“Why Saudis hate us?,” asked my Iranian reader. “I’m Farsi, and regardless of what the Arabs did to us 1,400 years ago, I have Arab friends and enjoy Arabic music and dance. I don’t hate you, so why do you hate us?”
“Who said we do? Who said we ever did?,” I answered. “History or present, we have no issue with Farsi people or culture. Islam has united us. Not to mention we are for-ever neighbors.
“Yes, Faris invaded and ruled Arab lands, and we invaded and ruled Faris. That was the world, then. Empires grew on each others, occupied each others, and exchanged knowledge and culture in the process. Islamic civilization is universal. It isn’t just Arabic. Turks, Mongols, Indians and Persian, at different stages in history have led Muslim contribution to human advancement.
“Arabs and Persians are culturally very close. You write in our script and half your dictionary is Arabic. Many of our top scientists, philosophers and poets during the Umayyad and Abbasids Caliphate were Farsi. Your imams and spiritual symbols are Arabs. We all direct our prayers to Makkah five times a day, and go to Haj at least once in a lifetime. We share the same God, holy book and Prophet. What we have in common is far more than what is not.
“We, Arabs, regard the Farsi civilization with lots of respect and appreciation. You have contributed a lot to the world. We learned so much from you, as we did from the Greek, Roman, Chinese and Indian. Islamic civilization, like every other civilization, is a cumulative project. Qur’an, our mutual holy book, is the utmost source of languages, literature and beliefs in all Muslim nations. Saudi, Turkey and Iran are in the heart of the Islamic world. Like it or not (and I love it) we have no way but to live in harmony and peace, in agreement and cooperation. We need, and complete each other.”
My Iranian reader wrote back: “I am happy to hear that. You are right, let’s look forward to a better tomorrow. But before we do, explain to me what’s wrong with today! Our governments are fighting over almost everything. They can’t seem to agree on issues ranging from oil prices to regional politics. Even Haj, a holy duty, is now politicized. Why can’t we forge alliance and partnership instead of this destructive competition? Look at the Europeans! They fought for centuries over religion, borders and colonies. After their last World War — that almost brought our human existence to an end — they wised up to the fact and created the European Union, a common market and border-less continent. Rules and laws now regulate economic competition. Instead of growing over each other, they grow together. Asian and South American countries are following suit. Explain to me, please, what prevents us from doing the same?”
I told him: I couldn’t agree more! In fact we were on our way to build our own alliance, common market and more. When the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was established in 1970, Iran and Saudi were close partners in the project. King Faisal and Shah of Iran cooperated and led the way. They resolved the Bahrain issue through the UN, and Iran accepted the choice of the Bahraini people. Relations between the two nations were at its best. It continued to prosper during King Khaled’s reign.
Then came the so-called “Islamic Revolution.” Instead of continuing the good work of their predecessor, the new leaders chose to export their revolution to neighboring countries. Since then, the societal peace that existed for generations among Islamic sects was replaced with division, tension and distrust. The road to Islamic cooperation has been pirated and progress was interrupted. Instead of the grand dream of an Islamic Union, your leaders dreamed of a Persian Empire that included Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Arabian Peninsula. Their means are to ignite “fitnah” among us, till we fought each other and become an easy prey for their hegemony.
Problem is they succeeded in poisoning our collective mind. I still remember a time when the Iranian Hajis, merchants and visitors were very welcome, here. They were friendly, peaceful and generous. Saudi tourists, merchants and students were very welcomed in Iran, too.
Today, it is upside down. Hearts and minds here and there are not as agreeable as before. People are politicized and sectarian. The Iranian pilgrims are so different. They come like militants not as the guests of ‘the Most Merciful.” When our people visit Iran, even the Shiite of them, they get harassed. Our diplomats, football players, merchants and tourists are ill-treated — many lost their lives.
So what changed in four decades? We are still the same peoples, following the same religion, and live in the same neighborhood. My take on this is: It is all ideological politics at its worst. Do you see it any other way? Long live Free Iran!