Not private anymore
Contempt for Aramesh Doustdar has nothing to do with his atheism
August 20, 2005
Abdee Kalantari has posted a public response to me ["Demanding
criticism"]. If like
Gertrude Stein on her deathbed you are wondering: "but what
was the question?" welcome to the club. I too am wondering.
Not about the question but about why Abdee would publish a public
to a note whose first line contained one single word: PRIVATE!
As they say, what part of the word "private" did you
have trouble understanding Abdee?
A few days after writing that
note I set off for the centennial meeting of the Americian Sociological
Association in Philadelphia where I was told by a friend that
a response to
views on Aramesh
Doustdar had appeared on the Donkeys list as well as the Iranian.com
site. The letter published at Iranian.com
had left off my name but mentioned my translation of Soroush, leaving
little doubt about my identity.
I was not amused because this is a violation of trust not to
mention a betrayal of professional ethics on the part of the moderator
of a forum. I am also not amused because I am being forced to waste
my valuable time - that could be more productively employed playing
single-draw solitaire on my computer -- on a topic I find
I asked Abdee a brief, private question:
why would he be so infatuated by the fulminations of someone I
could only describe as a windbag? Hey, one may not like Freddy
Kruger movies either. You know they have many fans among the pimply
But when you see your friend anxiously waiting
in the ticket holders' line to see the latest "Return of the
Hypodermic Man" don't you have the right to go over and whisper
in his ear: what do you see in this character? Does this give that
friend the right to "out" you as a Freddy Kruger hater
and impose on you the "necessary torture" of seeing a
bunch of movies featuring a man with syringes for fingers?
So, I am going to have to respectfully decline Abdee's invitation
to read all of Doustdar's books. If I found him worthy of a public
challenge I would have to undergo that "necessary torture" but
I don't. I have read one of his books cover to cover as well as
the articles and interviews that Abdee lavishes on the readers
of his Internet list.
And, oh, I have also read Doustdar's spellbinding
address to the German parliament, inviting them to use military
force against Iran -- and here is, dear Abdee, your real segue
to chicken-hawk philosophers of yore, hugging a German boot.
short, I have read enough of Doustdar to know that he wages a campaign
of insulting cheap shots against the Islamic and mystic heritage
of Iran. He dismisses Hafez because he is not "rational" and
jettisons Ghazzali because he relates an Islamic tradition about
bedding your wife when you get an errant erection.
Here is a point
to ponder: is Doustdar a more enthusiastic atheist than Diderot?
Can you imagine the French philosophe relegating Saint Augustine,
Saint Anselm or Saint Thomas Aquinas to insignificance on such
Abdee knows me well enough to know that my contempt for Doustdar
has nothing to do with his atheism. I would never find it odd or
objectionable that an Iranian intellectual would be fond of the
works of Daryoush Ashuri, Morad Farhadpour, Seyed Javad Tabatabai,
Ramin Jahanbaglu and others who are as religiously unmusical as
Indeed, I have published articles in Persian and in Iran,
arguing that radical secular thinkers are an integral and indispensable
component of Iranian intellectual ferment. But I have no use for
what Abdee aptly (but probably unintentionally) identifies as "oddball" philosophy,
or for screwball logic and smirking standup style of Doustdar.
Abdee gets the intellectual history of pre-revolutionary Iran
all wrong. I was there at the University of Tehran and attended
given by intellectual giants of the day that he mentions: Hamid
Enayat, Simin Daneshvar, Ahmad Ashraf, and, yes, even Ahmad Fardid.
There is a good reason why no one had ever heard of Abdee's "oddball" philosopher
in those days: he never was in the same league with the greats
-- even if he was "of their generation."
From what I "have" read of man's work, I can discern
the following: Doustdar has made a career on the claim that thinking
is impossible in Iran and in Persian because of our subservience
to religion. Fine. Let's say the impossibility is so dense that
even Mr. Doustdar can't see through it to offer us one original
thought in Persian -- no, the "very original" thought
that thinking is impossible doesn't count.
So, where is his contribution
to Western philosophy in other languages that he has putatively
mastered? Where are his volumes in German or French on Kant and
Hegel and Heidegger? Don't tell me that "impossibility of
thinking" ("emtena'e tafakkor" a concept he accuses
Tabatabaie of plagiarizing from him but the same one that the hapless
Ahmad Fardid coined decades before Doustdar) in Persian has contaminated
his non-Persian speaking brain as well!
A Latin Google search of
Doustdar yields about twenty hits with not one book or article
to his name. But a Persian search brings up more than four thousand
hits. He must be awfully fond of this language that forbids straight
thinking. So, why not write in German? We know he knows how to
say: "bomb Iran" in German. But, can he say anything
When I look at Doustdar's pitiful career however, I can't help
agreeing that there is something wrong with the picture and that
it has something to do with the role of religion in our culture.
If I had to guess I would have to say the culprit is not Islam
in general but our Shiite fondness for breast beating, our love
of helplessness, martyrdom and tragedy expressed in a secular trans-valuation
of the religious "roze-khaani" and "zekr-e mosibat."
must be something very seriously wrong with a culture in which
one can gather a coterie of not entirely stupid followers with
endless lamentations about why thinking has become impossible in
Persian without having to produce the tiniest shred of evidence
that this critique will lead to liberation from that impasse.
Finally, Abdee says that I don't like Aramesh Doustdar because
I am a "Muslim Intellectual." He must know that I disapprove
of dividing Iranian Intellectuals into "religious" and "non-religious" categories
-- as he has personally posted my Persian articles on the topic
and written a contribution to that debate that raged
between me and Ali Paya in Shargh. So, it is rather naughty of
Abdee to try to get my goat by calling me names.
I have two things
to say about this:
1- My disdain for Doustdar has nothing to do
with whether or not I believe in a God. If God came down and told
me point blank that She does not exist or that She does but Malawian
Toad Worship is the one and only True Path to Her, I would still
find Doustdar boring and I would still be depressed that there
are educated Iranians, speaking this wonderful language and capable
of enjoying its magic, who find someone like Doustdar worthy of
reading -- or refuting.
2- Abdee disparagingly calls me a "Muslim
Intellectual" hoping that I would be somehow offended. Last
month Mehdi Tayyeb, a teacher of the mandatory Islamic Knowledge
(Maaref-e Eslaami) courses at Allameh Tabatabaie University and
the guru of an Islamic phalange movement (overlapping with Ansar-e
Hezbollah) publicly denounced me an apostate, a Kafer.
consider myself either an "apostate" or a "religious
intellectual." But I don't much care if people call me this
or that either. Abdee contends that I will have a hard time giving
a "sympathetic reading" to Doustdar not only because
I am a "Muslim Intellectual" but also because I am "a
translator of Soroush's into English (sic)" The logic of this
sentence leads me to take back my original question and with any
luck end this debate.
Dear Abdee, I no longer wonder why someone
like you would be fascinated by someone like Doustdar.
Ahmad Sadri is Professor and Chairman of the Department of
Sociology and Anthropology at Lake Forest College, IL, USA. See Features.
This article first appeared in Shargh newspaper in Iran.