To be or not to be: what is your identity?

Soldiers crowding the streets, strapped with imaginary guns, make their way through the city as they reenact combat as if they are on the streets of Baghdad.  Military veterans from Iraq are only few of the many groups in Denver, here to make a statement.  Everybody here has a message, whether in suits and in formal panels, or in dreadlocks and on the streets.  But it is obvious what the big issues are: everything!  Oil dependency, the economy, poverty, environment, race/gender/ethnicity/religious issues, women’s issues, healthcare, foreign policy, to name a few and all of them with their own long list of subcategories.

Many of Tuesday’s events seemed to revolve around the age old issue of race and gender, blatantly placed before America in the final countdown of the Hillary-Obama race.  The Hispanic Institute hosted a panel on Tuesday, August 26 on the issue, titled Culture Wars: the role of Race, Gender, Ethnicity, Religion and values in the Fall Campaign.

The event was moderated by Dan Abrams and panelist included: Gov. Bill Richardson (NM), Senator Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Harold Ford, Richard Wolffe, Faye Wattleton, Markos Moulitsas, Dee Dee Myers, and Tucker Carlson.  The discussion was heated as panelist discussed the role of race, gender, and even age in the 2008 election.

The one consensus that seemed to exist among the panelist was that when it comes to the issue of racism versus sexism, racism seems to far outweigh in importance and sensitivity for many Americans.  This was particularly evident during the race between Clinton and Obama.  “Mrs. Clinton” (as opposed to “Senator”) and “Senator Obama” (rarely referred to as “Mr.” in the media), both faced kicks and punches.  Yet the panelists argued that the criticism faced by Clinton for being a female were not taken as seriously as those by Obama for being a black man.

The issue of religion was also fascinating.  Obama has had to clearly defend the fact that he is NOT Muslim, brushing it off as a bad disease.  We all know that Obama is not Muslim, yet, whatever your faith and belief, it is amazing to me that in today’s so called progressive world he has felt the need to go beyond correcting fact but denying and shunning any affiliation to the Muslim faith.

For many Iranians, I believe this issue touches very close to home.  Many have come here after the Islamic government’s imposing its interpretation of Islam on the Iranian society.  Many still feel resentment toward the Arab invasions hundreds of years ago and the conversion of the population from Zoroastrianism to Islam.  For the younger generation in Iran and those who have recently emigrated to America, there is a strong disconnect to the religion that they were born into.  For many of these individuals, Islam and religion have been stigmatized and there is the constant denial of having any affiliation with it other than coming from a theocratic country.

During such a pivotal time in American and even world history, where many of us as Iranian Americans are looking for change and a better future (whether here or there), we still have steps left to take in coming to terms with our own identity, whether as female, Muslim, or most importantly as Iranian.

Posted By Sara Shokravi

    2 Responses to “To be or not to be: what is your identity?”

  1. Elliott Moss says:

    If only there were a magic wand.
    -Me, ow!

  2. Obama has handled the Muslim issue better than anyone could have. I liked the way he handled the Muslim woman who was moved by his campaign in Detroit (of all places where they have a large number of Arab-Americans) and later apologized to her in person.

    The fact is the blondes in Fox News bring up Islam and Shia and Sunnis as if they were kidnapped by them and know all about it!

    As Muslims neither me nor many Iranians knew anything about the division between Sunni or Shias until Iraq war. We alwasy knew about Omar and Hussein and age old conflicts but didn’t know it would be this violent until Bush administration went to Iraq thinking they’d be welcomed by flowers.

    Now the same neocons, blondes and flimsy talking heads in Fox News and elsewhere are scaring people from Islam. The fact is that Muslims have suffered more in the aftermath of 9/11. You can imagine can’t you?

    This was actually one of the goals of Bin Laden to divide and play with the diversity in America. Diversity if THE most important aspect of America and democracy.

    Nowhere in the world can people live with each other with so much different backgrounds. Ethnic groups killing each other in their home countries find peace in America. Now some hate and fear mongers want to destroy that diversity and peace.

    It is a shame but Obama has handled it well so far. Doesn’t matter if he wins or not. Doesn’t matter if he has to distance himself from Islam or not. He has done more in this regard to reconcile and educate than anyone else.

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Sign the Petition


7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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