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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.