Friday, January 06, 2006

Religion and Politics

Thursday is a day off for me—having just Friday off, in the traditional Iranian style, was not enough time, especially if you have errands to run, as most shops are closed on Friday. But since Sara is still out of commission from her sinusitis, I decided to combine my shopping for Desi items with a visit to Hazrat Fatima Masuma’s shrine, which is right next to the only shop in town selling Paki/Indian/Afghani items.

I was hoping just to zip in to the shrine, do the ziyarat (the ceremony of paying respects to Fatima Masuma, praying for self and others, etc.), sit and reflect (and people watch), and get to shopping.

But the shrine seemed a bit busier than expected for a Thursday morning and at the entrance I joined a line to be patted down by teen-age Basiji paramilitary volunteers. Stepping in to the courtyard I bumped into a huge mass of people waving banners and placards, and heard some rather bombastic speech-giving going on. I looked towards the podium, and only about 100 yards away from me was the oft-reviled President of Iran, Ahmedinizjad! For some reason he was giving a speech about something (just caught some generalities of hoping for economic and scientific progress and success for Iran—seems to be working as the Iranian space program is bustling and Iran is poised to birth a cloned sheep in just a few more months) which brought most of everything else to a halt. So, if you can’t beat them join them, and I listened and watched until he wrapped things up.

The crowd was varied and probably reflected the diversity of the Iranian people—true believers at the front and then radiating concentric circles moving from interested viewers, to the bemused, to befuddled pilgrims like myself just waiting to get back to business as usual. I tried not to take the occasional “death to America” sloganeering too personally, as both academically and experientially I know this is essentially anti-American government sentiment (often times rightly so), not any animosity to the American people. And, as the only American present for his speech (I’m assuming), there was nothing but welcome words and kindness from the Iranians at the shrine, whether clerics or the common man, who recognized me as an American.

At least in the end Hazrat Fatima was still there, peaceful and welcoming as ever.

Anybody who would like to be prayed for at Hazrat Masuma’s shrine, feel free to send your requests via our email contact here or post in the comments to any entry.

~Irfan Ali/Robert


Blogger huma said...

so you're fitting in nicely

11:01 PM  

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