Soroush speech at UCLA

From: Hamid Rafi hrafi@anet.bna.boeing.com

I attended a speech by Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush on Friday night (March 7, 1997). After canceling the first location at the Hilton Hotel in Irvine, southern California, apparently due to security reasons, I found out that the speech is at 7pm at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Driving from Orange County, I was stuck in traffic for more than an hour until I got there right at 7pm (my cousin and his friend came along). There were about 50 people at Kinsy Hall, when Dr. Soroush started to talk. There was no applause during presentation. The subject was "contemporary religion in today's world".

Again the audience was mixed; young, old, ties, no ties, T-shirts and shirts,....A lot of old friends from the Universty of Southern California (USC) and UCLA were present (nice social gathering!).

Halfway through the speech I counted again and there were about 100 people (you know our tradition of being late!).

Here' are some of the main points from the speech:

* There is a necessity to talk about religion in today's world and he predicts that religion and science will get very close in the nextcentury. Religion will become stronger in the 21st century.

* Religion (Islam, Judaism,...) is a universal ideology that touches everybody's life and personalities.

* The reconciliation between mankind and his affairs is the key to success and survival in today's world.

* What religion does is to create a direct relation between God and humans and that's where prophets come into play with their holly messages.

* A lot of quotations from Molavi (Rumi) which warmed the speech.

* Ideas from modern and 18th century philosophers regarding religion were discussed (Kant, Marx, Descartes,...)

* Religion is like rain drops; it covers everything under it.

* Religion is like water; you can use it to purify your soul but you need to take care of the water and keep it clean in order to use it again.

About eight people asked oral questions. Couple of them were critical and aggressive. One of them directly attacked Soroush's beliefs as expressed in his books. Other questions were more about today's problems in Iran such as "Velayat-e Faqih", the division between religion and the state and how "Enqelabeh Farhangi" (cultural revolution) had been more destructive than constructive.

He was also questioned by one of the audience members on his activities in the 1979 revolution.

There was loud applause and a standing ovation at the end.

Afterwards some questions were asked by smaller groups and by 10:30pm everybody was back in LA traffic again.

One thing that I saw in most faces in the audience was that they seemed attentive and glad to see Soroush visiting the U.S. and that he was able to discuss ideas that can't be discussed in our own country.

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