Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Standing in the Gap: Religious Leaders Between Two Narratives

In the sacred city of Qom, we ran into a group of Iraqi women who had travelled about 12 hours by bus to worship at the shrine there. When they realized that we were Americans they became very agitated and angry and shouted at us to go home. We later reflected on the deep pain that the war in Iraq has caused them.

I've begun to research the questions that were raised in our visits with Iranian religious and political leaders. I will post bits and pieces of this information as I uncover them.
The delegation found themselves "Standing in the Gap" between two narratives an expression found in the following biblical text.

"And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land..." Ezekiel 22:30

1. Two narratives: 1953 and 1979.

Jeff Carr (Sojourners/Call to Renewal) told us how as a 15 year old in 1979, he vividly remembers some 454 days of daily television pictures of the hostages in the US embassy in Tehran. Since then, our impression of Iranians has been so colored by those images that it is difficult to think differently about them.

Iranians begin their narrative much earlier, in 1953, when in the first ever CIA initiated coup toppled a foreign government.

Stephen Kinzer's book, All the Shahís Men, An American Coup And The Roots of Middle East Terror analyzes the events leading up to it and its repercussions.

Also, Prof. Ervand Abrahamian, Middle East and Iran Expert at Baruch College, City University of New York wrote Khomeinism: Essays on the Islamic Republic (University of California Press, 1993).
Amy Goodman interviewed both these authors on her Democracy Now program on the 50 the anniversary (August 26, 2003) of the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh. This is fully worth reading.
I have not yet read the books, but I am eager to do so. The Democracy Now interview is fully worth reading.

2. US support for Saddam Hussein during the Iran/Iraq war

Stephen R. Shalom, professor of political science at William Patterson University in Wayne, NJ has a good article in the Iran Chamber Society website that's worth reading: "The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988"

Iranians we spoke to held resentment and anger towards the US role in supporting Saddam Hussein against Iran. Many we spoke to are glad that the Saddam regime is no more. But spoke vehemently against US double standards.

More later....


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