In the name of the Lord of both life and mind
Now that the fourteenth century in the solar calendar is coming to an end, and we are entering a new century, the time has come for us to reflect upon ourselves and decide on how we want to be the future of Iran and Iranians.
More than a century has passed since the inauguration of social, religious, and cultural transformations of Iran. Amidst all these changes, religion has been one of the primary agents of change in our country. However, the general public, as well as politicians or even some Iranian intellectuals, view religion in the context of the majority and minority groupings and hold the belief that their religion is superior to other faiths. In this regard, it is worthwhile to mention that historically the whole region we have called our homeland shares common cultural and religious roots. Also, the current changes happening in Iran’s political, social and religious system have affected all Iranians including the traditionalist and progressive Shia communities, Sunni Muslims, Zoroastrians, Baha’is, The Yarsan or Ahl-e Haqq, Mandaeans, the Jewish community, and Christians. This lowly one believes that the only way to overcome and put an end to the series of crisis that has been happening in Iran is to liberate our thoughts and minds from all types of racial and religious prejudices and egocentrism and to reflect upon and transform our religious stance, accordingly.
This symbolic piece of art is presented to all fellow Iranians who are the carriers of Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Baha’i, Yarsan, Mandaean, Shia and Sunni cultural and religious heritage. The message presented by this piece of art is not merely a simple invitation to cooperation, but rather to emphasize that the only way to have and maintain a united Iran is to acknowledge our religious differences and abolish any sense of religious superiority. We have to stress our fundamental similarities, innate sense of human dignity, equal human and citizenship rights, and, in particular, the freedom to choose one’s way of living. The outcome of these ideas and beliefs contributes to strengthening our national culture while consolidating the foundation of a multi-faith identity in Iran. It also prevents the spread of dishonesty, hypocrisy, corruption, religious and ethnic monopoly and creates the grounds for peace and reconciliation in the entire Middle East.
The eight religions that are presented in this piece are parts of a circle of unity that have historically considered as essential aspects of Iran’s national culture as well as the entire region’s spiritual and religious reservoir. Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, Mandaeans, Yarsanian, Baha’is, and Sunni and Shia Muslims, all carry an essential part of Iran’s ancient culture and heritage. In fact, the national system of this country is composed of all religions of Iran, each bearing a unique heritage of its history, culture, and religion. Our national identity would be incomplete without each one of them. Furthermore, it would be impossible to implement security and progress in the nation and the whole region without appreciating each and every one of these religions.
Even though artists are unlikely to cut their own work into pieces intentionally, I have acquiesced to split this work of mine into distinctive fragments to symbolically express the importance of one sensible and crucial matter to my fellow compatriots. The issue at hand is that dogmatic insistence on one’s own religious beliefs and carelessness towards universal human characteristics that are shared by the followers of all religious beliefs would result in emotional, spiritual, and mental separation and lead to the breakdown of the Iranian spirit, similar to this fragmented artwork. Iran once had a reputation for uniting diverse religions or ethnicities. Today, however, we are suffering from agonizing experiences of isolation, separation, displacement and exile, conflict, hostility, and distrust within the nation. These complications did not arise as a result of the armed intrusion but rather resulted from our own negligence towards each other’s fundamental human rights. Our intellectuals and thinkers should also be aware that if their discourse is bereft of basic human rights and focused on particular Shia narratives that ignore other religions’ rights, they too will be an accomplice in arising afflictions. Their intellectual framework should shed light on lives of various religious minorities and portray a unified vision of a multi-faithIran. If those who aspire to be thought leaders are not capable of illuminating the life of diverse minorities, they would ultimately contribute to the cultivation of discrimination and religious apartheid. This matter also holds true in the area of national affairs. Our national culture only has the power to support national sovereignty if each and every time the words Iran and Iranian are uttered, the real meaning and implications of those words would illuminate the hearts and minds of everyone including minority groups.
Eighty pieces of diamonds are used in this work symbolizing Iran’s current population of eighty million individuals. Each piece is set with ten diamonds to demonstrate that being part of the majority or minority religion does not imply superiority towards others; it rather indicates that preserving the rights of minority groups and exclusively attending to their matters is the human and patriotic duty of all Iranians. It is the responsibility that is laid upon the shoulders of Shias, Sunnis, Mandaeans, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, and Yarsanians. We also have to be mindful that our entire national heritage, many of them illustrated in this work, are actively connected to an integrated national culture that all religious groups in Iran are part of it. Today, the entirety of this heritage is not defined by the political boundaries of Iran. However, the human side of our heritage is not bound to our familial beliefs; it is universally shared by the belief systems of all religious traditions. Therefore, it is essential to highlight the humanitarian aspects of our national culture. Instead of poisoning our social life with lengthy disputes intended to destroy others and justify ourselves, we need to promote a sense of mutual trust and sympathetic understanding towards each other. For the same reason that environmental issues and natural disasters are not limited to political and religious boundaries and affect everyone regardless of ethnicity and faith, in today’s interconnected world, we need to act and rely on universal human rights to resolve our social, political and environmental issues. If we belong to the majority group, we must let go of any trace of superiority, and, if we are a minority, instead of choosing isolationism, we have to actively participate in public affairs because this country belongs to us all.
We must understand that government-sanctioned endorsement or censure of religion does not constitute a basis for discrimination or denial of fundamental human rights; the right to have freedom of religion is universal and should be respected around the world. If any belief system – religious or secular – disregards the human rights of other people, everyone is accountable and duty bound to confront that belief. Any demarcation between human beings based on religion or belief system results in social alienation; the society becomes so bereft of compassion, and the body politic of the nation is impelled toward isolationism, opportunism, and corruption. More importantly, national borders among the countries of the region should not be used to legitimize nationalistic tendencies and discriminatory behaviors in our relations with the citizens of other nations. These political demarcations must never restrain us from basing our thoughts and actions on the essential oneness of all human beings. The emphasis on patriotism and national integration is certainly acceptable when it is based on reason and the preservation of human dignity. Our national honor would make meaningful sense only if we are mindful of the nation’s diverse structure, internally, and the need collaboration and goodwill with our neighboring countries and the world as a whole, externally.
This artwork consists of eight pieces, symbolically representing eight historical religions of Iran. Each piece has been delivered to the followers of the religion represented by the symbol.
- The Chief Rabbi of Iranian Jewry along with a Jewish worship group, representing our Jewish fellow countrymen
- A group of Sunni scholars from Kurdistan, Iran; representing our Sunni fellow countrymen
- The Association of Sabean-Mandaean religious community, representing our Mandaeans fellow countrymen
- The Mobedan-e-Mobed and a Zoroastrian Mobed, representing our Zoroastrian countrymen
- A group of Baha’is, representing the Baha’i community of Iran
- The Representative of Yarsanis from the Sadaat of the Heidari Dynasty, representing our Yarsanis fellow countrymen
The section belonging to the Baha’is has been presented to the Baha’i World Center since there is no Baha’i Center in the country. The section pertaining to Shia Muslims is temporarily kept in possession of this lowly one since there is neither sole authority nor institutions independent from the government. Unfortunately, the Armenian Caliphate Council (the Armenian Khalifa- Gari) for some considerations refused to accept the section representing Christians in Iran. This section will remain in my trust until the time that the autonomy of religious institution is firmly established. Meanwhile, our Yarsani compatriots abstained from taking pictures because they were not sure of any security and support for themselves.
As the body politic of human society would suffer because of estrangements and separations, likewise each section of this piece would be incomplete if it remains unaccompanied by the other sections. This piece is only complete when all the parts are put together. I anticipate a day in the near future, an environment where the motivation to respect fellow humans would be not the religion they believe but rather their altruistic attitudes; a future where this land does not only belong to certain religion, class, ethnicity, and mindset but belongs to all Iranians with any religion, attitude, or gender without discrimination. I hope that different segments of this piece, as symbols of national union, equal citizenship rights, respect for human life, and coexistence of all classes and opinions, be placed aside each other and become unified again, to display the splendid history of this nation once more proudly.
My hope and desire are to contribute as much as possible to intellectual and practical grounds conducive to bringing people’s hearts together regardless of religions and beliefs, even if I do not live to witness the time when the inherent dignity of all Iranians is proclaimed, and their universal human rights are materialized. This lowly one believes that today’s movements both in Iran and all over the world concerning attention to humanitarian principles and global reciprocity, especially the matter of religious minorities in Iran, will provide the means to revive our national culture, and in a very near future to provide future generations all over the region with these lasting experiences and valuable results.
Iran – Tehran
The imploring one, Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani