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July 30, 2003

Dialogue between Civilizations
Kaveh Khodjasteh  [info|posts]

dialogue_shell.jpgI am transcribing this conversation of my friend who works at a public place in Toronto, Canada. Annotations are mine!

Man: Where are you from?
Z: Iran.
Man: Oh! I am from Pakistan. You know I am a Shi'ite.
Z: [Hmm]
Man: So, Are you following the news about this journalist who was killed?
Z: Oh yes.
Man: So, don't you think that they are just magnifying it in the media around here?
Z: Well, no! They killed a journalist and have to be accountable for that.
Man: Yes, but you know media is very biased in the West and you don't know the real truth about her.
Z: [yeah, whatever] Media in Canada isn't that biased compared to CNN and I somehow trust them. I also read Internet news sites from Iran and papers there and they all confirm it. In fact it seems that here media has played it down! There is real brutality going on there. I have witnessed it myself.
Man: [after an extended period of not speaking] When last were you there that you witnessed this?
Z: Two years ago.

Man: [after another period of not speaking] What do you think about Canada legalising gay marriages?
Z: Well. They're just a different kind of people. Let them do what they want.
Man: But you know, homosexuality has been condemned and rejected in all of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In Islam it is punishable by death!
Z: What if someone does not belong to any of these religions?
Man: Are you a Muslim yourself?
Z: I was born one, but I don't practice it.
Man: Well...but you are one!
Z: Ok [for the sake of the argument].
Man:And there are all these other things that could happen if one made gay marriage legal; people would go after other things, say they would go out and kill each other? Is this kind of freedom legal too?
Z: Well, people have chosen their representatives in a more or less democratic way here and they haven't allowed that to happen.
Man: But there are differences that go beyond law. For example they have legalised topless people on the streets; so women can take off their shirt just like men.
Z: Aha?
Man: But men and women are not like each other?
Z: You know, women in many parts of Africa are always topless.
Man: But they are not educated!
Z: [furious] No. That's a cultural thing. And education is only a small part of life, it normally only helps us deal with technology, nothing else [thinking about the lynching a raped girl in Pakistan last year].
Man: [after yet another extended period of not speaking] It was nice talking to you. Bye.
Z: Bye.

American Guy at July 30, 2003 09:14 PM [permalink]:

Z: What if someone does not belong to any of these religions?

Z has a very good point. And this is exactly why free nations will not alow Islamists to take over. It doesn't matter how many people they kill or buildings and bridges they blow up they will never prevail.

It is wrong to force people who do not share your religious views to conform to them. All mankind prefers freedom to compulsion, because of this, Islamist theocracies will never thrive or find stability.

The US, Canada and the United Kingdom have very stable governments. That stability is directly related to the fundamental belief that freedom is a God given right for all men.

Grand Vizier at July 30, 2003 09:48 PM [permalink]:

If that american guy believes that "freedom is a God given right, let me repeat the argument of fundamentalists in Iran on that: "... and He can take it away whenever He wants".

The fact that these 3 western governments seem to be stable does not justify them as Good or even "favouring freedom". It only shows that they are (or are advertised as being) efficient in what they do. The fundamentalist regimes are not stable simply because their theocratic nature needs to be ratified from an external invisible source, God; they do not prevail as a matter of course, just as the Inquisition is now history.

Freedom is not provided by the governments either; In fact it can only respected by them- I am afraid talking more along these directions might benefit the neo-cons' cause.

Ghazal at July 31, 2003 03:21 AM [permalink]:

the last part of the conversation is such a typical conversation I could expect to hear between an so called good "Muslim" and a so called an "intellectual", who has lived in west for a while. I wish Z and man hadn't dismissed each other so soon just after they finished repeating the popular second hand arguments and instead had started thinking through it for themselves and actually had discussed their differences. I think it is important to talk.

bahram at July 31, 2003 06:17 AM [permalink]:

Yes, i had such kind of conversation with other muslims. Some of them are so much fundamentalist that i had to defend american policy in middle east !
Islam needs what happened with christianity at the end middle age with protestantism.
Islam puts god in the center of the circle instead of humanity.

michelle at July 31, 2003 03:26 PM [permalink]:

I think the lack of communication you describe is pretty widespread. Most Americans live fairly isolated lives, in the middle of narrowly-defined communities of people that closely resemble themselves. This allows huge rifts to open up in society-- for example, Vermont has legal same-sex unions, and yet O'Reilly has no shortage of guests willing to go on his TV show* and declare that such unions will lead to the corruption of the young and the ultimate downfall of American society.

And so, I was thinking...

Have you noticed how boring TV reality shows are? All the contestants are young, good-looking, and hoping to land an acting career. Too bad we couldn't design a reality show to really mix things up... say, throw together inner-city kids with aging, overweight Wall Street execs, well-intentioned but fussy primary school teachers, even illegal immigrants... and then make them do something they are ALL terrible at, like outdoor obstacle courses, or Monopoly. Maybe the contestants would come up with something more interesting to say!

Seriously though, I think that a key ingredient for (more) open communication is creating new situations that level the playing field for all participants-- no one is likely to change their mind about anything when they perceive themselves to be threatened.

*The O'Reilly Factor, on Fox News. O'Reilly is a conservative Catholic who is outspoken about nearly everything.

elnaz at August 1, 2003 12:39 AM [permalink]:

There is a point in Michelle's comment. There is this big need for "dialogue". It seems like everybody, no matter what they are - conservative or liberal-, are happy with themselves. Nobody really cares what other people are saying, sometimes it even seems that people don't even TRY to put themselves in other people's shoes. The liberals are so proud of being the "intellectual" and "enlightened" that they definitely look down on others and the conservatives are so obsessed with God and holyness, the hell and the heaven , that it sometimes seems impossible to talk to them without the other world interfering in between.
I guess it just goes on and on. I'm not sure but I think people are afraid of "the others", even on tv shows.
BTW, I like this new wave of gay culture in media. apart from harrassing conservatives(I confess that I enjoy it, especially now that their power seems on rise), this is a welcome change in the total homogeneity of the society, although I don't like the fact that their appearance is still under heavy cliches.