Yeki-bood, yeki-nabood. Once upon a time, Hooman Majd starts theThe Ayatollah Begs to Differ with this universal phrase: Once upon a time. This book however is far from Iranian fiction, and even further from being a fairytale. It is very much a real story of one man’s travel back to his home country. However,compared to the figment of the Iran we see from the US, perhaps this story of Hooman’s travels in Iran will seem like a fantasy to us. Yeki-bood, yeki-nabood…A paradox of Shia Iran.
Majd has the ability most writers interested in Iran do not have: The ins, and the outs. Being the son of an Iranian Diplomat, and the Grandson of an Ayatollah he is able to tell us things he learned from inside the Iranian government, as well as what he learned from outside the government as an everyday Iranian. Majd was able to sit on the same seat as the notorious David Duke once sat on in the Deputy of Foreign Minister for Research and Education, Manouchehr Mohamammadi’s office. When asked about Iran’s foreign policy with the US, Dr. Mohammadi had this to say:
“We are interested not in compromise but in coexistance”.
Although he manages to discredit himself with his vulgar Holocaust conspiracy theories later on in the interview, I believe this one signifant quote is very–realistic.
What exactly would a relationship between Iran and the US look like? Like US and Egypt relations? In which the US economically assists Egypt during the Bush Sr. and Junior eras, and thus weakens the Egypt-Palestine relations while also simultaneously improving Israel-Egypt relations? Or to say it simply, making Egypt another puppet under the US government?
Or perhaps a compromise would be this: End any nuclear activity (if such exists) and we’ll stop talking shit about your country.
Not much of a compromise there. A compromise with the US would weaken what is considered the most powerful country in the Middle East, leaving Israel to hold the title. Iran doesn’t have much to gain with a compromise. A better question to ask would be, what’s wrong with Iran being the most powerful country in the Middle East? Do we not prefer a country run by Ayatollahs as opposed to Taliban, non-imperializing, with one of the lowest poverty (In the Mid-East) rates, with modern people to be the most powerful country in the Middle East?
That’s not to say, that Iran is one of the most uninfluenced countries by foreign policy. Unlike Egypt and Lebanon, Iran has been one of the only countries to voice their support for the Palestinian resistance. Most Americans will argue that Iran poses a threat to Israel. Well, it does. Israel, however poses more of a threat to Iran with its US alliance. Ahmedinejad may seem deevuneh or crazy to most people, but this Tehran university grad shouldn’t be mistaken for Bush Jr. No powerful country in their right mind would attack Israel, who is believed to have over 150 warheads backed by the all-nuclear-mighty US. (Iran is not even on the top 5 most nuclear weapon states)
Now, a coexistance seems much more feasable. “Let’s agree to disagree”. That’s that. The saying, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” was coined by the US afterall.
What makes Iranians different is their ability to walk out of a Mosque and head straight to harem gatherings. Much of Majd’s travels take place in the religious capital, Qom. It’s here that Majd is able to casually smoke opium with an Iranian family, and watch a march for the 4th Imam directly afterward. You could say that Iran has a nightlife. Majd must have been a pretty popular guy, beacuse he was invited to many prominent parties held by the richest of the richest, where the government looked the other way, with booze, alcohal and well, a typical American millionaire’s party but with kebabs. Albeit, there still is escargo.
The parties are basically very secular. However, Majd’s friend, a reformist cleric, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Taghi Fazel-Meybodi argues that, that is exactly what Iran is becoming—secular.
“Secularism? Iran is already becoming secular–it’s basically secular–all that’s left is the hijab! It’s dangerous for religion to be imposed. It’s worse for the religion.”
And a proof of that secularism are the recent demonstrations in Iran.
Yeki-bood, yeki-nabood. Majd started the book saying that he felt very nationalistic of Iran, and he wasn’t sure why. His Iranian Jewish friend couldn’t explain it either. Neither can the secular American Iranians in San Francisco shouting, “Allah Hu Akbar!” in protest. I don’t even understand why I am so nationalistic either. I wasn’t raised there, and neither was Majd. Perhaps its in our blood. This Persian social solidarity that we’ve adopted. We’ve all seen Neda’s death, and it saddens us the way the death of MLK sadden the African Americans. 252 pages later, Majd still cannot explain the biggest paradox of Iran, “The Persian Sensibility”. This is what every Iranian around the world shares with each other, and it is with this, what has kept Iran (or Persia) standing since 625 BCE. Iran will never be westernized because of Persian sensibility. This culture of wanting to reveal the chador, drink, socialize, protest against the government while still being a devout Shia Muslim is not Western modernization. It is entirely, 100% Iranian. The only thing–Or person, that begs to differ is the Ayatollah himself. Just as the US waited 8 years for reform, reform is being bridled within the Iranians too–Now, there’s only 4 more years to go.