I recently confessed to an attempt to find a deeper understanding of Islamic cultures through reading literature.
The books I read were wonderful, but very much from a western perspective. I needed to adventure a bit further- and given that this was around the edges of bits of leisure time, I needed it to be reasonably digestible.
This evening, I watched two programmes on BBC 4 about Iran. One of them was about this book–
This book (and this programme) deals with a different part of Iranian history- that we British people are very ignorant about- that is the occupation and manipulation of Iran as part of the power struggles first with Imperial Russia, and later as a way of ensuring the continued flow of oil to fuel our battleships. 4 separate invasions, and 100 years of political manipulation.
And we wonder why Iran today has no trust of western powers whatsoever?!
The second programme (also available on the i-player, here) follows a BBC foreign correspondent on a journey through his homeland- again Iran. It shows the beauty of the countryside, then richness of the culture, and the vibrant life of the people. It paints a picture of a country a million miles from the dark satanic oppressed place that we may have been led to understand. The film was almost certainly made under reporting restrictions, and does seem just a little too air brushed- almost like a tourist board film- but it is well worth watching.
And it reminded me that it was time I read some more Persian poetry- Rumi, Hafez and Saadi for example. 600 years of distilled beauty, spirituality and culture both alien, and yet so very familiar. The turning of seasons, and the preoccupations of love and and the approach of death…