Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Language is the Language of Love and Passion...Not of Terrorism

The other night I went to watch “Brothers” by Jim Sheridan with a friend. It was a terrific movie in many ways. However, it freshened a few of my wounds.

The movie theatre was full of high school students and young college students. I had decided to watch a movie with my friend in order to take a break from the paper that I was writing about the security situation in Afghanistan. Coincidently, this movie was aslo,in a way, about Afghanistan and the war. It was a sad story of two American marines who get kidnapped by the militants in Afghanistan. While the movie was a love story mostly focused on the marine officer who made it back home, his wife,his brother and children, it had a few intense scenes from the Taliban militants, who kidnapped the two American marines and after torturing them for months had one of them stab the other one to death.

The scenes that captured the militants' violence were the only scenes that were in Persian(Dari, the Afghan dialect). The only part of the movie that was in Persian was, indeed, portraying extremism and violence in truly graphic ways. While watching this violence, we would also hear the words of the main militant guy in Persian about how the United States needs to leave Afghanistan and how the militants will fight until the defeat of Americans. They talked about their anti-American sentiments in Dari Persian. In sum, the parts in Dari Persian were about terror,hatred of the United States, murder and extremist jihadists.

While watching those scenes, tears had covered my face. I was humiliated. I kept looking at the rest of the audience in the dark: all these young Americans with their popcorns and soda drinks. What were they thinking? That only terrorists speak the language that they could now hear in this movie theatre? This is the language through which I learned how to love and to care. This is the language of my dream-like childhood. This is the language of my future dreams for this world. Persian is the language through which I define myself. This language does not belong to terrorists. It belongs to us, too! While watching these scenes, I kept wondering: Does the young generation of Americans find entertainment in such snapshots of the odious culture in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan or Iran? Will they ever learn that even if we are disconent about the Americans in that part of the world, we are still not terrorists?

I cannot even describe the depth of this cultural tragedy that I felt in my surroundings in this movie theatre. I wanted to run towards the movie screen and block them from watching these scenes or maybe finding a way of putting this movie on mute so that my beautiful language does not get portrayed only in this inhumane and biased way.

Persian has long been recognized as the language of love, passion and poetry. And now...

That night in the movie theatre I cried for my language. Our Rumi, Sa’di and Hafiz wrote of nothing but of passionate love and peace. I cry for the fate of my language. I cry for the people who are confined in this language and have the world judge all of them for this phenomenon of extremism that has also brought them misery for years.

I wanted to get up in the movie theatre and scream, “Listen up young Americans: Not all of the Persian speakers would put you in a cave, torture you and then have you stab your best friend to death! Please, I beg you to not leave this movie theatre with these images and sounds as your only images of this culture. We are better than this! We really are!”

Will this young generation ever know or learn this about us? Or will it grow up thinking that we are all cavemen and cavewomen who are holding on to “barbarism” and “terrorism”? Will they ever learn that Muslims, Arabs, Persians, Pashtuns and all these ethnicities and cultures of our region understood the beauty of love and peace centuries before any of these young Americans were born? Will they ever learn that we have more than just rifles, extremism and grudge to offer? Or will they continue to be entertained by “terrorism” in their movie theatres while eating popcorn and giggling at the men with turbans in the movie?

I hope they,one day, get to know the real people of our lands. We are better than just terrorists. We, I believe, have the responsibility to expose the younger generation to many other beautiful aspects of our cultures. Terrorism is just an anomaly and not the norm in these cultures! We must tirelessly communicate this to the rest of the world. We owe this responsibility to ourselves, our beautiful languages,our heritage,our cultures,our lands and our future generations.

Our languages and cultures are burning in fire just as our people are!


At 2:16 AM, January 02, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just reading Hafiz tonight, few nights after a long argument I had trying to defend progressives in the middle east with my sister. I was thinking that these poems have influenced my understanding of what is moral more than any Hadis or Sureh has done, and if someone wants to understand the progressive Iranian "religion", they really should examine Iranian poetry.

Happy new year! And thanks for all the wonderful posts.


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