The world is standing yet again on the brink of war. The President of the United States and his cronies now seems intent on attacking Iran and it seems that Australia is again most willing to join the coalition of the willing to wage the war on yet another country.
We may well ask, “Why? What has Iran done to the US that has placed it firmly in its sites?” Perhaps it has more to do with the President’s “friends” who seem to be a contentious lot.
Saudi Arabia’s voice has blended with Israel’s and those of the Gulf States, inciting to destroy their neighbour. With friends such as these the US needs no enemies; and by inference, Australia cannot afford such a friend.
So what of the person in the street? You ask what street … any street at all in any country being pushed into war. Does this man want to engage in killing? Does this man want to destroy a civilization? Does this man know anything at all about the people or the Country in the sites of the warmongers?
Were I to hazard a guess, I would say that there is not a single person under such leadership who wants war or destruction. No one wants to send their children into battle to kill the children of others unless they are totally misled. To kill, one has to hate. This should be anathema.
So what exactly do we know about Iran and its people?
During my early years as a Muslim Journalist and one of the founding members of an Islamic women’s organization, I was privileged to come into contact with families from many nations, including some very special students from Iran.
These young Iranian people were of the highest calibre. They were united in every effort to bring about good; they were never absent when there was work to be done, and while they were high in my esteem for their actions and activities, they were even more special to me because of their wonderful humour.
They had something vital; something which I was to find was because of their intrinsic belief. It is very true as Allah has said in Al Ahzaab: “Ye have, indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day; and who engages much in the praise of Allah.” (Quran ….:….).
Iran, for me, was a far-off land which I had never thought to visit. In fact, the likelihood of my visiting Iran seemed just as probable as my visiting the moon. Therefore when I received an invitation to go to a conference in Iran I was amazed. I guess the students had put my name forward and as Comparative Religion had been my “thing” I was excited at the prospect of attending, and also meeting up with those of whom I had grown very fond. So the journey began!
We entered Iranian air space in the early hours of the morning. As the plane flew closer to Tehran, the picture which confronted me was one of dense white mist and golden lights. If I live to be one hundred I shall not forget this, as for me it became symbolic of many things. The white mist represented the mystery which was Iran, but this was over-ridden by many golden lights which gave promise of warmth and enlightenment.
Notwithstanding the early hours, we were met by crowds of well-wishers, and to my amazement one dear young couple, had actually come, flowers in hand, to meet me. We were swept along and met with conference officials, and that was the beginning of a time in which I discovered that the same enthusiasm and energy, as well as the humour and friendship earlier experienced, were all part of the Iranian character of those I met. I also came to wonder if Iranians ever slept!
Perhaps one of the most important places I visited was Qom. Qom is a sacred place, a special place of learning and there are many students, colleges and universities there. My time was enriched by my staying at one of the Women’s colleges for a few days where I lived in a dormitory.
This was so like my Australian college experience with bells announcing the beginning or end of classes; students swatting for exams sitting, walking, or even skating around the gardens with text books in their hands; announcements over the PA to warn that work men were going to be in the building; special picnic meals with friends.
I was invited to one of these meals and met young women from the USA, UK and many other regions. In fact, the young woman from the US knocked on my door and brought some American corn flakes for my breakfast. All of these young people were outstanding.
Although staying there I visited one other college in which there were many from the sub-continent. The hospitality and warmth I experienced with these girls also was amazing. They introduced me to the Head of the Women’s colleges. A friendly, dignified woman, she was happy to answer my questions. They had, I was told, 500 students from 35 nations at that time.
At Qom, they also had special schools and colleges for refugee young people. The Iranian Government had taken in a large number of war orphans from Kosovo and Afghanistan. They were given shelter, education, the opportunity later to further study or work, and when they married the young women were given wedding feasts and bridal gowns paid for by the State. I was shown photographs of these young people and their weddings. The Dean of women was a wonderful person who appeared to not just educate but to have a maternal love for those she had in her care.
She then introduced me to the Principal of the entire organisation. This man was very welcoming and invited me to ask questions regarding not only education but the Iranian status.
Prior to the Iranian Revolution, he told me, there was a great gulf between the wealthy and the poor which had been increasing. I had already known a little of this from an English woman I had worked with earlier who had spent six months in Iran during the time of the Shah. She had told me of her horror at the poverty which existed while at the same time the Shah and his friends had such a lavish lifestyle. That was probably the first time I had even heard mention of Iran as such.
Education had not been important, particularly for women. Today it is compulsory to age fourteen. From then on further specialist education was available and funded for those who choose to go on. Even itinerants and Bedouins have to be educated. The Government at that time had teachers travelling with these groups to ensure that learning was carried out.
University Courses available were in Religion including Comparative Religion, Political Science, Languages, Philosophy, Psychology, all fields of Science. Extra curricular activities were encouraged: swimming, football, cricket, tennis, table tennis and other competitive indoor activities as well as Judo.
One question he answered, unasked, was regarding Iran’s stand on nuclear weaponry. To this, he stated, “We have no desire to use nuclear weapons, we only want nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Our people, young and old, know this.” I have read the statement by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in which he stated unequivocally that to use nuclear weapons is forbidden to them because of the deliberate destruction of innocent people.
My time in Iran was inspiring, and the graciousness of our hosts was very special. I believe that many of the people I was privileged to meet had true greatness and firmness of character. As for Iran, itself, I never tired of witnessing the changing scenery, loving the variations which are so marked in this beautiful land. As I was about to leave Teheran a gentle rain fell, the first I had seen there, and I could not help but feel that even the sky shared my sadness at leaving.
Dear person in the street [any street of any land] think about a Country in which there are people who live and love, who laugh and cry just as you and I; think about the consequences of war before you are bullied into the situation of causing pain and destruction.
Work towards Peace!