No Belief, No Homeland

—‘Not Arab!’ As if trying to prove being the legitimate son of his father, an Iranian would firmly respond to a commentator who has made the big mistake of flattering him by considering him a citizen of one of the ‘beautiful warm and rich Arab countries of the Middle-East.’

‘No, we speak Persian not Arabic. And we have 2500 years of history,’ he would usually add. But if he is asked to describe what being Iranian is, he would not be so swift in replying. He would assure you, over and over again, of one thing: being not Arab.

If the commentator is ignorant enough to ask, ‘but are you not all part of the Muslim developing countries?’ he will receive a lecture on the difference between ‘Not Arab’ and ‘Not not Arab’. A great part of this lecture is history, ‘the major science for all’, justifying the most important issues concerning human being, particularly when all its scientific quality is sucked out.

Of course, a supposedly vertical history in place supports such a resolute denial. Iranians were not born yesterday, as Ahmad Shamlou, the modern Iranian national poet puts it,


Oh, I was not born yesterday,

Oh, no

I’ve lived the age of the world.[i]


But how can one and many live the age of the world? How can one feel that he was always around? One first needs to wed place to time and claim to inhabit a chronotope revolving around ‘we’. In attaching the people of a geography to a history, connecting people subjectively in time and place, or more precisely, causing one to feel connected with some through disjunction from others, an ideological chronotope is built to gather and defend a stable identity. Culture does that. Language carries it on. Religion sustains it. But the main issue is maintaining a consistency and continuity to what is otherwise the instability of chronotopes. Such maintenance can reach a point where it contradicts religion, or language, or race, or whatever.

Access the full article here:
Bavand Behpoor (2012): No Belief, No Homeland, Third Text, 26:4, 471-473.

[i]Ahmad Shamlou, ‘Oh, I Was Not Born Yesterday’, Madayeh-e-Bisaleh, 1984, translated by Mohammad Rajabpoor, accessed on 21 Nov. 2010 at: