Monday, July 20, 2015

Ramadan & I

I have been thinking of my grandmother lately; perhaps because of Ramadan. We woke up before dawn, to pray and to eat--as is common to do in preparation for fasting. We didn't fast always, but the dawn prayer call would wake us up and it was a pleasant spiritual experience--which I miss despite all my religiouslessness. In my life I have fasted a total of 13 days, 3 of them when I was 11--and no I didn't die, and no I wasn't forced, if anything I was discouraged by my parents. I loved getting up at dawn because that was a good time to ask her for after-prayer stories. What is it with children's love to hear the same story, again, again and again?
My grandmother had an amazing memory for details, and a great narrative style, and infinite patience and love for us. These days, one of her stories has occupied me most--perhaps because I have been reading too many vengeful rants from all sorts of people claiming all sorts of violent justice, from one another.
The story was of her only blood-brother being killed "accidentally" by a half brother who was cleaning his rifle on the eve of another brother's wedding. Her stories of my ancestors were full of romantics: Mountains, guns and horses, intrigues of power, lust for brides enamored in gold, love for grooms of legendary bravery, broken hearts and broken promises, even poison and murder. And this accidental shooting too was a suspected murder; for the brother who was killed was a beautiful one, a brave one, one of great stars to one day lead the clan--or so thought the grieving great grandmother. But the morale of the story was this: that when they brought the handcuffed 'killer' to her mother, she asked him to be released, not seeking vengeance; and leaving it for "God" to decide on the Judgement Day.
The story of "leaving justice to god, until the judgement day" is a prevalent one in my culture, one in whose root there is a deep recognition that earthy REVENGE cannot undo the wrong; that it can only make more wrong. Islam, for sure, allows retribution: An Eye for an Eye; but the version of Islam that is practiced in Iran also provisions for forgiveness. Many think it is a flaw in the judiciary system to burden the family of the victim with the verdict to carry the punishment or not. But the silver lining is that the culture flexes the laws to allow (and in fact it applaudes) the individual "choice" for forgiveness.
Many years ago, a group of criminals had kidnapped a child of a distant cousin (she was the great granddaughter of my great grandmother). The kidnappers were arrested before collecting ransom. Their punishment by the law would have been death. But the great cousin let them live: "Let leave their punishment for god's decision on the judgement day.", I recall her telling my mother.
At the end of Ramadan, it is customary for the king to hand in pardons. This year, 930 Iranian prisoners have received either a pardon or a reduction of the sentence.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Let's negotiate!

If I was a cartoonist, I would draw a Greek oracle and a Persian poet, towering over Merkel holding a stash of cash and Kerry hugging Israel as a crying baby holding a nuclear missile as a toy, and saying "ok kids, let's negotiate."

But I am not!

So I have this to say:

First, I agree with Zarif that this was an unnecessary crisis over nothing. 

Second, I don't understand who decides that a fatwa against Salman Rushdi is a 'serious' deal, but a fatwa against nuclear weapons is not!

Third, I believe the sanctions on Iran have been unjustified; and the blockade of Iranian assets has been illegal; all attempts to bring a growing regional power to its knees. And I think the deal we are getting today is a testament to the failure of those who have tried to isolate Iran; this is a deal to share the pie from which China and Russia and India have been nibbling. All the talks about nuclear 'crisis' are nonsense. 

That said, Iranians have displayed yet again that theirs is a nation of PEACE; and they stand in stark contrast to their war mongering counterparts, Saudi Arabia (who is bombing men and women in Yemen) and Israel (who was bombing men and women in Gaza last year).

It is now up to Americans to hold their congress accountable to PEACE AND REASON and to rescue their political system from a corrupt system that allows Yehuda Ben-Meir, head of the National Security and Public Opinion Project at Tel-Aviv say:  "The biggest challenge will be mustering enough Democratic votes to override any Obama veto".