Thanks also, Gabi, for posting this LA Times article about the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, who was killed on the street in Tehran on Saturday. I have seen the video (which is as disturbing as it sounds) but did not know her name or story. My thoughts are with her family and all the grieving families in Tehran. I’ll be at Pioneer Courthouse Square tomorrow evening wearing something green.
I made it to the candlelight vigil in solidarity with the people of Iran at PSU last night. There were over 300 people there to show their support, and people observed a moment of silence for those who had been killed by “security forces” in Tehran. I got my “We are all Iranians” button and ran into only a couple people I knew — it’s always great to see unfamiliar yet friendly faces at peace events.
There were a couple folks taking pictures of the vigil with a camera (as opposed to me taking pictures with my phone). There are some photos of the vigil up on Flickr.
It’s important for people in Iran to know that the world is watching, and I have participated in Amnesty’s call to the Iranian government for restraint. (I’m sure that the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei doesn’t read his own email, but someone does.) Even if you can’t make it to a vigil, it is a way you can be in solidarity with the Iranian people.
First, some context for the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world:
I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings….
…As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. …
…I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. …
… That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. …
Then, on the struggle around Israel and Palestine:
… America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied. …
Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve. On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. …
… The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.
And he goes on from there: to talk about nuclear weapons, democracy, religious freedom, the status of women, and the importance of economic opportunity for all. This speech is lo-ong, but riveting. His closing:
It’s easier to start wars than to end them. It’s easier to blame others than to look inward. It’s easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There’s one rule that lies at the heart of every religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples — a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today. …
I hope someone turns this into a song as good as his “Yes, We Can” song, so we can keep this first and foremost in our minds: that we were made to live in peace with each other. Now we all have to take the next steps to make sure that our country moves in line with these ideals.
The resolution attempts to create false links between Iran and our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but will possibly wind up depriving people of food (for example, Oregon farmers sell wheat to Iran) and curtail legitimate businesses when we’re all already facing hard economic times.
Senate Bill 633 passed the Senate 27-3, but I’m proud that my Senator, State Senator Margaret Carter, did the right thing and voted against it along with Senators Burdick and Metsger. (To see the vote results, you can run a search for SB 633 on the Oregon Legislature’s bill search page).
We have to make sure that this horrible bill doesn’t pass the Oregon House. Rather than continuing to demonize the Iranian people, we should be looking for ways to decrease tensions in the region. I’ve already emailed my rep, the great Representative Chip Shields, earlier today.
This could totally sneak in under the radar and will cause hardship for many ordinary people in Oregon and Iran. Take five and send a message to your Representative today before this bill is sitting on the Governor’s desk. (Not sure who to email? Let the Oregon Legislative website help you find your Rep)