What it is like to be Iranian in America today

Today, I have been reading a powerful article in the Huffington Post about the experiences of being an Iranian in today’s America, under Donald Trump. The author has written a very wonderful reflection.

 

He discusses how his experiences have changed in the climate after the 9/11 attacks, and how isolating it can feel as a muslim in mainstream America even in a large city with a larger immigrant community like Boston or Chicago, my home. I think it is a very interesting article because while the author talks about how depressing the islamophobia has been to deal with in the 21st century, he is given hope by all the people who are speaking out about it now that Mr. Trump is our president. That was not the case in the earlier years of this century, and while there is still a long way to go, it does show something has changed in the society for the better.

I have had many similar experiences, and I think it might be useful to tell about them. I arrived in this country in the year 2000, just over a year before the attacks of 9/11. I am publicly muslim, even though it is somewhat harder to see a man as muslim than a woman because we have no formal headwear. I belong to a mosque in Chicago, where I have attended prayers since I arrived in the United States. While some people give all immigrants strange looks, in a suit and tie I did not experience anything until the terrible attacks in 2001 on the World Trade Center.

 

The name Faraz and the color of my skin soon began to attract other attention that was not at all positive. It was even places like Starbucks as I waited for my coffee in a line that when my name was called, older white people in particular would look around in alarm. This made me sad, especially .

 

I am relatively lucky in my condo development, because many of the residents have known me for over a decade. However, some of the newer residents and the tenants in the rental units have been rather standoffish from time to time, and it is hard to explain in any other context than fear and bigotry.

I am a strong believer that by knowing one’s neighbor more closely, we will build the trust and love that is missing in so many parts of our society right now. That is why I am always somewhat forward when I encounter suspicion in my community. I do not say “you are a racist,” because that does not help. But I go out of my way to smile, and say hello to people who are giving me looks, and to get involved in my community through charity and volunteering so that I can show that I believe that I have much in common with my neighbors and their goals in life.
So while I do not talk a lot about myself as a muslim, that is only because I believe that my being American comes first! I hope we will all take this time of trial to come together, rather than to grow further apart. For those of us like me who are new to the community, it would mean everything.

Iranian Films

I know that sometimes I can discuss rather mundane topics, such as my pressure washer or my schedule, but I would like this blog to be about culture as well! I am very passionate about all elements of Iranian culture including music, history, and film, so today I want to talk about film!

 

Most Americans may not think of Iran when they think of great art, but we have been a very artistic civilization since the beginning. The early Persian empires made pottery which was sought after all over the ancient world. That is not even to mention our rugs, which you surely must have heard about. Islamic and Persian art and culture is to be seen everywhere from the woodwork in the great mosques of the world, with their intricate patterns to the tapestries and rugs which were woven for so many of the great houses of Europe, where they have been preserved much more stably than those in Iran itself. So we have been making great art for many years now, and it is as much a part of our culture as yours!

Some of our great movies and filmmakers are beginning to be more appreciated here in the West. There are now many film festivals which pay tribute to the great directors of Iranian cinema across Europe, and films from Iran are regular contenders to win the best foreign film awards at the American Academy Awards. Maybe you have heard of films such as A Separation, which won many awards a few years ago.

 

Iranian movies are a large part of what is considered “new wave” film, and modernism. They have elements of magical realism, as it is called here, but they also have a reputation for being much less polished and artificial than Western movies.

 

One Iranian film became very famous this year, which is called The Salesman. It was nominated for an Oscar and eventually won, but the director did not attend the awards because of the travel ban on many Muslims that is in place now. This raised a lot of attention about how many great artists from the Middle East are working today, especially in film.

 

In contrast, the mayor of London, who is the city’s first Muslim mayor, held a free showing of The Salesman in Trafalgar Square on the same night as the Oscar’s were held here in America. That just goes to show what a difference there is even between the USA and the UK.


If you have not seen them already, I would very much encourage you to go and watch The Salesman and A Separation, among the other great Iranian films! There is a helpful list on IMDB if you are unfamiliar with the titles to look for. I recommend the films of Abbas Kiarostami in particular. He is perhaps the most famous of Iranian directors, and since he has died recently many of his films are easy to find.