Re: Greetings from Iran
Thank you so much for your letter! It is great to hear your voice from
Iran. This is a wonder of the Internet. And even more so, I believe, a
miracle that in every life, and every faith, we can look and find the
one same truth. This is why I love independent thinkers.
I share our letters with our laboratory's groups that we are assembling
in Arabic http://groups.yahoo.com/group/minciu_sodas_AR/
I'm very excited about the developments in Iran, the growing concern for
the freedom of thought, and the responsibility for action. I wish that
the United States of America and other countries valued democracy more
than stability, in developing partnerships. I imagine Iran is much more
free than Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, in the sense that people are not
afraid to seek democracy.
I believe that today in the world there is a special need to organize
Islamic independent thinkers like you. Our laboratory, Minciu Sodas,
http://www.ms.lt, is open to everybody, all who "care about thinking".
We want to include the widest variety. In particular, we want to
include every kind of "minority", every individual who "thinks
differently". Every change starts with such individuals. I think we
need to be able to have a healthy critique of the "majority", which in
terms of the power, is the "modern West". I believe that Islamic
independent thinkers can help with healthy critique. I also think that
they can help the West see that Islam is one faith but many lives, many
voices. I think that, if we look deeply at the truths of life, we will
find the common root, and so every outlook helps. I also imagine that in
many Islamic countries, the independent thinkers are oppressed, and need
our caring. I think we can build bridges across all of our cultures. I
feel this a sound investment, and that our social efforts will establish
an integrity that we may all leverage for good business.
I share your essay further below.
I very much look forward to your views.
And please let us know how we might help you in your work and dreams!
I add one small topic that perhaps you and others might comment on. As
a man, I feel very uncomfortable that in the United States and elsewhere
I am surrounded by images of women, especially magazine covers, who look
like they want to encourage sexual inspection. It can be very difficult
to avoid. It's like mental trash (just like television) and I feel it
makes us less sensitive, less alive. It's awful to have this affect our
sexual climate, expectations, attitudes which I think it does
enormously. I don't understand why women don't react. I wish we had a
culture which valued chastity, not of body, but of mind. In a sense we
still have that in Lithuania. Amazingly, our language has no sexual
curse words. The most nasty thing you can say is to "pollinate"
somebody. And that is a new concept. Of course, I am sure that you
have to struggle with opposite concerns. But I empathize with Islam in
that I think it's not right that such a climate is forced upon us in the
name of "market forces", "free enterprise", "freedom of speech".
I also look to Islam for ideas on an economy without interest. I
believe that it is much more helpful to look at the generation of wealth
in terms of increasing its speed of circulation, rather than demanding a
proportionate return. I write about this in my paper "An Economy for
Giving Everything Away"
http://www.ms.lt/en/workingopenly/givingaway.html I kind of doubt that
anybody in Islam actually thinks seriously about alternative economics,
but I hope I might be wrong.
Finally, I will add that I myself am a Christian, but I value Islam as a
faith that is honest and minimal. I imagine that Muhammed saw the
beauty and truth of the teachings of Jesus: "love your enemy", "give
everything away", "turn the other cheek", "pluck your eye out if it
causes you to sin", "do not divorce", "be perfect". But I imagine he
saw, Who can follow this? God, give us a faith that people can follow.
And that is what I think Islam is. It is just a few simple rules.
Like praying five times a day. And they make sense for a society. If
the people follow them, the society functions. I was in Bosnia for
about five weeks in all. I saw that the Muslims were the clear victims
of an awfully vicious persecution by Christians. I saw that the Muslims
were gentle. And they genuinely followed their faith. Whereas I know
very few Christians who even try to follow Christ's teachings from the
Sermon on the Mount. There are a lot of real Muslims, but not a lot of
I tried to understand, what does Islam mean to its believers? And
everywhere I understood the same answer. In my words, Islam is just a
"first approximation". Amazingly, I spoke to several Muslims about this,
and they all accepted this as an idea I could hold. Christians think
their faith is "perfect", but for Muslims, at least in Bosnia, I don't
think this is important at all. Instead, they think that Islam works,
it is practical. So they do not have to follow it to the letter.
Instead, they have to keep to the spirit. Which they do very much.
They do not worry too much about all the details, but they do worry a
lot about taking the faith seriously. For one person, God helped them
keep their mind during the war. For another, it was the strength to
stay chaste. For another, Islam means that "you practice your faith,
and I practice mine". These are practical matters, and especially, a
tolerance that comes from attention to what works in practice. Christ is
extremely intolerant of others, as far as doctrine is concerned, and
Christianity is extremely dogmatic. Islam is a religion that
specifically protects Christians and Jews. It is very tolerant, and I
think it was a great shock to Christianity, that there could function a
non-Christian society. I think the Crusaders brought this home, and I
think it lead to the Renaissance. And I think the Islamic tolerance
is perhaps even one of the original influences behind the American
"separation of church and state". I suppose I oversimplify.
Yet I want to say that I think Christ was correct. And I think the
tragedy of Bosnia showed this. Islam works in an Islamic world. But it
doesn't work when there are other states, Christian or barbarian. These
don't follow any rules of tolerance or fair play. The Bosnians were the
victims. But the Serbs are not sorry. They do not reach out to the
Bosnians. Instead, the Bosnians are left to reach out to the Serbs. The
Bosnian Muslims are the ones who forgive, who reach out, who make
peace, who love their enemy, who turn the other cheek. They are the
real Christians. So Christ was right. This behavior is necessary
because that's what's needed with barbarians.
I will add one more controversial topic. Because, as independent
thinkers, we can try to look for truth, and we can think boldly,
creatively, and perhaps find understanding. I want to say that history
in Europe has shown that the Jews need to have a state to defend
themselves. But after World War II, the European powers behaved wrongly
by taking Palestine by force. The Jews were moving there peacefully,
and I imagine they could have established themselves in Palestine with
no trouble, perhaps even with harmony. But we Europeans were guilty of
the Holocaust. Instead of giving the Jews part of Europe, such as
Prussia, we gave them something we didn't rightfully own! Palestine.
I hope, though, that we might use our creative minds to be supportive
of the Jews because they suffer so much because of the wrongs of others.
On the other hand, I find it bizarre that 1 billion Christians and 1
billion Muslims agree that Jesus was the Messiah, but that for Jews this
is not an option to consider. What are they expecting from a Messiah?
I'm curious, I just don't know.
I write this just to show the kinds of things I think. They may be
right or wrong, but I hope they might show we can be fresh and creative,
and that we may create our own new outlooks, and perhaps even find the
With regard to Information Technology, you may know, but I want to say
that Iran is a superpower of weblogs (along with the USA, Brazil and
Poland). Weblogs are daily journals on the web, such as Flemming
Funch's at http://ming.tv At http://blogtalk.net we got to meet Hossein
Derakshan http://hoder.com/weblog/ and learn how weblogs have arisen in
Iran as a platform for free speech.
I know that I have shared many controversial thoughts, but I hope that
creative dialogue might help us find shared values. I hope to learn
from you and others. I'm excited by your courage. Please let me know
how we may be helpful to you and Iran and all the world.
sahar maranlou wrote:
> Greetings from Iran
> I am writing to you from the country which is trying to pass traditional
> stage to modernity.
> I am writing to you as the representative of the new generation of
> Iranian women who desire to be active in development process.
> I am writing to you as a Moslem who believes in God, good thought and
> good attitude. How people think and how they act is that much, not their
> I am writing to you as a human who like to keep of his dignity.
> I am Sahar Maranlou. I'm a legal advisor and independent researcher. My
> background is mostly related to human rights, social participation
> (especially NGOs, CBOs) and legal structure for institutionalizing them.
> I am very glad to be among you, the network full of good ideas for
> building a better for all.
> As the starting point for this digital interaction, I am sending to you
> a short note on ICTs and Human based development. It explains my opinion
> about ICTs.
> Hope to have a better world for all
> Sahar Maranlou
> Legal advisor & researcher
> Mobile: +98 912 159 260 1
ICTs for Human Based Development
By: Sahar Maranlou
Although this is a known approach that knowledge, information and
communication are as the tools for development, the world summit on
Information Society through the emphasizing on the Millennium
Development Goals (a set of logical and time -bound targets include
halving income poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary
education, gender equality, reducing under- five mortality by
two -thirds and maternal mortality by three -quarters, reversing
the spread of HIV /AIDS, ensuring environmental satiability and
developing a global partnership for development) could recall the
common resolve that ICTs are not only technologies, but also the
main instruments for human based development.
Regarding the important question that: what is the next program?
I think developing a common discourse of ICTs for human based
development among different stockholders and between north and
south countries can lead global society to make available the
benefits of information and communication technologies for all
people around the world in order to promote human rights and
fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.
Empowering and capacity building of people in different sectors
(government, privet sector and civil society) can help them to
reach a common understanding for solving the development
challenges by use of Digital Opportunities. Developing
partnership mechanisms especially in south countries are
essential for re-iterating the global commitment to recognize
the development challenges posed by the digital divide.
On the other hand although the participatory development in
information society is emphasizing on the involvement of
the stockholders and social groups, we have no choice but to
pay more attention to some of the social groups. The situation
of youth is much more different in Information Society.
Most of the ICT users, creators of ICT and future leaders
are youth. The other important point is that as far as young
people have been growing up in information society, they
achieved very different experience by ITC which can be
called "Digital Experience".
More special attention to empowering youth in Information
Society is one of the logical effects of young people's
different situations in ITC.
Let's making better world for all by sharing the benefits
of ICTs in local, national, regional and international
level through the recognizing the right to development of
people, empowering them in ICTs and advocating the
discourse that: ICTs for human based development.