IRAN as Perceived
by Abolfazl Irannejad
What distinguish the Iranian culture from its neighbors are its long history and its continuity throughout the ages. It is this character that constructs the Iranian identity which goes beyond ethnic and even linguistic affinities. Different ethnicities and languages around the circle of Persian entity are the building blocks of the Iranian culture. Iran’s rich culture is due to borrowing cultural elements from different ethnicities and languages and truly all the Iranian people have effective roles in its structure. This multicultural character of the Iranian identity makes it not only friendly to outsiders but even it embraces them. This global view of Iranian culture has a long history dating back to Cyrus the great charter of human rights, the first in history, declared in Babylon about 2500 years ago and it is pronounced in the Persian Emperors’ tolerance to foreign cultures and religions. Since then embracing other cultures and learning from them has been the most important feature of Iranian identity and culture and by this it has retained itself in upheavals that could destroy a nation. Greek supremacy after Alexander, cultural dominance of Arabic Islam after Arab conquest followed by Turkish dominance could not weaken the Iranian identity, yet it assimilated them and influenced by them toward a richer culture!
Maybe the greatest example of this can be seen in the way Iranians perceived Islam. Iranians embraced Islam by transforming it from a pure Arabic tradition to a universal culture with solid philosophical basis. Therefore in contrast to Arabs that being Muslims is the essence of their culture and even nationality, for Iranians Islam was a set of new beliefs, understanding it and making it more fruitful was the cultural challenge in reaction to Arab conquest of Iran! Probably it is the main reason Iranian culture did not resolve in Arabic Islam and yet Iranian identity made an Iranian version of Islam that is tolerant and friendly to others.
The diversity and multicultural character of Iranians should also be viewed in accordance to very diverse local climate conditions around the country. The environmental diversity from Cold and snowy mountains of Azerbaijan down to green plain areas of Zagros followed by plain deserts did influence the local customs and traditions of Iranian people, making them flourishing alongside each other.
Most Iranians would like to be remembered and viewed by others as a diverse nation, blossoming great figures throughout history with an ancient and influential culture and civilization still alive and continued to this day, beginning from Zoroaster whose ideas changed the world of religions and still inspiring for Nietzsche to world leaders as Cyrus the great and to its famous Persian literature keeping its indigenous nature and yet influenced and enriched by so many cultural elements from Islamic culture to Buddhism and western Christianity, mentioning great poets as Hafez that did influence great figures such as Wolfgang Goethe so profoundly and then to the follow-up of Iranian society to modern world and its democratic demands more than a century ago beginning with constitutional revolution to its civil non violent Green democratic movement in recent years.
Iranians has kept their identity beginning with Aryans giving their names to the country down to the contemporary Islamic Iran with so diverse ethnic groups and localities, they kept going forward in flourishing its culture embracing foreign cultures and interacting with them.
This may be the view and perspective that people around the world may have about Iran.