Words to the Iranian People
Last night I dreamed I was serving on an Assembly, sitting around a table with the three Iranian members of our institution. We did not have a quorum yet, as the Canadian members had not arrived for some reason. Then it transpired that we were in Iran, and there was a Mullah standing there ready to execute us all. Part of me was surprised and horrified. I am going to die for my Faith! Then I realized that this was a unique situation; I might soon be the only Canadian Baha'i and Assembly member in history to be martyred! I felt like Zoidberg:
"What an honor, a personal aspiration come true."
Slowly I rose out of the dream state with the thought: I am not going to say a word to this Mullah, I am going to demand to speak to the people of Iran. I want to point out to them the direction they are going. I woke further and thought, well I could at least write about that subject today. Then I realized that I must be dreaming even more now that I am awake than when I slept, since I have nothing to say to these people. Then I remembered this, which I came across in a science magazine soon after the Port au Prince quake:
"Haiti Earthquake Disaster Little Surprise to Some Seismologists, January 13, 2010"
Although seismic predictions work on geologic timescales and can miss big quakes by decades, one expert said last week that a temblor in Port-au-Prince was of greater concern than a San Andreas slip,
"The Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden Fault is one of dozens around the world that run through populous, but often poorly prepared, areas. Last week, Yeats also called the city of Tehran "a time bomb that is waiting to go off." The North Tehran Fault could unleash an earthquake similarly massive to the one anticipated to strike southern California in the coming decades. But in the Iranian capital, he says, despite advanced regional technology, many of the buildings are not shake-proof. Other worrisome locales, he notes, are Lima, Peru, and Karachi, Pakistan, as well as much of Turkey, where many areas are ... unsafely built due to corruption or poverty."
We must learn how important it is to do things right, especially to build things right. I watched on TVO an interview with a seismologist who recalled a striking picture of three buildings in a Japanese city after a similar 7.0 earthquake to the one that just occurred in Haiti. They happened to be adjacent to one another, one a traditional style wooden building, which had been flattened, killing everybody in it; the second a 1960's vintage concrete building, which partly collapsed with heavy damage but no loss of life; the third was a new building, up to code, which had no damage at all.
Another bit of advice for Iranians is to raise up the lot of women. Islam should be a great advantage in the fight against poverty. For one thing, it prohibits the consumption of alcohol. I have been reading some of 19th Century reformer Flora Tristan's reports on the lot of the poor working class in France. She observed what is still common in poor areas today, that alcohol is a major factor in the cycle of poverty. Yet I have to wonder why there are still large numbers of poor in Muslim lands. True, alcohol is often replaced by hashish, opium and other chemicals. However, I think another, more important drag to progress is the degradation of women. As long as they do not have equal access to education, poverty and factionalism will continue to grind down the family in Iran. Tristan wrote,
"All the ills of the working class are summed up by these two words: poverty and ignorance, ignorance and poverty. But to get out of this labyrinth, I see only one way: to start by educating women, because women are entrusted with raising the children, male and female." ("A Passage From Flora Tristan's l'Union Ouvriere," Translated by Doris and Paul Beik http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255/at/tristan_text.html)
She made this observation 1844, years before the principle of equality of the sexes was proclaimed in Iran at the conference of Badasht. Badasht was broken up by an angry, deluded mob. Imagine how little poverty there would be in Iran if the reactionary clergy who incited this mob had not taken up the repression of women as a mark of Muslim piety.
Another Baha'i teaching is the elimination of gossip and backbiting. This is also in the Qur'an and the Bible as well. The Qur'an compares it to cannibalism. The Bible hints that it is what makes for the sort of slackers who, for instance, build substandard buildings in earthquake prone areas.
"The words of a gossip are like dainty morsels: They go down into a person's innermost parts. One who is slack in his work is brother to him who is a master of destruction." (Prov 18:8,9, WEB)
That is why I would advise you to eliminate words of war from the public forum. Think of the slackers who built Teheran, flouting basic building codes... Remember the opening words of the Qur'an, which warn that God, the Master of the Day of Judgment, will be merciful to all, save those whose "portion is wrath," for against such will come judgment.
"In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the world; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray." (Qur'an 1:1-7, Yusuf Ali tr)