December 23, 2007

a New Revolution; is it feasible?

Following a post in MEY, a series of comments were exchanged that one of them is worthy of being posted here.
Eric said:
  • There are some fundamental questions regarding fomenting a “new revolution” that will see overthrowing the existing regime in Iran. Since the actual rulers of Iran currently are religious figures, would these revolutionaries overthrow them? Is there that much of a secular-minded movement existing in Iran, and if not, could it even come into being? Would the armed forces support such an uprising? It would be natural for the current regime to accuse any serious movement of this type of being agents of the US and Israel. How would such a movement refute these accusations, and could it survive them?
And, here is my answer:
These are some answers to your questions, obviously based on my experience of this society, and not necessarily true answers or applicable to the society as a whole.
  • Since the actual rulers of Iran currently are religious figures, would these revolutionaries overthrow them?
If you mean denouncing the religion itself, the answer is this: Absolutely No. today there are some new trends of religious life (close to mysticism and etc.) on rise between some youth, which shows that people are still bonded over religion, though they might hate the political (ab)use of it.
If you mean removing religious figures from power, that is an option, and another option is finding some moderate religious figures… suppose that a sudden regime change happens in Iran; do not get surprised if you read some day in news headlines that ‘Khatami: new president of Iran’ (Khatami: reformist president before Ahmadinejad)!!
  • Is there that much of a secular-minded movement existing in Iran, and if not, could it even come into being?
Iranians, even some devout ones, are increasingly getting used to a new model of religious life which saves the religion in private and follows social norms in the public. if you call it a ’secular-minded’ movement, yeah! Congratulations! That is happening!
But this movement is almost based on personal experiences, not on some social or philosophical grounds. The ‘personal experiences’ of the people are converging to the point of secularism: they feel that it is better to let everybody live his/her preferred life.
  • Would the armed forces support such an uprising?
Not, at all. Two major parts of armed forces are: Artesh (classic army) and Sepah (Revolutionary Guards). The latter is a fanatic supporter of Regime, in all levels of its employees (anyone to enter Guards should pass several examinations, and a full investigation would be done to ensure that he is also a fanatic supporter of the regime). Sepah, as well as country’s ministry of intelligence, enjoys a supervisory role over Artesh.
  • It would be natural for the current regime to accuse any serious movement of this type of being agents of the US and Israel. How would such a movement refute these accusations, and could it survive them?
People usually don't care much about these matters, I think. Its very usual to hear a sentence like ‘God may forgive Shah, he was a better ruler’ from everyone who faces/hears a trouble somewhere in this country (troubles ranging from getting a permission from municipality to the holes of the roads, to the price of bread, to the earthquake news, to weather forecast!), and that means that people would embrace every person (even Shah) who might help them make a better life.

December 7, 2007

Controlled Torture: American style of Interrogation

A series of blows to Bush administration happened during the past week. In the last one, Washington Post and Guardian reported that CIA destroyed videotapes showing use of harsh interrogation techniques, including Waterboarding (simulating drowning), against Al-Qaida suspects. Here is the beginning and the end of Guardian’s article:

The CIA destroyed video evidence of the coercive interrogation of al-Qaida operatives held under its secret rendition programme in order to shield agents from prosecution, it was revealed yesterday. The decision to destroy two videotapes documenting the use of waterboarding against Abu Zubaydah and another high value al-Qaida detainee was made in November 2005 - as American media were just beginning to focus on the existence of the secret CIA prison network... The footage would have clarified what practices such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation - both of which a gravely wounded Abu Zubaydah was subjected to - involve.

Another daily calls it ‘Simulating drowning in a controlled environment’! I don’t know how exactly they practice it, but let’s assume that they use supercomputers to control the amount of water which enters the lungs of the accused person. Then, if the person dies due to a bug in the programs coded to control the process, that would be just an accident, yes?

Also, I think that ‘amputation in controlled environment’ is not much different from ‘simulating drowning’: “let’s cut some fingers, and then order professional medical stuff to repair it.” Whatever reason they suggest to justify Waterboarding, one might use that very reason to justify Controlled Amputation.

What about rape? Less painful and more productive.

UN should pass a resolution to set limits for being shameless, I believe.

December 6, 2007

“States of the Arabian Gulf” or “Arabian States of the Gulf”... That’s the question!

The cultural heritage of Persia, both before Islam (as an Empire) and after it (as an important actor in the Golden Age of Islam), means a lot to Iranians. Indeed, that is a part of their (i.e. our) ego... and a source of conflict, as well.

In the context of philosophy of language, professors usually emphasize on the semantic value of the names. In that way, ‘name’ is just a sign used to refer to an object. But psychologists’ rule of thumb is this: The more important the (role of the) object (in the life of the person), the stronger the (psychological) effect of its name.

A person (usually) inherits his father’s family name. Sometimes it happens that Mr. X is eager to change his family name to Mr. Y. If Y is not taken yet, Mr. X may freely take it here in Iran. But if there is another family using Y as their family name, Mr. X should get their permission (from the oldest person of that family) to be able to legally change his family name to Y. This example might show how we (as Iranians) are bonded over names which belong to us.

‘Persian Gulf’ might be just a name which locates a place on the map, but it means part of the heritage of Persian Empire to Iranians. Therefore it is a very sensitive issue, here in Iran... and a source of conflict, as well. It was not a long time ago when National Geographic used ‘Arabian Gulf’ for this piece of water, and Iranians got united, at least in the cyber world, to change the mind of that magazine’s directors. This name, Persian Gulf, has turned into a national symbol of Iranians. Many Iranians believe that there are some hands which try to change this name... and whoever tries to change this name or supports any other name, is supposed to be betraying Iranians’ culture and history.

Few days ago, President Ahmadinejad participated in a meeting with some Arab leaders. What made this event a very important one for Iranians was a board in the meeting’s room, on which an Arabic sentence was written: “مجلس التعاون لدول الخليج العربيه”. At the early moments of the event, many people were misinformed that this sentence meant “Cooperation council of the states of Arabian Gulf”, and a very strong wave of criticism surrounded Ahmadinejad and his administration. Many people said that he shouldn’t participate in the meeting, and even some of his enemies accused him of neglecting Iranians national symbols and pride. But, after a while, the true translation of that sentence was published, which calmed people: “Cooperation council of Arab states of the Gulf”. ‘Persian Gulf’ is still untouched or at least less-touched, many believe.

Ahmadinejad was lucky, very lucky. Participating in a meeting bearing ‘Arabian Gulf’ name was more than enough for many Iranians to run several rounds of demonstrations against him. But, if the true name of the meeting was ‘Arabian Gulf’, could he avoid participating in it? I don’t think so. I even doubt if he could feel the danger.

December 2, 2007

Got a problem? Send a letter to Ahmadinejad.

Nobody expects bureaucracies, especially in developing countries, to work in an ideal manner. When it fails to fulfill its duties, you might resort to the high ranking chiefs as the last possible option. When somebody goes directly to the headquarter to complain and ask for help, a responsible chief should be careful not to undermine the whole system but to use this opportunity to identify holes within the system and repair them. He might sometimes intervene in the process to solve a problem individually, but that must not turn into a common practice. A by-product of this act might be increased popularity of the chief and increasing number of those who directly go to headquarter before trying other options. A stupid chief would let this positive-feedback continue until the whole destruction of system. And Ahmadinejad is obsessed with this dumb idea.

As the mayor of Tehran, he practiced direct-talks-with-people over and over. In these direct talks, people could communicate their problems. And he used to order resolving the problem. Since such orders were usually in the form of writing these things in the margins of the very page a direct-talker brought to his office and finally signing the page, it was briefly known as ‘signing’. Many people warned in that period of time that a chief should remain a chief, not to turn into a ‘signature machine’.

Assuming power 2 and half a year ago, he, aware of the positive consequences of these acts in terms of popularity and more power, continued the practice. In every visit he paid to different provinces, hundreds of thousands of letters were sent to the president, asking him for help. Many people ask for financial support, and very often it happens that they receive a reply from president’s office with about 50$. Since the president is not able to support all his people, such helps are insufficient in amount and random in frequency.

A very good example which shows the deficiency of this practice happened when he was to enter a stadium to give a speech. Before getting there, a disabled person on wheelchair, apparently a causality of Iran-Iraq war, asked the president for help. He needed a car and Ahamadinejad instantly ordered to give him a car. He entered the stadium, offered the speech, but before getting out of that place some of his guards told him that many other casualties are waiting outside the door to ask president for brand new cars... and Ahmadinejad escaped from an emergency door.

Recent developments: Hamed Talebi, a reporter who follows Ahmadinejad closely, reports that if you go near presidential palace these days, you will see some professionals who have pen and blank papers and can write a very good letter for you, a letter which provokes Ahmadinejad enough to solve your problem. At least, this has provided some new jobs for the jobless... got a problem? Send a letter to Ahmadinejad!

November 27, 2007

On the history of Hijab/Hijab Crackdowns in Iran

A friend of mine asked of some details of Hijab story in Iran. This post was developed as an answer to that question.


Many decades ago, when the first Shah of Pahlavi Dynasty was in power, a ‘Compulsory De-veiling’ was put on the official cultural agenda. That Shah made it an obligatory duty for every woman to leave Chador (Iranians traditional Islamic Hijab) aside and ‘become modern woman’. That was not a successful strategy: the very traditional society of then Iran resisted it.

The second Pahlavi (the famous Shah you have heard of, who was a strong ally of US and suffered the Islamic Revolution) made a better choice: step by step cultural changes, through showing a new modern model of life which included many symbols of American Dream. Cinema and other propaganda tools helped that thing happen quicker. It was an effective strategy, and during a period of about 2 decades, majority of people either gave up on strict traditions or at least got used to a new model of life which tolerated those who did not follow strict Islamic codes. It doesn’t mean, however, that traditionalists and fanatics were rooted out: they did exist, but enjoyed almost no power. It is still kind of a surprise to me to see how many un-veiled women participated in those pre-revolution demonstrations against Shah.

After the Islamic revolution overthrew Shah Regime, a wave of Islamization raged the country. A Revolution, even the Iranian Revolution which succeeded with not so much slaughter and murder, is a chaos in the first place: Revolution tries to restructure the whole social order, and therefore causes a transient situation to happen in which time there might be a temporary dominant order shaped by revolutionary caused or else. Whatever the origins of that revolution were, during the final stages of Shah Regime and early stages of post-revolution acts, it turned into an Islamic one. The masses expected Islam to bring a full-scale justice to their society, and Islamic Values happened to play the dominant role in that period of time.

But I do strongly believe that the same way first Pahlavi failed to force people to give up on Islamic Values, Islamic Regime also failed to convince people to accept strict Islamic Values. With regards to those un-veiled women who demonstrated against Shah, the revolution didn’t convince them to embrace Islamic Codes; it just forced them to do so. And in the case of social changes, force just makes a petty transient change, if any.

When Saddam attacked Iran, officials had to urge people to go to fronts (you know, ‘human waves’ were the most effective weapon Iran had against Iraq’s modern army), and deploying religious intentions was the best way to do so: some Islamic values such as martyrdom and sacrifice were exalted. What supplemented this official agenda was the fact that Iranians were not ready to treat Saddam’s army the same way the French treated Germans. Patriotism and Islamization got correlated. Then, a second wave of Islamization happened to intensify the first (originally revolutionary) wave.

End of that war and the death of Ayatollah Khomeini (the very charismatic leader of revolution) coincided. Hashemi Rafsanjani became the president and a wave of Liberalization happened in the name of Reconstruction. Take a look at my other weblog post: “Post-war presidents of Iran”. 8 years of liberalization, followed by 8 years of political reformism, and then the surprising election of Ahmadinejad happened to influence all equations.

In that 16-years-period of Liberalization and Political Reformism, some new freedoms were awarded to people. Those freedoms were more culturally than politically, and Hijab turned into a symbol of change. Some people, especially some youth, tried not to obey Strict Hijab Codes: long coats women sometimes wear in Iran instead of Chador got smaller and smaller, tighter and tighter, and some new colors replaced the black and dark colors which traditional and religious women usually prefer to use. Those who do not wear a complete Hijab are called Bad-Hijab.

But, as pointed above, it didn’t mean that traditionalists and fanatics didn’t have any share of Iranian society. Some wild guesses (from the statistics obtained in different elections) might suggest that roughly 10% of people are loyal to traditional and strict values. And their representatives and political parties dedicated to fanatics enjoy a much bigger share of political power in Iran. Those liberal-minded officials, who preferred a more liberal society, had to sometimes take some actions to satisfy these fanatic groups. As the ‘fashion’ & ‘leaving Hijab aside’ turned into symbols of cultural change (especially within youth), seasonal Hijab crackdowns (forcing people, especially girls, to follow stricter codes) turned into something usual. These crackdowns are:
(1) Seasonal: they happen in spring and summer, when girls want to adjust their clothing to hot weather!
(2) Limited to big cities.
(3) Not so harsh: such actions usually include just oral instruction, and in some cases temporary detentions. When somebody is arrested, a close kin (father, etc.) should go to police station and the person as well as that kin should sign a paper which says they would never violate regulations anymore.
(4) Random: these crackdowns are not continuous and do not cover all parts of the city in the same time. Police officers usually choose few locations to run the action, for example some crowded squares or malls, randomly choose some bad-Hijab people and do it.

In some extreme cases, if the arrested person violently resists officers or is too-bad-Hijab, they could be introduced to courts. But the spokesman of Iran’s Judiciary System publicly announced that there are no laws requiring any punishment for bad-Hijab people who are not too-bad-dressed.

Ahmadinejad unexpectedly assumed about two years ago. Though masses generally voted in his favor seeking financial benefits and cutting the perceived corrupt hands which supposedly exploit country’s resources, his election helped fanatics get the upper hand (albeit not the final say). The cultural consequences of his election to some extent appeared in web-filtering, cinema and dailies’ censorship and a harder Hijab Crackdown. But new round of crackdowns was just a bit harder than previous experiences, not so much. I saw some clips published on web about a woman with blood all over her face who was injured by some police officers. Yes, that is true, but I think it was not done deliberately.

Generally, I think that officials are well aware that in current situation, with regards to foreign pressures as well as internal problems (including high rate of unemployment and inflation, which grew worse during past years despite the highest oil revenues of whole history), any harsh pressing in this case might cause full scale chaos, which might threaten the very existence of Islamic Republic regime.

I invite you to visit this report... such things are still ongoing behind (and even sometimes in front of) the scene.
The children of the revolution: Young Iranians are pushing for change

November 21, 2007

Experimental Sciences and the Existence of God

Note: some philosophical debates included here.

Who is God’ was a post in MEY, of that author, Nissim, who is trying to make a practical use of Common Sense in order to make the world a bit better. As usual, this big phenomenon called God, stimulated many people to comment on the subject, both Atheists and Theists... and again I failed to keep myself from the discussion.

In such debates, it is very common for people to ask/wonder if there is a ‘Proof’ for the existence of God. Honestly, I don’t know if there is such a flawless proof. But, besides my obsession about Incompleteness Theorem of Kurt Gödel (footnote), I want to share another point here: Experimental Sciences are inherently unable to prove anything.

When a guess about the function of an observable phenomenon happens to explain it better than other guesses, it turns into a theory. But this theory (a) neither ensures prediction of future experiences, and (b) nor is able to prove that it is the best possible guess. The latter (b) means that probably we may find out later that this theory has already failed to cover some aspects of past occurrences neglected in out first assessment of the phenomenon and the guess related to it. And the former (a) translates into the fact that we can never gather all the causes which might influence phenomenon.

Then, what do Experimental Sciences do? They provide evidences for us to conclude what is more likely to be true. Since examples usually make a better sense, let me say that: using all those Mechanic Theories, some engineers fabricate an airplane and say: “as we know, this device is more likely to fly if guided in a proper way, and will land safely if directed by an experienced pilot. But for sure, nobody has ever guaranteed that it would work, for there are lots of already unknown causes which might affect the behavior of this device and let it fail.” This statement is obviously from a deterministic point of view, from that point which believes every effect has a cause. Those who do not believe in causality as a universal rule, they have a much harder time speaking about the probability of something, for probability is only valid when causality is considered a rule.

One might argue: “yeah, one day we may be able to conclude all possible causes, and that day, we may prove Experimental Theories: Since we know all the possible causes, we may exactly predict the next stage or behavior of every conceivable phenomenon, and that is called Proof.” But an answer is that if some possible causes decide not to reveal themselves to us (whatever the reason), we can never conclude them. Therefore they are able to return/appear at any given time, influence current phenomena and consequently theories, and refute them.

Finally, seeking for an Experimental Proof for anything (including the existence of God)... that is called Mission Impossible.

Footnote: Incompleteness Theorem of Kurt Gödel states that in every system of logics, there is at least one true statement which will never be proved; also, there is at least one false statement, which may never be refuted.

November 20, 2007

God, Modern Science and our understanding

Another debate happened about God, in which Omid, in order to show our weakness in understanding the God's nature, referenced to a famous example: Box example.
  • Imagine you are in a box. You want to believe there is something outside the box. You do believe it... But all your conclusions and theories are based off what you know, and all of what you know is based on your experiences in the box. So the tools you use to quantify something outside the box are inherently futile.

Appatently, the above comment has something to do with science... and here is my comment to that of Omid:

  • I enjoy the way you get into discussion; it bears an evidence of your academic thinking. About your comment: with regards to the famous example of Box, you are to an extent true and to another extent wrong.Firstly, you are right. Modern science, following its very essence which takes into account just observable phenomena, has nothing to do with those possible objects which may do exist outside of Box. Pay attention that ‘observable’ is equal to ‘measurable’ in this sense, and when a thing is not measurable, that is out of the league of practical sciences. ‘Pain’ is a good example: very observable, but not subject to a quality measurement. (Reference: “Developing Nursing Knowledge: Philosophical Traditions and Influences” by Beth Rodgers => Chapter 5)Secondly: you are wrong. Before going a step further, pay attention to the fact that there are 2 general grounds of results derived from science: Synthetic and Analytic. Without getting into the complicated glossary of philosophers, let’s suppose that some of these results are based on experience and some of them are not based on experience.About that part of the results which are based on our experience, there is an extensive debate that whether they do apply to objects outside of the Box or not. Following the skepticism of Hume (which reduces Causality to a daily habit, not a rule; etc.) leads to an even worse condition: we may not apply these results to the objects inside of the Box.For those results which are not based on experience and do not bear any limitation, they will apply to any object, whether inside of the Box or outside of it. For an example, check the Incompleteness Theorem of Kurt Gödel.Now, a very important question arises: is modern science capable of setting some limitations on the nature of God? Or, on the other hand, on our understanding of God? That’s the mark, try to hit it!

November 12, 2007

Ahmadinejad made a new statement/mistake

In the second round of his provincial visits, Ahmadinejad met the people of Southern Khorasan, East of Iran, and as his usual manner, preached them about the advent of Imam Mahdi, Savior of Shiite tradition. This time, as his usual manner (again), he made a great mistake in choosing the proper words to elaborate what was in his mind. He said:
“The scene is fully set to greet that glorious event; a day in which all the prophets, martyrs and good men will come and help [the savior]. Some people might assume these things just a joke; that is because there is no [real] belief in their hearts: They are modern Satanists and idolaters. They pretend to be intellectuals, but their understanding of the world is less than that of a GOAT.”

Source (for exact words): Farsnews

The End.

November 9, 2007

Post-war Presidents of Iran

You may directly go to the Part II of this post, if you are not eager/patient enough to read some details of Iran’s contemporary politics.

Part I: The Story

Few months after Ayatollah Khomeini, late founder of Iranian Revolution, consented to UN Security Council Resolution 598 (which ended Iran-Iraq war), he passed away out of severe illness. Since many prominent figures of Iran’s revolution got assassinated by opposition groups in the early periods of establishment of Islamic Republic, and some other got marginalized during post-revolution events prior to the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Khamenei (then president of Iran) and Ayatollah Rafsanjani (then parliament speaker of Iran) were the most important active political actors of then Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei was assigned to the leadership of Iran, and Ayatollah Rafsanjani got chosen as president for a 4-years-period. No rivals, no real competition.

Rafsanjani became the president of post-war Iran. He began reconstruction, and after 4 years, people chose him again with a fair vote. Pragmatism was the central part of his general strategy and approach, and technocrats got significant positions in his administration. Rebuilding infrastructures was his number one target, and ‘Dam Building’ turned to the symbol of reconstruction. In the case of cultural and political matters, he usually tried compromise. Limiting the power of extremists was also a part of his agenda, though due to post-war conditions he was not much successful in this case.

According to Iran’s constitution, one is allowed to claim presidency no more than two consecutive terms. Then, after his 2nd term of presidency, a real competition happened. The candidate of so-called traditional parties [i.e. those parties which were closer and more loyal to original values of revolution and the example set by Ayatollah Khomeini], who was believed to be the definite winner, lost the election to reformist candidate.

Khatami, reformist candidate, gathered 20 million and 22 million votes in his 1st and 2nd presidential elections respectively, which meant a significant win. His main promises in either campaign were defending the freedom of speech, establishing rule of law, spreading the influence of people’s vote in different parts of the system, protecting individual freedoms, etc. Many intellectuals believed that Khatami was aimed at helping Iranian society get closer to international community, giving up on some radical slogans which did much harm to the cause of Iran. The core ideology of reformist ideologues was that political reforms constitute the basis of any further reform, either economic or cultural or else.

After Khatami finished his 2 terms of presidency, an exciting competition happened. Many candidates participated, including:
- Ayatollah Hashemi (ex-president), with his well-known resume, also with some modifications in his behavior and slogans supposed to be necessary to attract the youth.
- Dr. Moein, reformist candidate and a key member of Khatami administration, believed to be more decisive and more liberal as a pro-reform actor (compared with Khatami).
- Ayatollah Karrubi, the ex-reformist parliament speaker, known to ordinary people for his famous slogan during presidential campaigns (assigning 50$ monthly to every Iranian, if he could win), and known to intellectuals for his ability to deal with Islamic Regime as a pro-reform actor (usually including compromise).
- Some candidates of so-called traditional parties, including Dr. Ahmadinejad as the most fanatic one.

As expected, none of the candidates could gather more than 50% of votes, extending elections to second round. Ayatollah Hashemi and Dr. Ahmadinejad went to the next round. For the second round, reformists officially supported Ayatollah Hashemi (in spite of all the criticisms they had previously expressed about him) to defeat Ahmadinejad. By the way Hashemi meant ‘lesser of two evils’ to some reformists, and ‘father or even caretaker of reformist movement’ to some other reformists. In an astonishing event, Ahmadinejad got around 13 million votes and Hashemi finished with less than 10 million votes.

Ahmadinejad had promises mainly focused on financial subjects, cutting dirty & corrupt hands which exploit national resources, and bringing the revenues of oil to the (dinner) table of people. He repeatedly stressed out that ‘original revolutionary values must be revived’. In the visits he paid to different provinces before elections, he used to meet war casualties [some of them with sever condition, for example those who were affected by chemical weapons, still live in special wards] as well as graves of the martyrs of Iran-Iraq war. Wearing Chefyeh [i.e. an originally Arabian cloth, similar to a scarf, which people use to cover head and neck in summer in southern provinces of Iran; for the same reason, Iranian soldiers extensively used it during war. After 8 years of Iran-Iraq war, Chefyeh turned into an important symbol of those who had sympathy with the values of war, especially martyrdom] was a straightforward message to all. Whatever the rational of his election, Ahmadinejad marked a significant breakthrough for fanatic supporters of (original values of) revolution.

Part II: Moral Result of Story

Choosing pragmatism/technocracy (Hashemi), political reformism (Khatami) and finally revolutionary extremism (Ahmadinejad)... does it show a drastic change in the way Iranians reason? Not necessarily. I think a simple theory might explain the whole event (at least to an extent): people, in lack of real political parties, resort to every possible option just to make an improvement in their day-to-day life. Note that Iranians don’t care what reformism or extremism might mean to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, they also pay no attention to the by-products of each option [i.e., given that an option makes life better is come ways, other outcomes of it might make life worse in other ways]. This is the first logical conclusion of the whole story. We may even be able to extend this theory to the Revolution itself.

Second logical conclusion might be that Iranians have not found out what is in the root of their problems. In the process of election, people face many important questions, including ‘Is a political reform required to make any further improvement’. Choosing Khatami means ‘yes’, choosing Ahmadinejad means ‘no’, and changing the mind from this to that means ‘I don’t know’.

The third logical conclusion in which I strongly believe is that before establishing full-scale democratic infrastructures (including real political parties) which can guide and manage the political life of the society, granting free-election right to the people might come to be the worst nightmare of the country.

November 6, 2007

New Scholarships awarded by IRI

For Iranian Graduates who hold a bachelor or master degree:
As you well know, Ministry of Science, Research and Technology is to choose new candidates for scholarships this department awards every year to some of the outstanding students. As an example set by the previous administrations of Hashemi and Khatami, the ministry is (said) to put the name of some figures closer to the ruling party in the final list of qualified candidates.
Despite the fact that there may be enough evidence approving of the whole story, high ranking officials in the ministry reject such rumors and claim that ‘all those interested may submit their CV through ministry’s website’ and ‘political matters may never affect the result’.
As said above, this is not something unique to the current president, and the story may go back even to the Shah regime, though some people strongly doubt it and claim that scholarships in that period of time were more due to scientific eligibility than this time.
But I strongly urge everybody to submit their CV and also post anything new they know to reveal if the officials are not sincere in their claim.
Do not laugh please; you might think that this would be a complete waste of time, but remember that the history will be based on documents, god willing albeit!

November 2, 2007

Halal Food

This post's story is about Revolutionary Guards of Iran. If you are not patient enough to get the point of this post through step by step introduction I set here, you may go directly to part (iv).
Today, Halal Food (i.e. foods or drinks allowed to be used by Muslims) is to an extent a well known term which belongs to Muslim tradition and means to them what Kosher means to Jews. According to the Islamic jurisprudence, meat obtained from some certain animals is not Halal (including dog, pig, predators, rabbit, etc.). Also alcoholic drinks are not Halal. ‘Not Halal’ in Muslim glossary is equal to ‘Haram’ (i.e. Illegal foods and drinks). Any food which comes into contact with these Haram things would be Haram.
For meat, there are some additional conditions which should be met in order to make the obtained food Halal. For example, Fish is only Halal if it dies out of water. Also a person who kills a Halal animal (like cow, camel, etc.) should follow some certain guidelines: the animal should be killed in the name of God, head of the animal should be directed toward Mecca, etc. No need to mention that water, vegetables (most of them) and things of this kind are considered Halal. Note that if a person is likely to die out of hanger, he may use any kind of food and nothing is forbidden to him anymore.
In addition to Halal and Haram, there are three other kinds of foods: Makruh (i.e. you would better avoid this type of food, though it is not Haram. For example: meat derived from donkey), Mustahab (i.e. you would better use this type of foods, though it is not compulsory. For example: use a little salt before and/or after main dish).
Wait a minute! For sure, I’m not going to describe the details of such Islamic laws in this post. There is another thing I prefer to mention here.
As said above, there are four types (or classes) of foods with regards to their origin and/or the way they are processed. This is a very physical approach to food, and as you well know, religions usually consist of metaphysical features as well as their physical aspects. And Islam is not an exception to this rule. Islam invites people to pay attention to the soul of food as well as its body (i.e. ingredients). From the point of Islam, foods with regards to their souls are also categorized in four classes: Mustahab (encouraged), Halal (normal), Makruh (discouraged) and finally Haram (forbidden).
There are many interesting examples in this field. For example, when a cow’s milk is only enough to feed its calf, people are discouraged to use its milk.
Sometimes the money (which pays for food) matters, not the food itself. Therefore a food might be physically Halal, but spiritually forbidden because the money used to buy this food was Haram (like whatever things obtained through gambling or usury). Here, income plays an important role, and when we speak of income and money, we must refer to the Economic Policy of Islam.
Though some elements of Islam’s economic policy (for example: forbidding usury and gambling) are well-defined/well-known, its general approach to Economics is somehow vague. Almost every Muslim scholar has his own understanding of the subject. Ayatollah Shahroudi, head of Iran’s judiciary system, says that Islam believes in a Free Market strategy and doesn’t allow government to interfere in market’s internal and inherent mechanisms. Albeit there are some exceptions to this general rule, though these exceptions are very rare. An example of these exceptions is hoarding food in the time of famine. In this case, government might use force (even sword/gun) to feed the people.
According to the Muslim Tradition, a case which makes a food spiritually discouraged is when people are reduced to pay something and food is obtained from that money. An example of this case might be this: somebody is in need of something you have, and you require him to pay double. Ayatollah Memar Montazerin, a popular local clergy in Isfahan (usually those clergies not connected to regime are still much popular in society), adds another example: most of the municipalities’ income is of this kind (people go to get permission to rebuild their homes, and municipality usually requires them to pay a fair amount of money).
Few days ago, I met an old friend and he told me a story which came to me as a surprise. He said:

  • There is a mosque in our neighbor. There is a charity in that mosque and I work there voluntarily few hours each week. We gather donations (either money or food) and help poor neighboring families. It was about 3 years ago that we reorganized the whole office and bought a computer to make the most of our activities.
    As you well know, there is a Bassij [i.e. a Militia supervised and supported by Revolutionary Guards] center in every mosque. One year ago, Revolutionary Guard Office of Isfahan announced that it would offer every Bassij center a new modern printer, and they did so. Then, the Bassij office of our mosque gave us that printer they had received: we got a brand new printer, though it was not of a famous trademark.
    After 9 months or so, it got broken. There are three or four centers in Isfahan which are dedicated to repairing printers, and we took the printer to one of them. Manager of the center looked at the printer and laughed. We asked why he laughed, and he said: “few months ago, a cargo of electronic devices (including printers and else) was to be smuggled to Iran [i.e. the owner wanted to import them without paying obligatory tax and duty. Iran is very decisive against smugglers]. Naval forces of Revolutionary Guards found the cargo and confiscated it, then distributed the devices in the country, between their local offices and also between some charities! Your printer’s trademark shows that it was a part of that cargo!”

Whatever the reason (even fighting smugglers), this behavior is not Halal. This kind of ‘income’ for a country is at least discouraged, if not forbidden. And, it will spiritually damage the so-called religious regime, I think.

October 30, 2007

Selling A Vision of Hope

Nissim Dahan is another good man who is thinking of a solution to solve the mideast conflict. His ideas is following in brief:
  • Over the past two years, my wife and I founded a project called Selling a Vision of Hope. We like to think of it as a strategy for success in the Middle East, and as a way of promoting peace there. The basic approach includes: Selling a Vision of Hope, Sustaining a Vision of Hope, and when necessary, Fighting for a Vision of Hope.

Take a look at his website, or read his post in Mideastyouth. My comment to his post and idea, is following:


Nissim:many people tried to propose some ideas, either new or reviewed old ones, to solve the problems now underway in mideast, as well as to avoid the upcoming disasters.but good intention is something, practicality is another. for example, few months ago a nun was reported who used to offer catholic prayers in the morning, and muslim prayers in the evening (maybe timings were different, but the whole case was something like this), and claimed to be a Catholic Muslim... she wants to do a good to humanity, but has misunderstood the core can we find out whether a new idea is practical or not? just ask of the Road Map it suggests. as long as theory does not turn into practice, at least it would have no good effect... and the worst case happens when theory makes some bad effects in practice, though you dont want such a thing to happen.

the core idea of your plan is true, and almost the only truth: Bring Hope to The People. I admire it! but I feel that the ideal situation you portray here is somehow based on a Globalized understanding of the world in general, and this region in particluar. if we (here in the mideast) were the members of a global village, your plan would be pretty effective. but unfortunately we are not, and we are less likely to become such a thing in near future. Common Sense of Arabs tells something, Common Sense of Jews tells another, Common Sense of Iranians tells a third thing, and Common Sense of Bush administration tells nonsense (they are not mideasterns, but they changed the mideast dramatically, though much of their initial plan didnt happen in this region). you may add to this list many other common senses which dont seem to be converging at all. if the common sense was a consensus amongst all involved parties, there would be no problem, and this region would be called a sample globalized village.apply your model on a smaller community, for example current Iraq, and you will see all these problems again.then, understanding all the problems you have, if you are serious to develop a Road Map for your plan...I will pray for you!

October 15, 2007

Cup of Poison

Once I read in an article about the Modern International Politics that in a Newtonian system of politics, i.e. a democracy, each nation’s strong and weak points are clearly visible to all sides; then, in the case of conflict, each nation exactly knows its own limits and maximum possible benefits it can achieve in the struggle. That way, war can be easily avoided.
When a non-democracy (i.e. a country of which there is no accurate estimate of power) there exists in the above equation, the whole debate changes. Clearly the non-democracy, usually the weaker side, tries to pretend being stronger than what it really is, in order to take advantage of the situation. If the conflict of interests ups to an extremely high level, around the threshold of war, weaker one finds itself in a very dangerous status: on one hand, it can avoid war; on the other hand, it may be fully devastated. The stronger the other side, the more scaring would be the case for the weaker side. Here, weaker side starts sending mixed signals: it shows some signs of compromise if the other side is ready.


During the 8 years of war with Iraq, Iranian leaders would always insist on this slogan that “we will fight to the last drop of our blood, to punish Saddam and free the Iraq.” Many young volunteers died for the sake of that holy war, which was in the name of Imam Hussein (the symbol of martyrdom for Shiite).
But when late Ayatollah Khomeini found that it wouldn’t be possible anymore to fight (with all the support Saddam had from westerners, the economy of Iran being a full bankrupt and the Iran’s army loosing the war to the re-empowered army of Saddam and all of his WMD), he almost gave up on all those fanatic slogans, wrote a letter and accepted the ceasefire… he said: “I drank the cup of poison”.


The tradition of ‘drinking the cup of poison’, which politically means ‘compromise’ in the glossary of extremists, plays an important role in their understanding of the world. (Though right now Iran seems to have the upper hand in Persian Gulf,) US administration should understand that IRI leaders would never commit suicide if they find the act they are doing is suicidal. Compared with suicide, drinking ‘a cup of non-lethal poison’ and keeping the power is a more rational choice, I think.

October 8, 2007

Inherent Unsolved Questions of Democracy

  • "I do not try to teach it to others or to say that this is how you should be thinking. That would be a very hypocritical thing for me to do since I’m the way I am mostly because I am anti-collectivism and I hate people who bully others into believing certain things or forcing them to live life a certain way."
my first comment to that post:
  • though going with the flow might be the easiest thing one chooses to do, I cant do it right now. minorities always claim the same: putting “humanity, morals, human rights, tolerance, things like that” above all other things. but when they assume power, the hypocrisy shows up; or it is better said that the inherent unsolved questions of a democracy gain focus.
    how do they ban islamic hijab while claiming to be sincere advocates of freedom? this atheist might say that she is against that, but that wont solve anything.

Esra'a replied:

  • Firstly, who is “they”? It’s a huge generalization. Not all minorities are the same, especially if the minority in question is not competing for any form of power.
    Secondly, I don’t see how your argument is at all relevant. Sara did not personally ban the Islamic hijab and I’m pretty sure she does not support it. That’s something that happened in Turkey and to an extent in France, she lives in Kuwait. Why is this relevant? If you read her entire interview, you’ll see that she supports whatever personal decision a person makes as long as they were not bullied or pressured into believing it.
    All she is doing is not submitting to the pressure of the majority. I do not see anything hypocritical at all in her responses, or in her view. She is not even trying to claim any form of power, otherwise she would be actively promoting and preaching her views which she clearly does not.

my next comment:

  • that is not very hard to understand, Esra’a. the ban on Islamic Hijab is precisely consistent with and conforming to the principles of a secular regime, and any one who claims otherwise either doesnt know what a secular regime is or cant reason. same applies to the publishing of danish cartoons humiliating prophet muhammad: anybody who is to support freedom of speech in its original meaning, should support that act.
    now, ask so-called Atheists of their favorite government, and that would be a secular-liberal one for sure. then, opposing such acts (french ban on hijab, publishing danish cartoons, etc.) would be the most insincere thing they can do: they inherently support such acts… and you can find very easily what would happen if they assume the power: hypocrisy will be uncovered.

September 26, 2007

Ahmadinejad in Columbia University

Breaking news: Iranian state TV is supposed to air the event tonight. I'm very eager to know how much of the program is going to be censored. if all the program is aired... I dont know what may happen!
More to read:
Transcripts of the event (beginnig by Mr Ahmadinejad's Speech)
Another Transcript (containing Mr. Bollinger's Introduction)
Washingtonpost's remarks (makes a fun of Ahmadinejad)
Jerusalem Post ("Ahmadinejad grilled in Columbia Q&A)
NewyorkTimes' report (just read)
As an example of his mistakes, Ahmadinejad infromed the audience in Columbia University: "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country". Provided that following videos are available to many westerners, what do you expect them to think about him?

Out of Iran
the persecution of homosexuals in the islamic republic of Iran (Broadcast on the CBC’s Sunday Night, Feb.18.2007)
part 1:
part 2:
part 3:
One sentence to Mr. Ahmadinejad:
Mr. President, if you dont know the way you should appear to westerners, don't insist on it, plz.

September 25, 2007

Evolution of Iran-America relations

While exploring a phenomenon, either social or political (with regards to the subject of this post), the researcher may have many different approaches available to study the subject. For example, one may try to find the set of the causes which shape the public opinions in either side; another person may try a SWOT analysis to predict the future; and a third researcher may focus on the possible butterfly effect of an unpredicted factor (like Ahmadinejad, whose election and acts were unpredicted, while he is still unpredictable because a simple pattern in his behavior is yet to be identified by either politicians or psychologists).
Monitoring the ordinary people in my society and exploring the contemporary history of Iran, one may find out that an evolution in the Iran-America relations is underway. The most important feature of this evolution is that it is happening in the side of people, not governments (unfortunately politicians rarely –if ever– have the necessary capabilities for an evolution).
Note: I don’t know much about Americans, but let me hope that the thing now ongoing in Iran is also happening in US.
If I were supposed to choose a name for this so-called evolution, I would name it: ‘towards a realistic understanding of the other side’.
This process in Iran might be completely different from US, with regards to various factors including but not limited to: sources of misunderstanding in each side, how much people are prepared to change their minds in different issues and give up on their false beliefs, how much regimes (and mainstream media which distorts almost every piece of news) let people understand each other, how many realistic resources of information are available to each side (including such cyber-exchanges which may provide a better source of information compared to their mainstream media counterparts), etc. One of such characteristic differences might be this: while most of the Iranians have a fair good grasp of natural resources of US, there are many Americans that even don’t know Iran has beautiful jungles and landscapes! Yeah, this may seem worthless, but I strongly believe that such small pieces form a big puzzle together. Also the pace of change might be different in each society; same things may be listed to justify this as well.
Enough theory; where is evidence? Let’s have a closer look at a revolutionary concept in post-revolutionary Iran and how it evolved throughout a period of about 3 decades: Hating America.


We (as Iranians) hate America, or at least we keep hearing everyday that we should hate it. “Why should we?” Immediately after revolution, even asking such a question might seem insulting to many people in Iran. Roksana Bahramitash, an Iranian scholar in Canada, gives the answer: “It was too early for many Iranians to forget the CIA-engineered coup of 1953, which returned the Shah back to power.” That coup overthrew Mossadeq, who nationalized Iran’s oil industry and is still regarded by many (except some hardliners) as a national hero. Some years after the end of Iran-Iraq war, due to entrance of many youngsters who has no direct experience or even any idea of American tyranny (either real, or just perceived by elders), providing an answer to this question became more important.
Yeah, many books, articles, interviews, etc. were prepared to shed a light on the history of America’s interventions in Iran, either in pre-revolutionary Iran or in post-revolutionary Iran (in events like: provoking Saddam to attack Iran, supporting Saddam and letting him use WMD against Iranians as well as Iraqi Kurds, attacking an Iranian civil airplane and killing all its passengers by 2 missiles, etc.). The next question arose: “Whom exactly we should hate: Americans, this or that US Government, America’s political system, or America as a whole?”
The proper answer to this question at the early stages of revolution (if anybody had ever dared to ask) would be “America as a whole, including its citizens”, for the only Americans observed by Iranians were those engaged in Shah’s activities in Iran. But after about 15 years, an evolution had happened: the new generation would never accept the previously valid answer. Then, IRI propaganda machine excluded ‘Americans’ from the above answer and focused on American government and political system. This was because the new generation not only had a new perception of Americans (a common idea in that time which was the basis of new generation’s perception of US was this: every society has ‘good’ and ‘bad’ members), but also had found out that ‘people should not be held responsible for every single act of their governors’.
The latter was due to the experience of Iranians themselves: in a quasi-democratic situation, Iranians had to choose between limited options for different positions (like president, MPs, etc.); consequently they found out that though they choose A, they can’t be approving of all of his activities and behaviors as a whole. The Iranians’ experience of a quasi-democratic regime helped them understand how world works, and it was a step further toward ‘a more realistic understanding of the other side’.
Fortunately, the evolution didn’t stop. “We chose Ahmadinejad for he promised some economic reforms. Yes, we know that he is repeating his anti-holocaust rhetoric. He might be wrong in this case for we know that Jews suffered a lot in that damn war (and even there is a new serial in TV which narrates Jews’ problems in WWII), but we may choose him again if we find him successful in economy”. Some are contemplating: “if such a weird thing may happen in our country, it may also happen in other countries. That US president might be very hostile against us, but he might have been very good for his own people.”
There are enough signs to prove that this process won’t stop here. Free access to western media helped many people to understand why US (and westerners in general) may sometimes have every reason to be suspicious of Iran’s programs and acts: “when he says that ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’, then he says that ‘we need nuclear capability’, every reasonable creature might conclude that he needs it to do that! But I may still vote in his favor, because he has done many good things: building some new universities, providing the poor and needy with Justice Shares, fighting or firing some of mafia figures, etc.” Don’t you see this as another step towards a more realistic view?


Some may argue that such things happen mainly within intelligentsia and educated people. I do admit, with only one modification: ordinary people tend to pass the path left by intelligentsia. Many of these changes were not so common when they happened within intellectuals, but after a while, they became popular. ‘Time will solve all the problems’, albeit if and only if we let it.


In a post in Mideastyouth, Omid (a Bahai author) said that "Iran is a quasi-democracy". Gary (another author) said that " I’m certainly not an expert on Iran, but I seem to recall that the government approves all candidates, rejecting those it doesn’t like. I would summarize that as simply undemocratic, basically a trick of dictators to hold onto power. Correct me if I’m wrong." Here is my comment to describe what a 'Quasi-Democracy' is:
Intellectuals of the Iranian society are trying to push the idea of a democracy further and further, but the ordinary people are confused: they can’t understand what the ultimate solution to all the problems they have in their life is. That is why they vote for a reformist candidate (Khatami, who tried to make a more democratic situation in Iran) this year, and vote for Ahmadinejad (a full-option hardliner, upon whom people trusted to make a better economic situation) few years later.When ordinary people go with the flow of intellectuals, they make a high pressure on regime, and regime approves/allows more democratic candidates/movements. When the people are misguided by someone like Ahmadinejad, the regime gets more hardliner for it already has all the support it needs. (Keep in mind that this regime would do any necessary compromise to keep itself on power. I’ll write something about this issue and post it in mideastyouth, as soon as possible. This is a fact, though sometimes westerners may have every reason to fail to understand it).
That is a kind of Quasi-Democracy, isn’t it?

September 18, 2007

Is it Immoral?

Jahanshah Rashidian, posted something new in Mideastyouth. The main idea of his new post is this:
  • German-Iranian Trade is immoral: Because of totalitarian character of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), trade with it, apart from foods and medical goods, is immoral. it helps the regime to survive and to further tighten its noose round people’s necks.
Here is my comment to this idea:
  • As long as you don’t define “morality” properly, this whole debate is flawed.
    Need any example of this Flaw? Clarify your position on China: the people of China are so politically oppressed due to many reports, and many of their basic human rights are denied. But the country is so developing, and many believe that if it were not for the sake of this (oppressing) regime, people would be in a very bad situation. Suppose that a democratically elected regime could never achieve such progress: Now, is it moral to (for example) topple Chinese Government?
    I think this is not so easy to answer. Apply the case to IRI regime. If this regime were successful in economy (which has not been), was it moral to topple the regime?
What do you think?

September 7, 2007

FBI and Usama Bin Laden

Though I try not to use 'copy & paste' as a method to fill the blog, the following comment of RandallJones (posted in Mideastyouth) is worthy of reading:
Are you aware that the FBI’s webpage on Osama Ben Laden does not mention 9/11? See: Bin Ladan's page on official site of FBI. Why wouldn’t an attack which killed 3,000 people be specifically mentioned? Journalist Ed Haas’ investigates this,

On June 5, 2006, the Muckraker Report contacted the FBI Headquarters, (202)324-3000, to learn why Bin Laden’s Most Wanted poster did not indicate that Usama was also wanted in connection with 9/11. The Muckraker Report spoke with Rex Tomb, Chief of Investigative Publicity for the FBI. When asked why there is no mention of 9/11 on Bin Laden’s Most Wanted web page, Tomb said, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.”

September 5, 2007

Divine Will (II)

A very busy week I had, sorry for delay. Let’s go a bit further with the current point.
Lord is a believer in “an omnipotent God” who “can do whatever acts he desires”, but unfortunately it is not likely to solve the problem. Remember the main point which fueled our whole debate: existence of different, inconsistent and even contradictory understandings of that Divine Will. How can we justify such a thing? Lord gives his own view: “God did his best to tell us his Divine Will, and if there are different views and understanding, he wanted so.” Then, the main point is left untouched; Hurray!
Let me paraphrase the case: Indeed, I was aimed to find a reference authenticated by God as the original understanding of His Divine Will. Here, Lord proposes another alternative: if there are different views and understandings, it is possible that God wanted it so.
Therefore, with regards to the fact that God sent us his messengers and revealed many verses in order to make a religious structure for our lives, first of all we should find out if God prescribes a sole definite code for our lives, or just gives us some clues and then wants us to act based on our understanding of that clues which may make many different or even contradictory structures? In other words, there are two possible maps:
(I) There is a precise Code which God and Religion means it and we should try to find it, though some times we may misunderstand it (if this misunderstanding happens while we do our best to find out that Divine Will, God may forgive us); and God's code includes instructions for every simple task of human's life, i.e., in any certain time and place, God has a Will which is Unique and we have to find it.
(II) God has ordered some principles on which we should build our understanding, and from which we should try to derive a kind of Code, and different people may conclude differently, i.e. God has not (meant) a Unique Determined Code.
A simple example may show the difference between above maps more precisely: somebody concludes that right now, ‘A’ (an act, behavior, etc.) is allowed, while the other finds it forbidden. Map (I) tells us that not both of them are true, for God’s code is unique and covers all aspects of human's life: one of them is true, and the other is wrong. Map (II) tells us that it is possible that both of them are true at the same time, on the basis that God has probably not determined a definite Code for A and has left it for people to decide which is true themselves. You know the idea behind ‘Straights Paths’ of Dr. Soroush which is somehow based upon this ideology.
Let me clarify the stand of advocates of Map (II) a bit more: they say that God has a determined code for just few things like Prayers, Fast, etc. In other areas (especially when it comes to some features of contemporary life like economy, geography, etc.), God has left it to the Wisdom of Crowd. People should make trial and errors and step by step develop their own systems of life.
Dear Lord!
In either case, almost all scholars do agree that an ordinary person is not able to find out the path, for he/she first of all should think of all such matters and then decide about them. The only things that Quran has for everybody (and there is no need for an interpreter to find out them), is prescribed principles of Islam, things of this kind:
1- There is a God, who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and unique.
2- There will be a day of doom, the last day, Day of Judgment.

Good Luck

August 27, 2007

Sun vs. Earth

(This post doesn’t have anything to do with politics)
A famous belief states that ‘Earth revolves around the Sun’. It also stresses that the other statement (‘Earth revolves around the Sun’) is totally false.
Something is wrong with the above belief, I think. Suppose that Earth revolves around Sun, and suppose that Sun is observing the movement of Earth (and probably enjoys it). This observer (Sun) will find the Earth moving in a path similar to this diagram (E=Earth, S=Sun):

Earth starts its journey from point 8, after 1/8 of year is in the point 1, after 2/8 is in the point 2 … and at the end of the year (8/8 of year) Earth is again in point 8. One year finished.
Pay attention: in point 1, S finds E at west; in point 2, S finds E at northern west; etc.


Now, let’s watch the whole process form E’s point of view: in point 1, E finds S at east; in point 2, E finds S at southern east; etc.
If we want to make another diagram from E’s point of view, it would be something like this:

It seems that if an observer is located in Earth, it will find Sun revolving around the Earth. On the other hand, if the observer is located in Sun, it will find Earth revolving around Sun. Therefore one may conclude that the famous story of ‘E revolves around S is true, S revolves around R is false' is true only when we consider other planets which revolve around the Sun, not Earth.


Gotta my point? Is there any problem with above justification?

August 23, 2007

Divine Will (intro)

Note: Since our debate about Islam’s position on Jews led to a much broader discussion about Quran itself, this post is named ‘Divine Will (intro)’ to cover the very basis of our later arguments. This post works just as an intro to the subject, and gives some hints on our next posts.


I hope you have read Lord’s new post. Ideas he has developed in his new argument open the door to a very broad discussion about Quran, about which there is an extensive body of different views within Islamic scholars and various schools of thoughts.

Also Fariborz contributed to that post of Lord, though his commentswere taken word by word from a Sunni site. However, those comments also matter.

Let me ask few questions to clarify what subjects are in the root of all the different views about Quran. Read the following questions, contemplate them, and try to find your own answer to them, whether as a Muslim, or just as a believer in God, or as a nonbeliever. Also it should be noted that these arguments, with few modifications, would apply to all holy scriptures, whether Quran, Testaments, or else.

1- When God tried to reveal those verses to Muhammad, there was a Divine Will, but was that will in the form of a human language? How did Muhammad understand that Divine Will? As you well know, while translating a text from source to target language, very often it happens that the will of original author gets lost. Is the process of revelation immune to such failures?

2- Let’s suppose that God revealed some words, and He meant exactly what those words meant. Here another problem arises: Whose understanding of those words is closer to that Divine Will? Indeed you agree that the same words, particularly the words similar to Quran verses (which are full of metaphors, etc.), may mean differently to different people. Even if we suppose that the people of then Arabia must be our reference in this case, did they all have the same understanding of those words? The same problem, again.

3- Is today's Quran equal to the Quran revealed to Muhammad? Indeed there are different versions of Quran, called Qera’at (which means: readings); but some Muslim scholars believe that these differences, believed to be caused by different dialects of the Arabs, are so insignificant that don’t show any difference in the whole meaning of disputed verses. Another point is that some people doubt the way that Quran was gathered and claim that there is a possibility of flaws in that process.

4- Suppose that we solve all the above questions, and finally establish an original understanding of The Divine Will with very simple statements which may mean just in one way to all the people. The next problem rises when we ask of the role of ‘Reason’ in applying those rules to the contemporary society. Indeed this is not a new story of 20th century. Roots of such debates back to few centuries after Holy Prophet’s death (Footnote 1). I have too many things to say about this 4th subject, but leave them all for future.

hope that this intro was useful.

Good Luck

Footnote 1: Let me refer you a simple story of history which helps you get the point better, and leave rest of the matter for later posts. As you well know, Asharite used to believe that reason is incapable of discovering the will of God when this will is not strictly and frankly given to us; and they had some followers in between Shiite. It is said that one of the Shiite Imams wrote on the coffin of his deceased son: “Ismael, rest in God” (Ismael was his son’s name), and an Asharite follower of that Imam, wrote “Ismael, rest in God” on the coffin of his own deceased son, though his son’s name was Muhammad, not Ismael. This was because they did not identify any role for reason in understanding the Will of God.(Note that for Shiite, 12 Imams are supposed to be infallible like the Holy Prophet himself, and their deeds and words provide a source for Shiite Jurisprudence.)

August 20, 2007

Quran and Jews (II)

As our discussion about Ethics ended unexpectedly, we started a new route concerning the position of Islam and Quran on Jews. It started with Lord's reference to a verse of Quran which states that the worst enemies of Islam & Muslims are Jews. I gave an explanation of that verse, based on some interpreters' ideas. In his recent post, Lord posed several questions which may be formed into 2 main arguments: one concerns the very basis of interpretation of Quran; and the other asks of my own attitude towards Jews & Zionism, which he finds contradictory.


Let me begin with second problem, which seems much easier to answer. 3 simple principles may describe my view in details:
a) Not every anti-Zionist person/movement is necessarily anti-Semitic.
b) Still, anti-Semitism is in the root of some anti-Zionist movements.
c) I think that Quran seems to be against political movements of radical Jews, not against Judaism itself.


Now, let's consider the case of interpretation of Quran. You are completely true when you say: “Quran is not just for interpreters, it’s for everyone, everywhere and every time.” But notice that:
1) This Book was revealed in the context of time and a 25-years-history.
2) The language used in Quran is somehow mysterious, full of metaphors, etc.
3) Quran does not give a detailed explanation of its content, and Tradition (Word and Deed of Holy Prophet) is a proper mean to understand the exact meaning of some verses, in addition to the fact that even the details of some important practices of Islam (like daily prayers) is not given in Quran.
This way, interpretation is sometimes a mean to get the meaning of the verse, not sub-layers of its content.
Lat me clarify this position (behind which there is an important philosophy) a bit more: Some of the Muslim scholars believe that when we open Quran and read it, we should pay attention to the fact that this Book was revealed 14 centuries ago to the people of then Arabia, and every word/phrase of this Book had a special meaning to them. We have to understand ‘that’ meaning, not the contemporary meaning of a word/phrase. 2 factors are important here:
* The meaning of a word/phrase itself: As you well know, a special Term or Word in for example Persian may mean differently to people who live in different cities. You may dig the history of Persian Literature and find that there are many words which their meanings were somehow different in the Iran of 100 years ago. The same applies to other languages. Then, Language evolves throughout history, and words may get different meanings during a period of about 14 centuries.
* The socio-political context of the verse: Suppose that we are watching news, and it states that “2 criminals executed in Iran.” Then I say: “Thugs!” You may know from the previous chats we had that I am a fanatic fan of the current regime, then, ‘thugs’ refer to the executed criminals. On the other hand, you may know that I am strongly against the current regime, and I think that they execute opposition leaders under the name of ‘criminals’, then you know that my word refers to the leaders of IRI, not to those executed. This example shows what I mean by ‘socio-political context’.
This way, an interpreter’s role is sometimes to tell us what a word had meant to the audience of Muhammad (PBUH). One interpreter says that Yahud & Sons of Israel had completely different meanings to those people. If this idea is true, we should consider it.
I hope that this post helps you get my point better.
Good Luck

Religion and Civilisation

This post may be assumed as a complementary to the previous post. This new one, suggests a new idea about the interact of Religion & Society in the way towards Civilisation.
My main audience are possibly those who state that Religion is the sole cause of every single problem in the society.
The more I contemplate the society in which I live now, the more I understand that (for most of the people) religion is just a name attributed to a system of values prefered by them. I mean, in a semi-free society, people do modify the religion and make new traditions out of it in accordance with their own needs and preferences; and one may trace such a process throughout history. Even Islamic Scholars (whether Mufti or Ayatollah) sometimes contribute to this process, either delibarately or undelibarately.
this whole story convinces me to accept that if there is any problem in the society right now, its primary cause is the people who either didn't recognize their own problem or didn't try to solve it through modifying the religion (by making new traditions, not changing the whole religion).
there may be an important objection to the above argument: that the religion may be intolerant of modification. probably true, but this is not what I see in my society's history (espicially its recent one). yes, Islam would never accept giving up on daily prayers, but prayers or fasting are not something which could be considered as 'the sole cause of every single problem'.
I put forward just an example, which convinces me that Islam may be compatible with every good thing you may imagine in an enlightened age: There are very pious, and at the same time very tolerant (with regards to international norms) people around me. they are so good examples to show that being intolerant of others is not a problem with the religion itelf, but a problem of those who practice it.
the same analysis may be applied to other problems: not seeking scientific profress, not refering each problem to expert of the related field, etc.
(Good News: some intellectuals are trying to provide Islamic basis for tolerance... yeah, they are working hard here in Iran, and I'm sure that they will win! and their win, will be the first round of a series of changes, God Willing!)
In addition, as you well know, there are many benefits with keeping a Religion, which I leave it's debate for later.
Good Luck Again

August 18, 2007

Scientific Fundamentalists

Fariborz (an author in Mideastyouth), who is used to getting mad by watching 1 pic or 2 movies (sample 1, sample 2, sample 3, sample 4, sample 5, more coming soon!) and then stating some propositions which sometimes most professional scholars of the filed hesitate to admit, posted another story of his craziness. This new story is called “religion is the enemy of civilization”.
For those who have not read & are not eager to read Fariborz’ post: there is an old question in the core of his argument: “What percentage of current world religion’s adherents have thought about their religious symbols like God, prophets, books and so on? let me tell you, for most of them even thinking about this topic is taboo!”.
In a comment to that post, somebody called Yaman had written: “… Really, this is quite stupid…I am an atheist myself, but I have not made a religion out of it. Apparently you have.”
Umm, excellent! Does it seem mysterious to you? Read the following article to find out how an ‘Intellectual View’ (like what Fariborz claims to have/seek) may turn into a new 'Fundamentalist Religion':
“Scientific Fundamentalists” by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Part 1, Part 2.
Good Luck ;)

August 10, 2007

Quran and Jews

[O, Messenger!]Verily you will find the Jews and the pagans the strongest among mankind in enmity to the believers; and you will find that the closest to the believers in friendship are those who say: “we are Nasara [Christians].” That is because among them are learned priests and devoted monks and they are not arrogant [against the truth].
Quran, 5-82
My friend mentioned the above verse in his weblog and asked of others’ idea that why God revealed such verses against Jews. Here is my explanation.
Once Islam appeared, Mohammad’s position was strong enough (due to his grand father’s and uncle’s support, who were prominent figures in Mecca) to keep him away from the persecution by pagans, but his followers suffered a lot in the first 10 years of his career, when he was in Mecca.
As you well know, since the very beginning of its advent, Islam recognized followers of 3 religions as ‘the people of the book’, who were Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians (there was no Zoroastrian in then Arabia). These people had the right to still practice their faith, but after Muhammad immigrated to Medina and established a Muslim Rule, ‘People of the Book’ were supposed to pay a tax called ‘Jezyeh’.
In that time, Muhammad signed several peace agreements with other tribes who didn’t convert to Islam, asked them not to help pagans in war against Islam and on the hand undertook to protect their rights.
Indeed, Muslims rarely had any problem with Christians, for they (due to their principles and faith, which is known for being kind and tolerant, and also for their religious leaders, who are known for leaving joys of the world and just paying attention to God) were not used to get involved in ruling.
But Jews were else. In one of the most important wars of Pagans against Muhammad (called ‘Trench War’, for a trench around the city of Medina helped Muslims get rid off the great army of enemies), it was a Jewish tribe who provoked Pagans to begin war; and while Medina and Muslims were surrounded by the army of Pagans, another Jewish tribe (one of those tribes who were living inside Medina and signed a peace agreement with Muslims) betrayed Muslims and started a civil war. Actually one may trace the conspiracies of some Jews against Muhammad and Islam, back to the time when Muhammad was in Mecca and Islam was just a newborn.
Keep the above history lessons in mind, and let me refer you to a quote by an interpreter of Quran, who said once that: “Quran has 2 words for those who follow Moses: one is Yahud and the other is Sons of Israel (both of them equal to Jews). Whenever Quran uses the latter it means Jews in a general sense, but when it uses the former it means a special group of Jews, a group who are seeking for political and ruling power and even in some cases are not obedient to their own prophets”.
In this sense, according to the fact that Muslims had few problems (if any) with individual Jews who were living in the Muslim society, and the other fact that the only People of Book which made problems for Islam was Jews, one may conclude that what that verse is saying, and what Quran is dissatisfied of, is the Political Jewish Movements, not Jews themselves.

August 1, 2007

12 Iranian Thugs Executed - an unfair report

There was a post in Mideastyouth about some executed thugs in Iran. Indeed, a very one sided report of the event it was. Here is another report of the whole thing. Which report is more accurate? Probably none! Here you can see a different view, and finally, choice is yours. Note that I’m not here to support executing of them, but that post depicted the event as “executing some people whose punishment was much excessive, not comparable to their crimes” which was far away from the truth.

Since few months ago, IR Police (NAJA) enforced a series of missions, which were first known as ‘Hijab Crackdown’, but it was not limited to Hijab issue.

Another phase of those missions was dedicated to capturing some local criminals. Everybody who has an experience of living in some certain districts in large (or even small) cities of Iran, for sure has heard of (or even encountered -god forbid) these Local Criminals, called ‘Lat’. its enough to know that some of those executed ones, most of them Lat, had up to 10 rapes in their rich files, in addition to theft, beating, threatening, etc.

Note that these local criminals don’t work as single ones, but work as a local group. There is a very well designed hierarchical system in each group: a leader called ‘Gonde Lat’ (Major Lat) at the top, and many minor Lat who follow the orders of the leader. The final aim of each minor is to become a major and form his own group. Minors and Majors usually carry very big knives called Qameh with themselves, and do not hesitate to attack others if they can/please.

Many young boys and girls were raped by these groups, and the victim or his/her family did not dare to report the case to the police, for the group threatened them to do worse to them.

Therefore, it is very unfair to label them as “socially and economically marginalized people who are mostly derived from poor classes and confront all unfair aspects of the society”, for these words obscure the truth. I think that capital punishment was a fair penalty for some of them, even if they were brought to court in for example US in front of a jury.

The other uneven statement in that post was this: “Even if these executed 12 Iranians were thugs, they are the products of the 29 year policies of the Islamic regime.” Such criminals, either as single doers or as groups, are not special to Iran. In addition, one may study the development and historical roots of such groups and find out that they existed even too many years before the establishment of IR.

If one is devoted to opposing IR, its better to avoid telling lies or ignoring facts on the ground: this is the very same mistake that IR propaganda system does when it comes to oppose US, Israel or anything else.

I think if the writer were eager to oppose those executions, he would better take the position of Abazari (a famous Iranian sociologist, assistant professor in Tehran University) who didn’t deny the fact that executed ones were really criminals, but opposed such crackdowns for “these kinds of reactions wont solve the social causes which made these criminals. many countries have had the same experience: after such activities, the very social patterns under which these criminals came to existence will not disappear, therefore these kinds of criminals will be reproduced, and as a consequence of these crackdowns, criminals in their next advent will turn from single-cells/groups to networks-of-criminals, called Mafia. In that case, Police won’t be able to do a thing to them.” (from his statements in a seminar in Tehran university).

Abazari added an example of our own country: “many years ago, such crackdowns were used against prostitution. after a while, prostitutes (due to demand and supply rule) got reproduced, formed networks, and now you may even find some underground agencies in Tehran which provide girls for their customers by a single phone call, while Police is not able to do anything because these networks have become so strong.”

July 28, 2007

Ethics - 1st Approach - Part A

A friend, who seems to have had a good grasp of philosophy (at least as a student), posted something about Nietzsche and Plato, and the way they think of morality in the society, so to speak, "Priority of Nobles over Slaves". I asked him why and how he got convinced of such a thing, and he posted some explanation of the idea.
For the last 2 days, I was thinking of a new idea to write about. Um.... how is a simple discussion about the above subject? this post, and probably few later posts, will be dedicated to this matter. then, if you are eager to follow the debate, read his 2 posts before you continue: his 1st post, his 2nd post.
As you (and I) well know, too many philosophers and intellectuals have discussed such matters throughout history, and a very extensive body of science does exist about such debates. Here, I just want to forget every other possible resource which may help me oppose my friend, and give my mind a workout!
I think that one may criticize your idea in 3 ways:
1- Behavioral approach: there are differences between humans and animals, with regards to their behaviors. Such differences make it necessary for them to have different order and rules in their societies.
2- Causal approach: why such moralities did happen to exist? How were they created? Was it just the claim of slaves, or even nobles might have some benefits in such a moral system? This may give us another hint. Yeah, throughout history, strong and weak people came to understand that they should agree on some rules for the society, because this trade-off would make more opportunities for each one.
3- Historical approach: this method may be somehow similar to what I propose in 2nd approach, but I prefer to pay a special attention to it. Suppose that right now, we remove any morality from the earth, and let each man/woman do what he/she can/please. Again, after a while, rationality of human kinds will lead them to agree on some basis/rules for the society, which can be called a Moral System.
Within those 3 approaches, I think the 3rd one is the strongest. But, in this post, I will follow the 1st approach, and just half of it: to show what those differences are.
Let me begin with the very basis of your claim: "the law of nature". If we suppose that the Mother Nature is the sole source of inspiration, then one might ask why you do follow its rules just every other time? I mean, why do you get inspired by Mother Nature just when you find these natural rules conforming to your pre-determined theories, and leave them when they come to oppose your idea?

Do you want any example to show this flaw in your debate? Here is my example:

Deers would never ask Lions to follow 'Animal Rights'. Lions, when feeling hungry, go and kill one or more deers and, yeah, devour their flesh in a family party. On the other hand, you can hardly find a normal Lion which kills Deers just for it feels more powerful. You know, when Lions are full, they and Deers may go to the same lake/spring to drink water. I remember from those "Wild Life Shows" that in this case, Deers may even get close to Lions, for they know that just hungry Lions would attack them.

you may come with this idea that Lions don’t root Deers out, for they want Deers to still stay on the earth, reproduce, and provide Lions and their next generations with enough food.

Here I pose my main argument: Humans behave in a very different way than Animal. Many things and acts they (humans) do, just never would enter the mind of an Animal. For example, in Human's history, we can find too many events to show that when a man feels powerful, he may kill too many others just for his joy.

There are other things, which we can never find even one of them within animals: very often we see wealthy people who enjoy seeing poor sweating for just a piece of bread, and make it harder for them to get that piece of bread just to enjoy more.

Consider the rate of Suicides in every society. Is it something Normal & Natural, in accordance with the laws of Mother Nature? Do you know any other species in the earth which commits suicide when it comes to feel highly depressed? What causes some people to commit suicide? Isn’t it sometimes the behavior of more powerful people?

If you think that my clarification of the differences between humans and other species (I mean: in their behaviors) is still foggy, let me know, and I will try to make a better explanation, with more examples and evidences.

But if you approve of these differences, I will go a step further and try to say why such differences make me to believe that there should be differences between them in the context of social order and rules.

My semi-final-conclusion:
If People are naturally different from Animals (which I think it is so), then the rules governing each one's society should be different.

July 23, 2007

Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Zionism

As you well know, there is not a good attitude to Israel within Muslim societies. Here I don’t want to enter this debate, explore the roots of the problem or propose any solution; but I want to focus my attention on something which came to me as a surprise.

I used to believe that all of those Muslim analysts, who oppose Zionism, don’t offend Jews as a whole (i.e. are not anti-Semitic). Now I'm not that sure of this idea. You may want to know why; if so, follow this post.

Since about 7 years ago, by the beginning of my university studies, I was obsessed with Mideast conflict. Reading the articles and analysis of both sides (if we assume that there are only two sides in this conflict, which may be rather simplistic) and following the news, was part of my routine program. You know, there are too many groups in Iran (mostly, if not wholly, related to hardliners) which are bonded to this subject, and I have attended some of their seminars, meetings and workshops.

As said above, most of the anti-Zionist analysts (either in Iran or else) claim that they respect Jews, but the only thing they can never stand is Zionism. Yeah, it may be possible in theory, for we see even some Jews (some orthodox ones) who oppose Zionism. (Again, this is not my aim to judge if they are sincere, if such a thing is rational, etc).

Meeting some of these so-called Iranian anti-Zionist analysts helped me get a better grasp of their actual beliefs. Yeah, one may refuse to state his innermost feelings and thoughts in a public seminar, for reports and reporters may make many problems. Then when you get into the depth of his mind, you may find something completely different from what gets out of his mouth. Without referring to any special figure or case (for it may make problems), now I think that anti-Semitism is in the root of some of these anti-Zionism movements.

How can we find such an argument in their statements? It's not that complicated. Though they first claim that 'respectable Jews also do exist' and divide Jews as being 'bad' or 'good' (a completely black and white view indeed), after a while they (either implicitly or explicitly) state that 'if a Jew is a True Jew, he/she is bad'. Believe it or not, I saw some of them who even try to find a historical pattern of conspiracy done by (true) Jews to eliminate Islam. This kind of conspiracy theory is what I call anti-Semitism.