SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s magnum opus, Being and Time (1927), constitutes one of the most important contributions to philosophy of the last century. Beyond having a defining influence on numerous fields of study within philosophy that include but are not limited to existentialism, post-structuralism, and deconstruction, Heidegger has often been viewed as “the most creative religious writer of the twentieth century” (Ireton, 243). It should thus not be surprising that his ideas were widely received and regarded by Iranian intellectuals and students before (and after) the Iranian Revolution of 1979. One of the main seeds of Heideggerian thought that blossomed particularly well in the Iranian context was his notion of authenticity (Eigentlichkeit). Used by Heidegger to draw ontological distinctions, authenticity inspired a politicized discourse—among its Iranian readers—on a return to an “authentic” self. The authenticity of the Iranian return to the self firmly grounded on a separation from imposed Western ideals. A tendency among Iranians toward the study of existentialism in addition to Heidegger’s poignant critique of a decadent West cloaked in religious terminology made him an excellent partner to a group of Iranian intellectuals unsatisfied with a despotic monarch perceived to be antagonistic to Islam.
Heidegger’s ideas were mainly conveyed through the divisive character of Ahmad Fardid (1909–94). Educated in both Iran and Europe, Fardid soon established himself as an influential authority on Heidegger in Iran while teaching philosophy at the University of Teheran. Fardid rarely published anything and instead had organized a group of “Iranian Heideggerians” in the 1970s who according to one of its prominent participants, Dariush Shayegan, would use these meetings to explore “conflicts between modernity and tradition, absolutism and democracy, liberalism and communism.” More importantly, Shayegan maintains that Fardid would use Heidegger’s ideas “to serve his own interest and draw far-fetched conclusions” (1). Despite Fardid’s own interpretation of Heidegger, his philosophical framework stayed faithful to Heidegger’s account of a decline of the West. While Heidegger looked toward the Greeks for a re-evaluation of one’s being, “Fardid relocates the original and authentic spiritual experience of humanity in a nebulous Orient/Islam.” Ali Mirsepassi points out that “Fardid’s modifications transfer the role of the ‘spiritual nation in the middle’ from Germany to Iran” (119). Further, “In Fardid’s re-rendering of the Orient-West binary and Heideggerian historicism, the Orient represents the essence of the holy book and revelation, which has been concealed under a succession of Western mantles” (119).
To contextualize this Heideggerian turn in Iranian discourses, the early twentieth century brought about the onset of modernization and westernization in Iran. Simultaneously, opponents of modernization, such as middle-class writers or activists, argued against a blind adaptation of the West. Homa Katouzian points to the social and religious reformer Ahmad Kasravi (1890–1946), “one of the first modern critics of the rise of Europeanism and modernism in Iran.” Kasravi’s assessment, formed in the 1920s, was indicative of what is to come. He argues, “modern technology and secularism had led to irreligion and immorality everywhere” (294). In the 1940s, after the first Pahlavi King of Iran, Reza Shah, was forced to abdicate because of his pro-Nazi sentiments, religious reformists throughout Iran maintained “that Islam was fully compatible with modernity, science and technology, so that there was no need for Muslim people to imitate European modes of ethics and social behavior for the sake of modernization and development” (Katouzian, 294).
The second Pahlavi Shah also dictated a program of rapid modernization for Iran in the 1960s and 70s modeled after the “West.” Farhang Rajaee describes the second Shah’s reforms as having “changed the political landscape of Iran because they destroyed its social structure, . . . polarized Iranian society, and encouraged a zero-sum battle of worldviews” (93). Consequently, a reconciliation of Iranian identity with an ongoing modernization process became a primary concern for groups of intellectuals in the 60s and 70s in pre-revolutionary Iran. A critique of a decadent West, its technology, and a call to authenticity were also topics dealt with by Martin Heidegger. Yet, Heidegger’s ideas were regularly reworked by translators and intellectuals who were “intermediaries of knowledge” in Iran since translations of Heidegger and other western philosophers were commonly misinterpreted.
Heidegger’s ideas were not disseminated in a systematic manner with methodological concerns; propagators of Heidegger in Iran were claiming that there “is a degree of similarity between his philosophy and the true traditional Islamic philosophy” (Paya, 192). Essentially, Fardid claimed that the “westerners replaced thinking about the cosmos with the idea of a metaphysical God and eventually ended up with a type of individualism, which is devoid of all religious and spiritual meaning” (Paya, 193). Because a godless West also implies a lack of morality, Ahmad Fardid “reaches the conclusion that Gharb (the West) has to be abandoned both as an ontology and as a way of life” (Boroujerdi, 65). This idiosyncratic interpretation of Heidegger’s philosophy via Fardid not only concretized the binary between the West and Iran but also led to the extremely fashionable discourse of Weststruckness, which was coined by Fardid yet popularized by Jalal Al-e Ahmad (1923–69). Thus concurrent with the representation of the concealed revelatory powers of the authentic East, was an image of a subject alienated from this potential, forever grasping at the West for meaning. This ailment called gharbzadegi—most often translated as Weststruckness—refers to a loss of cultural identity, which occurs in efforts to imitate the West. It served the public as a pejorative term used to express dislike of members of a rapidly expanding Iranian bourgeoisie, while also pointing to an absence of authenticity of the West. Continuously, the idea of an alien West was being regarded as fundamentally incompatible with Iran’s authentic identity, which was moving towards an Islamic revivalism. As diligently observed by Mirsepassi, “Fardid’s gharbzadegi (‘Westoxification’) is the interlude between the self and being on the path to renewed Islamic self-realization” (119). This process of authentication of a truly Iranian subject was inspired by the framework of Heidegger’s notion of authenticity and served as a platform for the formulation of an Islamic revivalism. Many scholars have pointed to Ali Shariati as one of the key revivalist of Shi’ite Islam.
Ali Shariati (1933–77), who is frequently referred to as the ideologue of the Iranian revolution, was a leading intellectual and prolific writer throughout his lifetime with an extensive influence on the unfolding of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The eclecticism of Shariati’s writings, which borrows from various strands of mainly Marxist and Third Worldist populism, make it extremely difficult to reduce him to one school of thought representative of his ideology. His profile and popularity started to increase from 1969 to 1972, when Shariati began lecturing at the “Hoseiniyeh-ye Ershad, a modern Islamic center in northern Tehran. His lectures were either taped or published in several dozens of volumes . . . they were circulated widely among Muslim youth” (Bayat, 21).
Now, how did Shariati transform the Heideggerian inspired discourse of Weststruckness to construct his version of a revolutionary Shi’ite Islam that necessarily ties religion to politics? There is no easy answer to this. Echoes of Ahmad Fardid’s critique of the West as being amoral due to a distancing from a “God” and absorption in individualism can be heard in Shariati’s writings. Yet, he goes further by appealing to the responsibility of the Muslim people “to elevate themselves from captivity to become the ‘regents of God on earth.’” This appeal to the individuals’ responsibility becomes significant throughout the plethora of Shariati’s essays and lectures because “he [Shariati] tends to extend its implication from the realm of philosophy and theology to that of politics” (Bayat, 25). Shariati’s criticism did not limit itself to secularism and a corrupt West but also scrutinized the role of clerics in Islam. According to Shariati, Shi’ism “was not an opiate like many other religions, but was a revolutionary ideology that permeated all spheres of life” (26, Abrahamian).
Shariati’s ideology proposes an “Islamic class struggle” that demands a return to Shi’ism. His appeal to the responsibility of Iranians meant liberation from the West for political and cultural self-reliance (Bayat, 25). “Shariati’s assessment of Iranian society was that the exploited ‘class in itself’ had to be steeped in political and ideological education before it could become revolutionary” (Rahnema, 287). Since Shariati had already argued that Shi’ism “permeated all spheres of life” and could not be regarded as separate from politics, a “return to the self” for Shariati meant “the social and historical ‘self’ not the individual me” (quoted in Ridgeon, 185).
In a 1976 article in the influential Iranian newspaper Keyhan entitled “Return to Oneself”(Bazgasht be khish) Ali Shariati formulates his conception of a return to the self, in order to re-establish Iran’s greatness. As elucidated by Ali Rahnema, who has written the authoritative biography on Shariati, “In this article, exalting the ‘Iranian spirit,’ he tried to prove that Iran, a nation that had lost its true identity, could regain its past grandeur only if it returned to its authentic identity composed of the Iranian ‘personality’ and the Islamic ideology” (345). While this article is mostly concerned with a breakdown of Marxism and criticizing modernism and liberalism, it also argued for ‘class cooperation’ in regards to contemporary struggles, by arguing that “Islam denies class analysis ‘based on economic contradictions in society’” (Rahnema, 346). In an appeal to the youth Shariati’s attention centers on cultural resistance, addressing an “abstract cultural struggle, he overemphasizes the danger and magnifies the destructive powers of cultural imperialism” (346).
If we follow what we inferred about the developments in pre-revolutionary Iran leading up to Shariati’s Islamic revivalism, it becomes evident that Shi’ite Islam was presented as the answer to an array of societal and political problems. Shi’ism and its interpretation still form the center of Iranian politics. Considering that the Iranian revolution was effectively run on an anti-Western platform—arguably inspired by a Heideggerian discourse that was re-worked by Fardid—points to the importance of an examination of Iran’s insistence upon an authentic identity.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Whatever the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case, it will be viewed less as a determination of the shooter's guilt or innocence and more as a victory or loss for civil rights, George Zimmerman's lawyer fears.
Mark O'Mara said he has been busy trying to dispel the racial overtones in the case by getting out more evidence about his client.
His hope, he said, is that people will divorce a verdict from the real civil rights questions.
"The more people that consider an acquittal of George Zimmerman to be a loss for civil rights, the worse for civil rights," he told CNN's Piers Morgan.
A year ago, Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, shot Martin, an African-American teenager returning home after walking to a convenience store for a drink and a snack.
Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense. Prosecutors say he ignored a police dispatcher's advice and was guilty of racial profiling.
The case drew national attention because police did not bring charges against Zimmerman for more than a month after the shooting, saying the circumstances required further investigation.
'Absolutely no racism'
O'Mara said the evidence will show that Zimmerman wasn't profiling. He said the FBI investigated the shooting and found "absolutely no racism."
"As a matter of fact, they found a lot of events and instances where George was what you might call an absolute nonracist," O'Mara said.
On February 26, 2012, Martin was walking back to the Sanford, Florida, apartment of his father's fiancee after picking up some Skittles and an iced tea at 7-Eleven.
That's when Zimmerman, then a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, spotted him walking through the complex.
What happened between then and when Zimmerman fatally shot the teen is subject to dispute, one that could be settled by a jury starting June 10, when Zimmerman is set to go on trial on a second-degree murder charge.
One night, two stories
The jury will have to decide between two starkly different versions of what happened that night.
Zimmerman told police that the two exchanged words and Martin went after him. According to his account, the teen -- who was unarmed -- punched him, forced him to the ground, and slammed his head on a sidewalk.
Zimmerman then shot Martin in self-defense, he claims.
Martin's family and supporters, though, have long had a different story.
One of the first to tell it was his father, Tracy Martin, who initially addressed reporters last March 8, trying to raise the case's profile and hike pressure on authorities. He and, soon, others suggested Zimmerman had targeted his son, an African-American youth wearing a hooded sweatshirt, because of his race.
A year later
During a vigil in New York City on Tuesday night to mark the first anniversary of his son's death, Tracy Martin pledged to continue the fight for justice.
"This is the one year anniversary of his death. It's a somber day for us, but its also a day of peace for us, because we know as parents we've done all that we can do to make our children's lives right," he said.
"The wounds have not been healed, but we're working on healing the wounds."
Up to the jury
O'Mara indicated at trial he will dissect the recording of Zimmerman's 911 call and point to evidence of the wounds Zimmerman said he suffered that night.
"I believe, you know, again, the evidence is what it is and that's for a jury to determine," O'Mara said. "But a close reading or looking at that tape and all the evidence that followed, particularly George's injuries and Trayvon's lack of injuries but for the fatal gunshot, suggest that George did not begin the fight, did not continue the fight and actually was the victim of the attack rather than the other way around."
But a lawyer for the Martins said the fight against "senseless gun violence" will continue.
"He went home and slept in his bed the night he killed Trayvon," attorney Benjamin Crump said. "And that wasn't equal justice."
Crump then led a chant of "Hoodies up! Hoodies up!" at the vigil.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The former US Ambassador to Israel predicts that war between with Iran is likely to occur in early 2013.
Martin Indyk, the former Ambassador, said there may be about six months left to negotiate a solution that would avoid war – but he thinks this is unlikely. Joining a roundtable of foreign policy experts to discuss the latest Middle East protests and Israel’s concern over Iran, Indyk’s predictions were dire.
“There is still time, perhaps six months, even by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own time table to try to see if a negotiated solution can be worked out,” he said on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday. “I’m pessimistic about that. If that doesn’t work out – and we need to make every effort, exhaust every chance that it does work – then I am afraid that 2013 is going to be a year in which we’re going to have a military confrontation with Iran.”
While Indyk said that Iran does not have nuclear weapons at this point, it is only a matter of time before the US will need to take military action.
Israel continues to put pressure on the US to take greater actions against Iran. This past week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly scolded the Obama administration for their refusal to draw a “red line” on Iran’s nuclear program. In his mind, if this red line were to be drawn, Iran would be prohibited from crossing it, or else face a response from the US military. Indyk said Israel’s request for this line is “unreasonable” and something that neither Governor Romney, nor Senator McCain are supporting.
But Indyk said that even though the US would not declare a red line, the US and Israel see eye to eye on most issues regarding Iran.
“While there’s still time, there is not a lot of time, and I don’t think the difference between Netanyahu and Obama on this is that great in terms of the President’s commitment not to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” he said.
During the CBS roundtable discussion, Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said tensions with the Middle East are so high that it takes little to start a conflict. The anti-Muslim film that ignited protests throughout the Arab world was not a major factor, but simply a spark that released already-existing tensions.
“This is the equivalent of a forest fire. Anything could set it off, so the film is the wrong place to focus,” he said.
And while the Arab world continues to display anti-American sentiment and Israel continues to pressure the US to increase tensions with Iran, only time will tell if Indyk’s war prediction will come as soon as early 2013.www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Throughout our nation’s worst racial tensions, Birmingham Civil Rights attorney Arthur Davis Shores was a pioneer who dared to step into the white man’s courtroom, bravely representing civil rights cases for some 25 years before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived in Birmingham in 1963 with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. A quiet gentleman with a deep Christian faith, Shores worked tirelessly for equal rights. Shores was notably one of the attorneys who smuggled scraps of paper from Dr. King’s jail cell -- the now infamous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In this excerpt from 'The Gentle Giant Of Dynamite Hill: The Untold Story of Arthur Shores and his Family’s Fight for Civil Rights,' his daughters Helen Shores Lee and Barbara S. Shores write of their father’s involvement in this historic moment in civil rights’ history.
On April 3, 1963, during the Selective Buying Campaign, the SCLC staged sit-ins inside several downtown whites-only lunch counters. Three days later, police arrested 45 protesters as they marched from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to Birmingham’s city jail. The next day, police arrested even more protesters, whom Daddy represented in court. The city charged $100 for each person’s bail, and Daddy, Mr. Gaston, and others raised much of the bail money so these protesters could leave jail and go home.
In light of the protests, Judge W. A. Jenkins Jr. ordered that the civil rights leaders, including Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth, organize no future protests in Birmingham.
On Good Friday, April 12, 1963, police arrested Dr. King and placed him in a Birmingham city jail cell in solitary confinement. The small cell held a metal-slatted cot with no mattress, a toilet and sink, and a mirror on the back wall. The cell had no overhead light or other light source. He spent most of his imprisonment in the dark. King later called those long hours and days in solitary confinement “the most frustrating and bewildering” he had ever lived.
On the second day of King’s confinement, Bull Connor in City Hall granted three attorneys permission to visit Dr. King. They were Norman Amaker from the NAACP, Orzell Billingsley, and our father. Perhaps one of them took Dr. King the ad that ran in the Birmingham News where eight local white ministers referred to King as a troublemaker. In any event, King read the ad and felt that he had to somehow respond to it.
Letter from Birmingham Jail
Dr. King had no paper, so he wrote his response around the edges of the newspaper ad and on pieces of toilet paper in his cell. Later, Daddy or one of the other attorneys brought him a notepad. King could only work in the daytime when he had enough scant light to see. When he finished the response, our father and his other attorneys secretly slipped the assorted bits and pieces of the letter from King’s cell and into the hands of NAACP’s Wyatt Walker. Walker and his secretary, Willie Pearl Mackey, pieced together the scraps of paper, and Mackey typed out the rough draft of the letter.
Andrew Young recalled that Willie Pearl Mackey “had a terrible time reading Martin’s handwriting. Most of the letter was brought in installments delivered from the jail by our attorneys, Clarence Jones, Ozell Billingsley, and Arthur Shores, during their trips to jail to visit Martin.” When Mackey had finished typing the draft, one of King’s lawyers smuggled it back to Dr. King to edit and make corrections. Then one of the lawyers carried it back to Walker.
In his response, on April 16, 1963, Dr. King addressed directly the eight white pastors (“My dear fellow clergymen”) who had written the newspaper ad. Using passages and characters from the Bible, he eloquently explained his reasons for coming to Birmingham (because he found injustice in the city), and he outlined both the process and the goal of his visit and activities, carefully describing the four basic steps of his nonviolent campaign: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. He also called Birmingham the most segregated city in the United States and mentioned its ugly record of brutality, including the Negroes’ unjust treatment by courts and the unsolved bombings. He told the clergymen: “The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”
His response ran to more than 7,000 words in length. By May 13, 1963, the American Friends Service Committee (Quaker) had received permission from the SCLC to print the letter for wide dissemination and published 50,000 copies of the document in pamphlet form for national distribution. Other publications printed King’s Letter, including the Christian Century, the Saturday Evening Post, the Birmingham News and Atlantic Monthly, among others.
Half a Century Later
Almost a half-century later, theologians are still calling King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail “towering” and “magnificent.” In his letter,
King clearly cataloged the injustices faced by African Americans. He called “white moderates” to task and forcefully reminded them that justice delayed was justice denied. And most famously, citing Augustine, he claimed that “an unjust law is no law at all...” King had reason, justice, facts, and conviction on his side -- as well as the gospel. He did not need vitriol, and he did not employ it. —www.shafaqna.com/English