31 October, 2008

Roodaki, Father of Persian Poetry

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated the years 2008 and 2009 in honour of two great Iranian scholars, the Father of Persian poetry, Roodaki Samarqandi and the philosopher-theologian Mohammad Ghazali. Every year member states apprise the UNESCO of cultural and artistic events in their countries and also inform it of the century or millennium celebrations of their great figures in the field of science, philosophy, culture and literature.
Accordingly, UNESCO has chosen to commemorate in the years 2008 and 2009 such immortal Iranian figures Roodaki, Mohammad Ghazali, the multi-sided genius of the Safavid era, Sheikh Bahaeddin Ameli, and the great pan-Islamist activist of the 19th century, Seyyed Jamaleddin Asadabadi.

This year, the Persian speaking world, made up of Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and other parts of Central Asia, is commemorating the 1150th birth anniversary of the Father of Persian Poetry, Abu Abdullah Ja'far ibn Mohammad, whose pen name Roodaki Samarqandi is derived from his birthplace Roodak, a village between the two famous cities of Samarqand and Bukhara in Trans-Oxiana. Various programs, including seminars, plays, musical concerts, poetry recitation, etc, will be held on the occasion. Starting today, we would be presenting you a 15-part weekly serial on Roodaki's life and times, as well as his thoughts and works. We will also make you familiar with researches done on Roodaki both in Iran and abroad. Today's edition, the 1st of the 15 episodes, will dwell on Iranian literature till the time of Roodaki.

Poetry is the symbol of human soul and sentiments and the fruit of our inner emotions. Thus, ever since the cognizance of beauty, the tenderness of poetry has existed, and will remain in existence till the human spirit is alive with the feelings of love and emotions. Throughout Iranian history, poetry has had a special status in the hearts of people and even among rulers. Poetry is intermingled with Iranian life to such an extent that Persia or the Land of Iran has become famous for its sweet words and poetic minds all over the world. Although, Iran like all other lands has experienced invasions and foreign domination that inflicted great harm on its artistic and poetic works, very soon, Iran succeeded in conquering the conquerors, thanks to its innate spirit of art, culture and poetry, which always revived its exuberance and led to a greater flowering of its civilization. Perhaps that's why the invasion and plunder of Persia by Alexander of Macedonia or others, has made Iran, like the mythical bird Phoenix, rise to greater heights from ashes. This is the reason that no invader has succeeded in obliterating the brilliant culture and civilization of this land. It is said that after conquering the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Alexander ordered the translation of scientific and literary books of Iran into Greek, and then burned the original texts in a bid to attribute the wisdom of the Iranians to the Greeks. Nevertheless, these pillages couldn't wipe out the Iranian heritage from the hearts of the people.
After the death of Alexander in 325 BC, the Seleucid Empire founded by his general, Seleucus Nicator, could not hold on to the Iranian Plateau for long, thanks to the rise to power of the local Parthian dynasty of northeastern Iran that drove back the Greeks and held sway over most of the lands of the Achaemenids including Mesopotamia or present day Iraq. For almost four centuries the Parthian Dynasty was in power and it helped revive the glories of Iranian art and culture. In 226 AD, the Parthians gave way to a new dynasty that rose from Fars or southern Iran under Ardeshir Babakan. Known as the Sassanians, this new Persian Empire rivaled the Roman Empire and checked its eastward expansion. For over four centuries the Sassanids ruled the Persian Empire and made many innovations in science and culture. With the emergence of Islam the Sassanid Dynasty that was in decadence for some decades, collapsed, as the Iranian people embraced the truth of Islam. Islam infused new life into Iran and the Iranians, and enabled them to achieve new glories. Although the ancient Pahlavi and Middle Persian languages died out as Arabic spread all over the Iranian Plateau, ancient sagas such as the Asurik Tree, Jaamasb-Nameh, Yadegar Zariran, etc, remained alive and were translated into Arabic. Iranian scholars and scientists now started writing their works in Arabic, and made great contribution to the Islamic civilization. For instance, the great Arabic grammarian Sibawaiy was an Iranian. Likewise, theologians both Shi'ite and Sunni, who wrote jurisprudential works in Arabic, which are taught to this day, were Iranians, such as Sheikh Yaqoub Kulayni, Sheikh Sadouq, Ismael Bukhari, Abu Hanifa, Ibn Maja Qazwini, Muslim Neyshabouri, etc. Arabic was considered the language of scholars, as is indicated by its extensive use by such famous Iranian scientists as Zakaria Razi, al-Kharezmi, Abu Ali Sina, and Abu Rayhan Berouni, who seldom wrote books in their native Persian.

However, during this period, a new language, made up of old Iranian and Arabic words, was gradually emerging in Khorasan and Trans-Oxiana. It was Persian and its patrons were the Samanid kings of Bukhara at whose courts Roodaki, and others like Bassam Kord, Abul-Abbas Marvazi, Hanzaleh Badgheisi flourished. The Samanid dynasty encouraged the translation of Arabic works into Persian and among the literary, religious and scientific works translated, was "Kalilah wa Damnah", which was originally a Pahlavi book that had been translated into Arabic. Roodaki rendered it into Persian. Among the other works translated into Persian under the Samanids mention could be made of the famous History of Prophet and Kings, written by Abu Ja'far Tabari and his exegesis on the Holy Qur'an, which are now considered as precious gems of early Persian literature. Although poets did compose in Persian at the Samanid court, but none had the mastery of Roodaki Samarqandi, who is deserves the title of the Father of Persian Poetry. It was Roodaki's immaculate style that popularized Persian poetry and paved the way for emergence of such master poets of those days as Onsori and the celebrated Abul-Qasim, the composer of Shahnameh or the Book of Kings that records Iran's ancient history. Next week we will focus on the life and times of Roodaki.

25 October, 2008

World Leaders in Tehran for "Religion in the Modern World" conference

The head of Dialogue Among Cultures and Civilizations Foundation, Mohammad Khatami, held talks with some of the world leaders on the verge of the "Religion in the Modern World" conference in Tehran.

Khatami, Iran's former President, outlined the foundation's activities and approaches which aim at promoting peace between Islamic World and the West.

Prominent think-tanks, political and religious leaders, including former UN chief Kofi Annan, the European Commission president Romano Prodi, the former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, the ex-Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, the former Irish President Mary Robinson and the ex-Seri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga are among guests attending in the meeting.
Participants are slated to review relation between religion and globalization, modernity, democracy, peace and justice.

Khatami's speech at the conference

Mohammad Khatami delivered the following speech at "Religion in the Modern World" conference in Tehran:The world today has affected both people living in the West and those in the East, the former Iranian President said. The roots of the modern world are much looser comparing to the bases of the world in the past, Khatami added. As the time passes emotional, social and cultural disorders between the West and the East are emerging, he added.
Today the fact that the human being will not have a satisfactory life when he forgets about the God is becoming visible, even if he has achieved great financial, technical and scientific success, he added. The God has also stressed that any body who forgets me, will have a bitter life, he added. Such a condition will lead to the annihilation and will destroy life in the world, if continued, Khatami noted. But religion can help us in such a condition, and now the question is that what the religion is, he said adding religion is what the God has sent to lead human being towards the right path and makes his life fruitful.
He also stressed what has been introduced as religion in the history does not necessarily share the same nature with the real image of religion. Religion can help people in difficult circumstances without bringing damages to constructive civilization achievements, the former Iranian President said. What seems to be catastrophic is the absence of the similar nature of religions, so superficial differences among religions should not prevent solidarity among their followers. He also called for religious leaders of the world to try ways to create a peaceful co-existence and invite the world to establish peace and security. Representatives from France, Sri Lanka, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and the former UN Chief have participated in the two-day meeting. Participants of the conference are slated to review relation between religion and globalization, modernity, democracy, peace and justice.

16 October, 2008

The jewel of Madina an offensive portrayal of Islam

A piece of news that recently caused some havoc in the west was about the cancellation of the publication of a book entitled ‘The Jewel of Madina’. The book is said to be about the life and times of Aisha, the youngest bride of the Prophet of Islam and has been rated as a ‘national security risk’ by a famed commentator in the US.
The book has been withdrawn by Random House, which said it feared that publication of the book could "incite acts of violence". Critics, however, have accused the publisher of abandoning the principle of free speech and caving into pressure from extreme Islamist elements, wrote the Independent newspaper in London.
This is not about the debate on whether it violates the principles of free speech with fears of extreme actions by a ‘small’ group of Muslims. The publication of this book can only add insult to the mass injury caused to the Muslims with the violent attacks against Muslims in their soul, bodies and heartlands.
Publishing the book will altogether add to what now separates the Muslim world from the western world and that is the right to safeguard the treasures and the icons of the Islamic faith from western bias and western pornography. It is more a question of morality than one of rights and every one with a sane mind will agree that rights cannot take precedence on the morality of a people or of an entire faith that is represented by more than 1.5 billion people.
It is incredible that the west find it easy to target the Muslims and the Prophet of Islam including his family – note that the Prophet of Islam and his family has never offended the western world – but the same defenders of rights and freedoms fails to attack other faiths. Moreover Sherry Jones (the writer of this book) criticized the character of Imam Ali (A.S) & insulted his holy presence.
The biasness is too obvious. From the Danish cartoons that raised the ire of a large section of the Muslim world and forced us to pen down some of the most adverse criticism against the west to the bad ‘movie’ made by a sick MP in Holland, the West seem to have learnt very little about respect.
Do not touch religion has been the call from many Muslims who felt offended by writers like Salman Rushdie who lived a life of a leper after the publication of his book the Satanic Verses.
The western writers find it too easy to pick and choose as they want on the Muslims from time to time and at a far greater rate nowadays, simply to become famous or to make some big bucks. This shows how the west is becoming bankrupt of ideas and is desperately dependent on anti-Islamic writers.
Leave Islam alone, leave religion alone and this should be the core principle of the western world before it tries to teach the Muslims what democracy is or what freedom is about. The United Nations, the EU and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) should come together to once and for all make it impossible for anyone on this earth to publish anything – from books to articles and even blogs – that depicts other people’s faith in a negative fashion. All writers who want to publish their books written with the intent to offend other religions should be banned worldwide.

Sherry Jones, Salman Rushdie and even the short sighted Asra Nomani should be barred from writing and banned from publishing anything until they learn the lesson that touching on the sensitive issues of religion means banishment for them.
Publishers who dare go ahead with such publications should simply be forced to close down while the directors, owners and workers should be struck with a five to ten years banishment that would not allow them to be involved in the publication business.
Well are these extreme? This is how the Muslims would feel if such books are published and we can say that we speak for a majority of the Muslims.
The world is in no need for such portrayals of the people whom the Muslims love and adores.

10 October, 2008

Natural treasures

The New7Wonders of Nature campaign will significantly raise awareness of the incredible variety and beauty of nature around us. As our slogan says, “If we want to save anything, we first need to truly appreciate it!” More awareness and more tourism income means that these natural treasures can be better preserved for future generations. Some of the recent reactions to the newly started campaign:“Thanks to (the New7Wonders of Nature campaign), Djavolja Varos and the whole Kursumlija region have gained an opportunity for development that we have been awaiting for decades.” Zlatko Veljovic, director of “Prolom Banja”, 13 August 2008“With four of the country’s tourism destinations (participating in) the Seven Wonders of Nature campaign, more foreign tourists are now coming to the Philippines. Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said the online search has generated the interest of the international community in the Philippines in the past few months (and is) increasing the revenue of tourism-related industries.”Philippine Star, June 18, 2008

“A campaign is underway to encourage people to vote for Ha Long Bay as one of New 7 Wonders of Nature and as a result the number of visitors increased by almost 60 per cent in the first quarter of this year against last year’s first three months.”

Real, economic benefits for the world’s treasures

The economic impact of the New7Wonders campaigns can now be measured in significant sums of money. The most significant successes, as registered by the participants are impressive.

The campaign to choose The Offcial New7Wonders of the World was a resounding success. More than 100 million votes were cast and it took democracy to a new, global level. Since well before the Official Declaration on July 7, 2007 in Lisbon, the campaign has had a signficant impact on local economies involved with the sites participating. In particular, tourism in these places has increased and growing interest continues to be measurable via hotel booking or internet requests. Read some of the reactions of the local press and governments:

According to Peru’s National Institute of Culture, the number of daily visitors to Machu Picchu has increased by over 70% since its election as a New 7 Wonder of the World.” Living in Peru, August 18, 2008“Since Machu Picchu was named a world wonder, the value of real estate has doubled and even tripled, says Lily Quispe Charca, President of the Real Estate Agents Assn.” Living in Peru, May 14, 2008

“In 2007, Chichen Itza’s El Castillo was named one of the Official New 7 Wonders of the World after a worldwide vote. The vote was embraced by government and tourism officials in Mexico who project that as a result the number of tourists expected to visit Chichen Itza will double by 2012.” Cancun Info.net, April 19, 2008“Since being named a wonder of the world, the number of visitors (to Chichen Itza) has increased 75 percent, said Juan Jose Martí Pacheco, secretary of Tourist Promotion of Yucatan.” El Sol de Mexico, 13 February 2008

“A record breaking 3,200,000 tourists visited to adore the beauty of monument of love Taj Mahal in 2007. According to the Archeological Department sources, ‘no sooner the Taj Mahal was included in the 'new Seven Wonders' last year, it observed a hike in the number of tourists, both national and international, visiting the place.’ The figure is much higher than that recorded in the preceding year. The mushrooming number of tourists had also drawn good returns to the hotels and created employment opportunities.” Taj Mahal Online, April 15, 2008

“A record number of tourists visited Petra last year, encouraging the industry to introduce a range of development schemes to sustain the flow. Official figures showed a 62% increase in visitors last year, generating JD9.5 million in tourism receipts for the country.Suleiman Farajat, head of the Petra Archaeological Park (PAP), said the increase in arrivals reflected the importance of Petra as a key historical attraction and its popularity as one of the Official New 7 Wonders of the World.” The Jordan Times, Jan. 10, 2008
The increase in the number of visitors to the kingdom is also borne out by some impressive figures released by national flag carrier, Royal Jordanian. The airline registered the highest monthly total of passengers in its 44 year history.” AME Info fn, The Ultimate Middle East Business Resource, Sept. 5, 2007“(Easter Island Mayor Pedro) Edmunds said (tourists visiting in 2007) were up 20 per cent from 2006 and nearly 10 times 1990 levels. Easter Island has been an UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995, but officials attribute the recent spike to last year's New Seven Wonders of the World contest.” The Canadian Press, June 23, 2008“(New 7 Wonders of the World participant) Neuschwanstein Castle hit new record in attracting visitors, as 1.36 million people (an increase of 8.4%) came last year. According to Bavarian Finance Minister Erwin Huber.” Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany, Feb. 22, 2008