change so abruptly the words and
symbols of a culture? How could they criticise Reza Shah then
acting in exactly the same manner, impose an abrupt change on others.
Why would some albeit highly educated but culturally deficient
Engineers impose the term Farsi on ISO the international
standard organisation? No wonder Afghans and other persian nations
want nothing to do with us, if it is not our religion we want to
impose then it is something else.
The other much more serious point which I am sad to say is missed
even by highly educated and respected scholars is as
follows, what makes a nation‚s culture strong, is not its
past as some have misunderstood but is its traditions and INSTITUTIONS.
Unfortunately the path of Iran through history has been such that we have
not been able to have lasting institutions (see Psychology
of Fear from aeons ago in the Iranian). It has led to a highly
individualistic approach to these issues.
Sometime ago Dr Milani
wrote about some forum that highlighted the achievements of Iranians
and Iranian-Americans in particular.
I do not want to in anyway belittle this effort or those individuals
but if we were to ask the question about our achievements as a
group or what institutions have we established, I am afraid
the answer is very little.
When I was much younger, I picked an emotionally charged argument
with my professor of History of Science. As all Iranian achievements
and scientists are grouped under the Arabic "School". Typical
Iranian becoming very hot under the collar "gheirati",
I had to correct the ignorant foreigner (I remember it
very well after so long as it was about Birounie and I had
to correct him that Birounie was Iranian not Arab), my
very-English professor calmly explained the importance of traditions
and institutions, particularly the difference between individual
achievements and schools of thought.
By the way I refuse to believe Dr Hoveida's assertions in his
high gloss book paid for by a hapless American insitution (see
earlier issues of The Iranian) that Iranian traditions are the
religious superstitious nonsense he sets out and our that our only
lasting institutions are Shia/religious ones. The sad fact is that
we have had no continuity and ended up with the lowest common denominator
(and having absolute monarchy did not help either). And it won't
be fixed by a "disposable" mentality or disregard for
history. Making abrupt changes just gives the impression of the
being a banana republic (perhaps given how such things as foreign policy
are conducted by the present regime we are getting there).
So before you all become gheirati and start imposing what
you believe is the absolute truth on others, think about the
consequences. But then we are the people who cannot help ourselves
to cut our nose to spite our face, need examples? We are the
nation hell bent on nationalisation of oil without regard
for its finacial impact and replacing monarchy without one thought
for its replacement.
Amir Rostam Beglie Beigie is a shipping industry professional
living and working in Houston, Texas.