iran to execute bloggers

Nikahang, a leading cartoonist and blogger, published another cartoon in which Ali Larijani, 2008 parliament speaker, is “executing a blogger.”

Nikahang, a leading cartoonist and blogger, published another cartoon in which Ali Larijani, 2008 parliament speaker, is “executing a blogger.”

Look out bloggers, Iran is coming for you. Iran is rounding up and arresting journalists and bloggers, and scheduling them for execution in the run up to their March elections. (See the State Dept. press statement here.)

Free speech is a beautiful thing, and men and women have fought and died to protect it. Making observations and comments (legally, that is, without criminally impersonating, forging, harassing, libeling, physically threatening, etc., others ) is fundamental to a free society. Likewise, dissent, free thought, and the discussion of various ideas must be maintained and ensured by our laws.

While many of us blog against religious fundamentalism, fanaticism, and the physical, psychological, and social oppression of others, there are many around the world who risk their lives daily by doing so. May those blogging and reporting in places around the world where they risk imprisonment and death for simply speaking the truth have the courage to carry on, and may we have the courage to support them.

the ‘iranian influence on judaism’ at bible and interpretation

There is an excellent article by Jason M. Silverman (Trinity College Dublin) entitled “Iranian influence on Judaism” at Bible and Interpretation.

It’s a topic of great interest to me, and I’m assigning it as immediate reading to my Mythology of Otherworldly Journeys class here at the University of Iowa, where we are presently discussing potential Zoroastrian influences on Jewish and Christian conceptions of the afterlife. The article (and forthcoming book) will be great resources for the study of Second Temple Judaism.

At one point, Silverman discusses the problem within Biblical Studies of quantifying one culture’s “influence” upon another, especially when the former culture favors oral means of communication:

It is perhaps not surprising in a field centered on the study of a collection of written texts (the Bible) that researchers sometimes assume that all ideas that appear in that collection come from other texts. This assumption can lead to real interpretative difficulties, but it also ignores the many ways in which humans communicate and share concepts. The realm of spoken communication is very important for Iranian influence on Judaism (as it is for the origins of the Hebrew Bible).

When investigating influence, one needs to take into account the ways ideas travel in a world run primarily through spoken language. The search for quotations and direct borrowings from other texts has dominated past research. The direct use of earlier texts—while important—is not the only nor even the most important way in which ideas could be transmitted between peoples and even authors. More nuanced ways of looking for influence are needed. The key, as noted above, is to look for interpretive changes in texts. Once these are identified, one can ask whether or not said changes relate to the cultural milieu of the time, one of which was the Achaemenid Empire.

And Silverman hits the nail on the head when he argues that influence may take the form of adoption, reinterpretation, or rejection of and apologies against another culture’s religious conception:

It bears repeating that the kinds of influence will vary in different instances. In some cases, Iranian texts may have been borrowed and adapted for new Judaean texts. In other cases, existing Judaean concepts may have been reinterpreted in line with Iranian ideas. In still others, Iranian ideas may have been rejected and argued against, perhaps being inverted as a rhetorical strategy. Further, there remains the possibility that biblical texts became re-interpreted after they were written by Jewish and Christian communities, using ideas ultimately derived from Iran.

Do head over to Bible and Interpretation and read the article.

Sad News: The Passing of Dr. Hossein Ziai

Dr. Hossein Ziai, Professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies, Inaugural holder of the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies, and Director of Iranian Studies at UCLA

Dr. Hossein Ziai, Professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies, Inaugural holder of the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies, and Director of Iranian Studies at UCLA

Sad news from the UCLA Iranian Student Group:

We regret to inform the friends, family, students and colleagues of Dr. Hossein Ziai of his passing on August 24, 2011.

Dr. Ziai was professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies, Inaugural holder of the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies and the director of Iranian Studies at UCLA, where he had taught since 1988.

He received his Ph.D. in Islamic Philosophy from Harvard University in 1976.

Prior to his position at UCLA, Dr. Ziai taught at Tehran University, Sharif University, Harvard University, Brown University, and Oberlin College.

Dr. Ziai’s numerous publications cover Islamic philosophy, the Iranian Illuminationist School of philosophy and “Persian Poetic Wisdom” defined in relation to the epistemology of knowledge by presence.

Dr. Ziai is survived by his wife Mahasti, his son Dadali, his daughter-in-law Stephanie and his grand-daughters Malia and Acacia.

An important member of the Iranian community has passed away, and ISG extends our condolences to anyone who has been touched by him and his wisdom.

ISG

UCLA Iranian Student Group

You can read more about Professor Ziai at his website.

You will be missed, Professor Ziai.

three thoughts on egypt for 2/11/11

 

2-11-11 - Egyptian Democracy Day (image by Dr. Robert R. Cargill)

2-11-11 - Egyptian Democracy Day (image by Dr. Robert R. Cargill)

Here are three thoughts on Egypt for 2/11/11, the day Hosni Mubarak resigned the presidency:

  1. 2/11 did what 9/11 couldn’t: it showed that nonviolent Arab dissent can defeat what militant Arab dissent desired: a nation ruled by autocratic force.
  2. 2/11 used to be Islamic Revolution Day in Iran (here and here and here), establishing the present Islamic regime in Iran.
    Today, 2/11 becomes Democracy Day in Egypt.
  3. Less than two months ago, Egyptian Coptic Christians were massacred in a New Year’s mass in Alexandria (here and here and here). Today, the Egyptian President, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, is gone. It was only when the people of Egypt – both Muslim and Christian together – rallied in a secular, nonviolent protest, that the people of Egypt united as one to take back control of their country.

Follow the celebration at UCLA’s Hypercities Egypt Digital Humanities project.

a note on dispute resolution within the church

There are three steps recommended in Matthew 18 to resolve a dispute within an organization, in this case the church. (See the note below regarding the difference between dispute resolution within an organizational/church setting vs. those outside of an organization.)

Matt. 18:15: “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.

Matt. 18:16: But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Matt. 18:17: If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Guardian Council

Members of the Guardian Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran discussing matters.

When involved in an internal dispute, first go directly to the person and try to resolve the issue. Do not gossip. Do not go to someone else. Do not whine in an advisory committee. Do not scheme to rally opposition against the person with whom you have a problem. Do not use your friendships with others to deprecate the reputation of your perceived opponent. Go directly to the person, act like a mature adult, and attempt to resolve the issue. If there is distance between you, call them. Email them. If you can, meet with them in person. Communicate your issue like an adult. Don’t talk to everyone but the one with whom you have an issue.

If the dispute is not resolved, take a few others with you to the person and attempt to resolve the dispute. Note that it does not say go to meet with others about the person, or convene a meeting in the absence of the other person, but in the presence of all parties at the same time. Let the differences be resolved together as one body.

If there is still no resolution and the dispute remains, take it to the entire church, again, in the presence of the person in question.

Note that in all three steps, the person under discussion is present to offer a defense of his/herself, to offer his/her opinion on the matter, or to offer an explanation. At no time in the process does a group meet in closed, private session without the person in dispute in the presence of the group. Meeting in the absence of the person in dispute is nothing more than collective gossip; those meeting about another person are not following the biblical precedent, but are participating in corporate gossip about another individual.

If an issue is not important enough to bring directly to the person in question, or if the one raising the issue is too much of a gossiping coward to approach the one with whom he or she has an issue, then the matter is not worthy of discussion; any other process is wholly unbiblical. Additionally, any eldership or church leadership that invites such behavior and meets with a known gossip in the absence of the person against whom a dispute is raised, and without attempting the three prescribed remedies laid out in Matthew 18, invites, participates in, and openly endorses a corporate form of gossip, which is not only unbiblical, but undermines the credibility of the pusillanimous leadership’s authority in the resolution process.

Authority and credibility are always enhanced by transparency and open communication, and are conversely diminished by secrecy and gossip.

Any church leadership that participates in or endorses – tacitly or explicitly – corporate gossip is worthy of consistent and scathing public condemnation and should expect as much.

“For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” – 2 Samuel 12:12

Happy New Year.


(N.B. – If someone is actively committing a crime against you, call the authorities. This is especially recommended if the person a) is not a part of your organization and therefore under no obligation to adhere to your organization’s established system of dispute resolution (in this case, the church; cf. v. 15 “if another member of the church…“), or b) expresses no interest in reconciling with you. Likewise, if a criminal offender has demonstrated that anything you write or say to him/her in private will be taken out of context and relayed publicly or potentially used against you in a court proceeding, then deal directly with the police or appropriate authorities. The point is that one should deal directly and honestly with those with whom one has a dispute within an organization with established reconciliation procedures. If the one with whom you have a dispute has exhausted any semblance of professional integrity, then further private communication will most likely prove futile, and may actually exacerbate the situation.)

maybe sharia law isn’t so bad: iran bans the mullet

Iran's authorized hairstylesAccording to CNN,

The Islamic regime, which strictly enforces head coverings for women, issued grooming guidelines for the guys this week.

And mullets didn’t make the cut.

Apparently, the favorite haircut of Billy Ray Cyrus circa 1992 is not allowed under Iran’s Sharia law. In fact, an entire host of famous mullets would be subject to disciplinary action. Iran even issued examples of suggested haircuts for today’s youth just to make thing easier.

When you think about it, Sharia law has at least one positive benefit. Too bad my high school didn’t enact similar grooming regulations in 1991. ;-)
The Mullet(ht: king lowry)

Flotilla the Hun: How Not To Do A Nonviolent, Humanitarian Protest

Gaza Flotilla AttackMuch has been made about the conflict (dubbed Operation Sky Winds) between the Israeli military and passengers aboard the MV Mavi Marmara (Blue Marmara), a Comoros-flagged passenger ship purchased in 2010 by the Islamic charity IHH. The conflict resulted in the deaths of 9 activists. The Turkish aid group, Insani Yardim Vakfi, whose full name is the İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri İnsani Yardım Vakfı, and in English is known as “The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief “or “Humanitarian Relief Foundation,” (commonly referred to as IHH), is a Turkish Islamic non-government organization active in more than one hundred countries, all over the world. The IHH owned and operated three of the six flotilla ships involved in the incident. Established in 1992, the IHH is registered in Istanbul, Turkey and provides humanitarian relief into areas of war, earthquake, hunger and conflict. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Danish Institute for International Studies, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center have all published reports alleging links between IHH and Hamas, al-Qaeda or other Islamist and Jihadist organizations, but Mark Hosenball of Newsweek has reported that the U.S. is questioning Israeli claims that the IHH has ties to terrorist organizations.

This recent episode is the latest in a series of protests drawing attention to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which many claim is a collective punishment of Gazan Palestinians for backing and electing the terrorist organization Hamas to lead their government. Israel says the naval blockade is necessary to keep arms and other military assets out of the hands of Hamas, whose prior provocations led to a full-blown War in Gaza dubbed “Operation Cast Lead” by the Israelis. Precedent does exist. In January 2009, the Israeli air force bombed a Sudanese caravan transporting arms to Hamas in Gaza from Iran. Seventeen trucks full of weapons were destroyed and 39 smugglers were killed in the attack. In February, 2009, Cypriot authorities detained an Iranian arms ship en route to Syria, loaded with ammunition and mortar shells. UN Resolutions 1737 (adopted by the Security Council in December 2006), 1747, and 1803 prohibit the export of weapons from Iran to any party.

The Blockade of Gaza has its roots in the aftermath of the 2007 Palestinian Civil War fought between the two major Palestinian political factions: Hamas and Fatah. The conflict resulted in the militant group Hamas ousting rival Fatah from the Gaza Strip. Fatah continued to rule in the West Bank while Hamas ruled in Gaza. In the wake of the Fatah-Hamas War, Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade of goods into and out of Gaza, allowing only for a limited amount of inspected humanitarian aid into Gaza. The blockade has continued to this day. Israel and Egypt’s rationale for the blockade of goods into Gaza was to prevent weapons – specifically materials needed to build rockets and mortars – from being moved into Gaza that could be used in rocket attacks against Israelis and Egyptians. To prevent another War in Gaza, which resulted from the Israeli response to Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade of goods into and out of Gaza, allowing only for inspected humanitarian aid to be brought into the city. Egypt has gone so far as to begin the construction of an underground steel barrier to prevent Palestinian smuggling tunnels from circumventing the blockade.

But, if there is a blockade of goods into Gaza, Hamas cannot rearm itself, meaning not only can it not fight the Israelis, but neither can it control its own Palestinian people, including Gazans loyal to the rival Palestinian political group Fatah, who are calling for the ouster of the failed Hamas government. Hamas wants its weapons, but the blockade makes this more difficult.

Of course, the problem with a military blockade of goods to Gaza is that Gazan Palestinians cannot get the goods they need to live normal lives. The constant conflicts – both Israeli-Palestinian and Palestinian-Palestinian (Fatah vs. Hamas) – have left the Gaza Strip in shambles. Buildings are destroyed, public services are lacking, government officials remain unpaid, and the people suffer. And while many of these people take up arms and blame Israel, many do not. Many Palestinians in Gaza don’t want Hamas or its violence. They are tired of war; they just want to be left alone to live their lives, get married, raise their children, own their businesses, and live normal lives. And there are many humanitarian organizations that are trying to help, but the Israeli blockade prevents much of this assistance from getting to Gaza.

So what is to be done? How does one advocate for social justice in a place where the people are governed by terrorists? The answer is a nonviolent, humanitarian protest. It brings attention to Israel’s blockade policy, and delivers much needed aid to Gazan Palestinians, without allowing arms into Gaza. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to do a nonviolent protest. Here’s a general rule of thumb:

If you’re going to participate in a nonviolent, humanitarian protest, it had better be both “humanitarian” and “nonviolent.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. did not attack the police officers who came to arrest him. Mahatma Gandhi did not beat the British soldiers who attempted to arrest him with metal pipes. The whole point of a nonviolent protest is to use your body in a peaceful protest to draw attention to a cause and to shame what the protester believes to be the offending party into rethinking and ultimately changing its policies. Reverend King’s nonviolent protests were instrumental in the American Civil Rights movement in the 60s. Gandhi’s protests helped bring about the departure of the British from India. Closer to my home in Fresno, César Chávez led nonviolent protests to bring attention to often invisible migrant farm laborers in the central San Joaquin Valley of California. Nonviolent, humanitarian protests must be just that: nonviolent and humanitarian.

Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie, an Evergreen State College student and peace activist was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting in Gaza. Visit http://www.rachelcorrie.org/.

This is the beauty of the nonviolent, humanitarian protest recently carried out on the Irish ship, the Rachel Corrie, sponsored by the Cyprus-based Free Gaza Movement, whose passengers set sail from Ireland toward Gaza. The ship is named after the American peace activist, Rachel Corrie, a student at Evergreen State College who was run over and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer as she acted as a human shield in protest over house demolitions in Gaza in 2003. The Rachel Corrie set out from Ireland loaded with nonviolent peace activists and loads of humanitarian aid destined for Gaza. The ship was painted with the organization’s website address and a Palestinian flag, and the protest was announced to the press well in advance of its departure to ensure a maximum visibility of the protest. And, when the Israeli navy enforced the blockade, approached the ship, and boarded it on June 5, 2010, the passengers on the ship sat down in the truest and most powerful sense of a nonviolent, humanitarian protest. The activists refused to obey the orders of the Israeli military in a nonviolent fashion. They welcomed their arrest and deportation, and their actions – their journey, defiance of the blockade, arrest, and deportation – become a symbol of Israeli insensitivity policies towards Gazan civilians. Meanwhile, the Israelis diverted the ship to the Israeli town of Ashdod, just north of the border with Gaza. They will inspect the goods, release the passengers, and deliver the ship’s aid to humanitarian non-profit organizations that will deliver the aid to Gaza. Because of this process, the world’s attention is drawn to the humanitarian suffering of the Gazan victims of the Hamas government and Israeli policies. This is how to do a humanitarian, nonviolent protest properly:

On the other end of the spectrum, there is the MV Mavi Marmara, whose crew lay in wait and attacked the Israeli soldiers as they boarded the ship. The harrowing ordeal is described by The Times Online reporters Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv and Gareth Jenkins in Istanbul. Watch as the so-called “peace activists” attack the Israel soldiers as they boarded:

The video below shows some of the weapons discovered aboard the MV Mavi Marmara:

Ultimately, this recent conflict will lead to a reexamination of Israeli policies in Gaza. I doubt Israel will lift its blockade; doing so will just open the doors for Hamas to rearm. However, if the coming June 2010 Palestinian elections (which Hamas has vowed to boycott) lead to a victory for Fatah, then Israel and Fatah-led Palestine may find themselves at such mutually weakened positions that they may finally agree to sit down and negotiate a peace settlement. Neither Fatah nor Israel want to see Hamas elements in Gaza rearmed, and both Fatah and Israel know that the continued suffering of the Gazan people and the blockade of humanitarian aid helps nether of them.

Of course, Islamic groups and anti-Israel factions will tout images of the funeral of the flotilla “martyrs” and condemn Israel. Likewise, pro-Israeli groups will highlight the connections between the IHH and Hamas, and will remind the world of the “true feelings” and lack of objectivity of many international journalists (like the recent comments made by Helen Thomas) condemning Israel.

Rachel Corrie (ship)

A of the MV Rachel Corrie, taken during its October 29, 2009 inauguration. AFP Photo/freegaza.org.

And while this can serve as a lesson for Israel and Palestine and encourage the two parties to return to the negotiating table and make peace once and for all, it should also serve as a lesson for those of us who use non-violent means to protest injustice around us. When protesting a perceived injustice, let’s say, by attempting to break through an Israeli naval blockade, do not become “Flotilla the Hun” like the Islamic protesters aboard the MV Mavi Marmara did. Attacking the police only leads to violence, retaliation, and a justification for return fire from the authorities. Rather, do as the passengers aboard the other five boats in the Gaza Flotilla did, and as the 19 passengers and crew aboard the Rachel Corrie did: sit in silent, nonviolent protest. As Mairead McGuire, an Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate on board the Rachel Corrie told the Associated Press, “We will sit down.” “They will probably arrest us… but there will be no resistance” if Israeli forces come aboard.

And that is how nonviolent resistance is done. Repeated, peaceful, thoughtful, protests shame those targeted by the protest into changing their ways. A “Floatilla the Hun” strategy only perpetuates the violence and empowers one’s perceived enemy. Only a nonviolent, peaceful resistance can bring about the long-term change to the way things are. Think like MLK and Gandhi, and not like Islamic militants, and Israel will be forced to do the same.


For more, view a picture essay of the conflict.

For my thoughts on the incident, watch the YouTube video below.

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