Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dilemma of Iranian language


Islam has gained territories through its sword and then manipulated conquered peoples by its imposed cult. Language of Islam which happens to be Arabic is one of the main yoke of its domination until our days. Iran was forced to speak Arabic during the two centuries of Muslim occupation. After the military occupation, Iranians could partly restore their language, however botched it into Islam, a mishmash called “Farsi”. Farsi remains until now a mixture of language of Islam with the ancient Persian or Parsi.

In the course of Iranian history, Iranian languages have been written with a number of different scripts. The last one was Avestan, which was banned along with the Persian language itself after the Islamic invasion in 642 AD. The Islamic conquerors imposed their language as the only allowed language on Iranians. The current language, Farsi, appeared during the 9th Century and is written in a version of the Arabic script. Because of its “divine” links with the language of the Koran and Islam, nobody has ever had the right to reform or modernise this script.

In this article, I open a debate over the factual adaptability of this “Farsi” language. The point is if the language is useful for a modern society and especially for our future generations. Such questions are raised up in a sensitive era of our history when our country is de facto occupied by a privileged caste of Muslims who call themselves Seyeds, Sheiks, or devotees of Shiite Islam who considered for many as a force of occupier. This odd era reminds many of our people of the early Muslim aggressors in 7th century when everything including our language was brutally smashed. No wonder, our already crippled Islamised Parsi or what we call it now “Farsi language” is now constitutionally forced to take further Arabo-Islamic allure, a project called “The Cultural Revolution”, planned since 1980 by the Mullahs’ regime. Mullahs believe it is effective to learn Arabic, what would give an edge over the Islamic language – this however has created the opposite so that most people exaggeratedly hate this language, furthermore, right-wing Iranians not only hate Arabic, but also blindly Arabs, labeled them as the mind patterns of “pro-Arab” Mullahs!

The long-term objective of The Cultural Revolution is to root out any aspect of non-Islamic identity from the society by introducing a greater portion of Arabo-islamisation in the language. It is to promote the existing “Farsi” into a more Arabo-Islamic language. The process aims a negation of the rest of pre-Islamic Iranian identity--the similar process of 7th.century when the early Muslims occupied the country and destroyed the advanced Persian civilisation.

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran considers educational institutions based on Islamic principles and norms. The constitution does not tolerate any other identity in faith and language. It has implied this wish by saying, “since the language of the Koran and Islamic texts and teachings is Arabic, and since Iranian literature of post-Islamic history is thoroughly permeated by this language, it must be taught after elementary level, in all classes of secondary school and in all areas of study. Therefore, lessons of Arabic language and reading of the Koran will gain more compulsory character despite dislike of an increasing majority of students to such Islamo-Arabic lessons.

It is highly predictable that after the collapse of the Islamic regime, Iranians will enthusiastically develop a popular trend of both de-Arabisation and de-Islamisation of whole Iranian space, including our language. The words, names, items, numbers, symbols, and all those which remind us of an era of invasion, subjugation, humiliation by Islam will be spontaneously replaced with non-Islamo-Arabic words. In my view, not only in Iran, but all over the Arabo-Islamic world, the inadequacies (or backwardness) of this Islamised language has been a debilitating factor in cross-cultural understanding of necessity for a culture of modernisation.

To avoid any linguistic chaos after the fall of the Islamic regime, we need appropriate reforms to free our language from the long Arabio-Islamic domination. A modernised language not only can fit our pre-Islamic civilised culture, but also can effectively push back the backward effects of Islamic influence among our grassroots. An adaptive language to our modern needs has psychological effects to stop people from creeping back into archaic way of thoughts, obscurantism, and backwardness.

While many languages around the world, including in some Islamic countries, can be permanently and adaptively reformed and modernised, our current language, Farsi, has been used since the invasion of Islam as a cloak for the safeguard of Islamic culture. Since the advent of Islam in Iran, not only Islam has been a launch pad to attack our past identity, but also has been practically crippled our normal attempts toward freedom, progress, gender equality, and modernisation.

No wonder, in a spirit of growing civil disobedience in Iran against the Islamic backward regime, a trend of language reform spontaneously grows among the Iranian youth. It challenges the unpopular Islamic influence in our language. As spontaneous reactions, the young generation in Iran chooses non-Islamic names for children, learns Western languages instead of the institutionalised Arabic, wears T-shirts with Latin writings on them, use a Latino-Persian writing called finglish on the internet. All these “renegades” show the trend for an adaptive language than the current Farsi or in fact an Islamised Parsi.

Once Iran is free from Mullahs’ clutches, a secular state will certainly pass legislative proposals to ensure the task that our current language will be reformed, modernised, and useful to our new society. On the other hand, modern-day methods of instantaneous communication and globalisation require fundamental need in a range of modern languages in order to create and maintain vibrant activities. Therefore, after the fall of the Islamic regime, parallel to restoration of Farsi, Parsi or whatever it will be called, a modern international language as the second language will be be highly promoted nationwide. It will be a solid support for advanced education, research, computer use and any use of modernisation in Iran. Both (Farsi / Parsi /Persian) and the international language open common doors of the continuing struggle for secularisation, democratisation and modernisation.

Let me emphasise, the reformed language has nothing to do with disregarding a part of our classic literature. In fact, no reformed language has taken away the worth of its classic literature. After modernisation of our language, our classic literature will be respected as a patrimony of our literature, but let me emphasise again that Islamic culture behind it has little chance to resist in a free and secular Iran. A modernised language finds effective ways to sustain its literature and heritage. This is not the problem. The problem is the religious influence which couple with our language. A trend I call “Pan Islamo-nationlism” wants to keep Islamic influence at any cost.

It is clear that some people with religious or traditional backgrounds will likely attempt to block or delay the process of language reforms. The 1400-year-domination of Arabo-Islamic language over our country has left its mental debris behind. Nevertheless, free people can no longer bow to the indoctrination of religious values with the aim of such a mental retardation. Thanks to the Islamic regime, our people require a complete revamping and can choose their way of life including their means of communication.

Those Iranians who speak modern languages know better that our current language, in its current stagnation, is scientifically poor. A scientific transformation must be mandatory for educational, industrial and business communities in a free Iran In many domains of modern sciences; it is not sufficiently expressive under “Farsi”. Developing a modern language in high levels of proficiency, particularly in higher education, will require significantly greater resources than are fortunately at hand. Our linguistic experts in a secular Iran can focus on the study of development of our modern languages. They may change or modify the words, proper names, verbs to the pre-Islamic synonyms or a simpler way of linguistic use.

In my opinion, for the use of scientific terms, it seems more practical and easier to use the most common international words and terms, what most languages do in advance or developing countries. In this perspective, the pivotal point is how to form a useful and productive language freed from the traditional burden and unnecessary complications. We have rich sources of pre-Islamic Persian and international common terms to reform the language, but in the field of science, we should not complicate the language by too much attaching to the past.

In fact, a language is not only a coding system of communication, but also a bridge between thought and action. In other words, the way we talk can in turn influence the way we think—psychological effects of language. A rich and modern language can considerably improve our cognitive faculties, memory, mental ability, emotional expressions, and behaviour.

In my view, language, before anything else, is a set of arbitrary symbols through which we communicate. The symbols appear and disappear with time and material conditions; they are not sacred and eternal. The culturally determined patterns and values of these symbols alongside with many languages and dialects will permanently appear and disappear during the course of social evolution. Since language is a medium of our thoughts, feelings, and especially ideas, it must be permanently adapted to our realities and immediate needs otherwise can easily be abused by the totalitarian regimes or a belief system like Islam. Nazi Germany also imposed its own racial terms in its short-12-year domination. Islam has down worse in a very longer period of its domination. Germany reformed the language after the fall of Nazism; we can do the same after the fall of Islamism.

All experiences show that the language we use because of its shortage gives way to Western languages. For example, the Iranian communities in the US or Europe can expect that only a small percentage of their children will be fluent in Persian. It is not however the case for Westerners living in Iran-- their children would speak their original language fluently. The reason is not only due to their own mother language but the fact that our language is not adapted to modern life. For example, we cannot use our script on the internet or for many other means of written communication which appear on the market. The goal of language reform is to introduce a language which should be modern, precise and easier to learn.

The alphabet we use is mainly Arabic; it does not cover all the sounds we pronounce. Apart from some regions in Khuzestan and Kurdistan, most Iranians cannot phonetically pronounce all letters of the alphabet-- this is also one of the main reasons we have so many different accents and dialects within Iran. Furthermore, apart from some ignored signs, we have no letters clearly representing some vowels. All of which turn the language more difficult and imprecise -- a great number of Iranian high school students cannot write and read correctly.

Regarding the various problems of today’s language, a reform in alphabet seems to be necessary, one which phonetically adjusts to the verbal language. The only solution is the introduction of an accessory alphabet for computer which is the language of sciences, researches and a spirit of modern and secular life. As mentioned, such a transformation is of course a long process; it might last one or several decades but should not be considered an overdue reform.

In my view, such reforms will necessarily require adoption of Latin type alphabets in order to facilitate and enhance the ease of cross-cultural communications. An accessory alphabet should be worked out so that it harmonises the phonetic part to the written part. That is to say, we need an alphabet which correctly relates sounds to the written words. The new alphabet must solve the problems of vowels and consonants which are not phonetically pronounceable because they have Arabic origins that cannot be pronounced by the majority of Iranians.

In essence, the new alphabet must be simple and avoid composed letters and irregularities which appear in the history of any language. It should consider two main elements:

• The modernisation and adaptation of the society to the modern needs.
• The purification of our language from too much influences of Islam.

During the period of transformation and maybe after that the old alphabet must be kept for those who need it.

In a free and secular Iran, our future democratic establishments should take care in rending language modern and attractive. Meanwhile, there should be little need for speakers or writers to waste time looking for words, terms, and expressions to mean objects or ideas. What is to be made of all of this? To ensure that a language remains the predominant way of communication, learning, and development we have to accept all necessary reforms. What I rather attribute to any language is its aspect of intercommunication which in turn affects our mental faculties and social efficiency. Therefore, morphology and semantics of language is more important for me than the historical part and only in this perspective a language must be permanently and adaptively reformed. This is the case of modern languages and only so they can be called "modern"--German language has been twice reformed since the fall of the Third Reich.

Apart from an expected resistance from some traditionalists, pan-post-Islamic Islamists, and those who love the classic literature more than the future of country, there are some relics of the Islamic regime who under any guise and trick will attempt to harm the process of such a language reform. Contrary to the first group, the second one has belief and interest to rescue Islam even after the collapse of their regime under any colour or nickname. For them a fundamental reform of our language remains synonymous to a sinful violation to the values of Islam, even if their argument opportunistically hides this point behind a fake nationalism.
Considering all the problems with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the reality of the origin and conditions under which Islam was imposed on the Iranian people, it is legitimate to raise the question: how do we best bring an end to Arabo-Islamic ills in Iran after the fall of its political regime? Here, the question is not only about political secularism, but about de-Arabo-Islamisation of Iranian culture.

This must be fulfilled through a democratic process. It should not only be a turn of leaf in our history, but open a whole new chapter in our evolution so that we can free ourselves from the long and pernicious influence of Islam. Only through democratic process would it not only signal a new beginning and bring forth a new era for Iran, but also signify a Renaissance for the Islamic world. Our fullest Renaissance will officially start when we get rid of the plague of the Mullahs’ regime.

However some seeds of the Renaissance have spontaneously budded. One of them deals with our or language. Since such a democratic state does not exist yet, as much as we can, we, Iranians with some sense of responsibility, should try to restore Persian / Parsi / modern Farsi in our writings and verbal conversations. We have engaged and responsible people who do their best to use and teach this. The conditions are at hand for Iranians, inside or outside, to start to introduce the demanded reforms into the realm of our language. Thanks to the vast internet communication, facebook, twitter and etc., we can help each other to modernise and secularise our language.