News / Middle East

Iran Curtails Western Studies; Philosophy Day in Tehran Draws Criticism

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (file photo)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio

The Iranian government says it will curtail the study of western traditions, including philosophy, being taught in Iran.  The statement is likely to increase the controversy over UNESCO's decision to hold this year's World Philosophy day in Tehran.

Many Western philosophers are blasting the decision by UNESCO to hold World Philosophy Day in Iran, next month, because of Tehran's dismal record of academic and press freedom.

The growing chorus of complaints over the UNESCO conference coincides with the Iranian government decision over the weekend to restrict the teaching of various academic subjects, including philosophy, at Iranian universities.

Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian philosopher who now teaches at the University of Toronto - and who spent over a year in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison for his defense of Western ideas, including secularism - has repeatedly urged UNESCO to call off the event.  "The position of philosophy in today's world, especially in countries like North Korea or Iran, where you have a ban on freedom of thought and you have many philosophers or people who try to promote freedom of thought in prison, it's like I said in The New York Times, to somehow hold a conference in Berlin in 1938, with [Nazi propagandist] Goebbels as head of the conference."

Iranian leaders also lashed out against Western culture Monday, while at the same time praising Iran's own cultural heritage. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addressing what was being touted as a Conference Against Soft War at Tehran University on Monday, insisted that Iranian culture is one that others should follow.

Ahmadinejad describes Iranian culture and Islamic tradition as superior to others, and promotes them as a model.  He also insists that Iranian culture will eventually spread and triumph.

Iranian government TV also showed the country's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addressing students in the holy city of Qom, where he delivered substantially the same message.  He warned that both Western plots and "pernicious Western culture" were a threat to Iran and its revolution.

University of Birmingham Professor Scott Lucas, who writes about Iran in the popular blog "Enduring America," points out that that the rhetoric coming out of Tehran today is a "far cry from the dialogue of civilizations" espoused by Iran's former reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

Iranian leaders, Lucas stressed, are fighting for their legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian public, after last year's disputed presidential election, and this creates a negative atmosphere.  "When you fight for legitimacy, unfortunately, in my eyes, one of the tactics you use is not to really be able to give an idea of the positives that you bring to people, but warning of the negatives, that you warn of the enemies and how they're trying to undermine you, and how they're trying to take away life, liberty and happiness."

Lucas also noted that despite the criticism of all things Western, Iranians are still fascinated by Western culture.  "The Supreme Leader may denounce Western culture, yet if you go to an Iranian market … you can pick up almost any Western film or piece of music that you want.  And that interchange has only expanded … when you have phenomena, such as Facebook, that were being adopted in Iran and opening up new avenues of conversation."

Lucas thinks that Iran's leaders, as well as some in the West, epitomize the struggle depicted in Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations.  "This political battle," he argues, "is us versus them, and good versus evil." Ordinary Iranians, however, he said, "embrace the idea of interchange, and benefit from ideas of both sides."

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More