An Open Letter to A Young Iranian Muslim
When you first contacted, me some weeks ago, I was very pleased to hear from you because I have a great affection for the Persian people, and a great sympathy for the religion of Islam.
My father served in Iran during World War II and nearly lost his life serving the Persian people, coming home as a disabled veteran.
I have been associated with a traditional Iranian Sufi Order for nearly 40 years now. I have lived with Iranian people for many years and, right now, I work with Iranian people.
It always sounds condescending when someone says, "Some of my best friends are (insert the name of the group you're prejudiced against)" but, in my case, it happens to be true.
You asked me if I was a Sufi. No one can ever answer that question truthfully because whether or not you are truly a Sufi depends upon how other people view you. I can say that I have studied the Sufi Path for almost 40 years, and let you draw your own conclusion from that.
So, I can't call myself a Sufi....and neither should you.
And, right now, if someone asked me whether you having the makings of Sufi, I would have say that I don't know.
I understand that you - and millions of other Muslims - are outraged by the movie that sparked the attacks now going on around the world.
I have watched the film and I agree that it is a terrible example of extreme prejudice against Muslims and against the Islamic religion.
I agree that it is obscene, profane, and disrespectful to the Prophet Mohammed and to the religion of Islam.
But....it was just a movie. It was not worth a single human life.
And, let me tell you this: the people who made this movie made it specifically to instigate exactly the kind of behavior that Muslims around the world have displayed over the past five days. They made it knowing that it would instigate riots across the Islamic world, and knowing that those riots would drive a wedge between America and Islam, and especially between the people of Libya and the people of the United States.
And you, and people who believe the same things you believe, fell right into their trap. You behaved in precisely the same way the film depicted Muslims behaving.
You fell right into their trap, because your behavior exactly mirrors the behavior illustrated in the film.
In the film, a group of Muslims break into a man's business, destroying the contents and putting the building to the torch. And, just hours ago, a group of Muslims burned a KFC franchise to the ground. What did that KFC franchise have to do with a film made in the United States?
Some of the people who share the same beliefs you hold have murdered an American diplomat who was instrumental in the liberation of Libya from a despotic dictator along with three of his companions, none of whom ever did anything to you or to the people who murdered them.
And that's where you and I differ....because you believe that everyone else in the world should respect your religion the same way you do....and I believe that everyone has an absolute right to the freedom of speech, to speak their minds on any subject without having to ask anyone else's by your leave.
I would like to try to understand this one fact: We, here, in the United States, do not have the right to tell anyone else what they can or cannot say as long as they are not inciting people to riot....and that is the difference between freedom and repression.
As long as you believe that the government of the United States has the power to silence its citizens, you will not understand the United States, nor will you understand the rest of the modern world.
Here's a list of the countries where the government has the power to prevent people from exercising the right to free speech: Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba...and most of the countries under Muslim rule.
In Iran, right now, you don't have the freedom to speak your mind....you only have the freedom to say what your government and Sharia law says you can say....and that's why you don't understand the freedom of speech: because you don't have it, have never had, and probably never will have it as long as you live in Iran.
I understand that you don't understand this....and that's the tragedy of your life. Your freedoms have been so deeply castrated that you don't even feel the pain.
Of course, you believe you can say anything you want to say....because you have never tried it.
Do this experiment.
Go to a public place and say the following things:
"I love America. America is a great place. America loves Iran. Iranians love America."
Are these things true? Obviously not from your point of view.
But let me ask you a question: would you feel safe doing it?
If your answer is no, then you don't live in a free country.
Think about it.