My Damascene mother, who is 84 years of age, calls black people Abeed, which translates literally into the word “slaves”. She does not do it because she is a racist, rather, it is a Middle Eastern tradition to call black people “slaves”.
And no matter how many times I correct her, she always goes back to using the same word. My mother is really set in her traditional old ways.
Consider this Middle Eastern tradition within a much larger context by asking yourself the question: Will Iran sign a deal with Barack Obama if Iran considers Obama an Abd (i.e. slave) of inferior lineage to their supreme leader who titles himself the “Verses from God” (i.e. Ayatollah) Khamenei?
Would Iran consider seriously signing a deal with Barack Obama if “Verses from God” Khamenei thinks Obama a slave?
This tradition of calling black people slaves, incidentally, is prevalent in the lands of Persia as much as in Arabia because of our proximity to black Africa. Our region has not experienced any moral or civil liberties intifada to correct the wrong we have perpetrated and prolonged over vast regions and on large number of people.
Iran does not have its own version of America’s ACLU to shimmy in disbelief or quiver as it wags its finger in their faces. Black people are called Abeed and no one thinks twice about its societal repercussions or the harm it does.
We are, indeed, an old people steeped in old traditions and values that have not eroded with the passage of time. We are taught from father to son and from mother to daughter, in tightly knit and expansive households, of not only the bravery of our past generations of warriors but also the righteousness of our ancestors. Worst even, we never question the traditions we inherited from the righteous, therefore, a black is a slave if our parents said so, which drives the argument of whether “Verses from God” Khamenei thinks Obama a slave to a boil.
Our region has remained deeply immersed in traditions, habits, and customs that other civilizations have long ostracized or shed. What is politically incorrect to western values is pure delicious ice cream to those of us born and raised in the Middle East. What is considered a taboo to many in the west is normal fodder for us born and raised in the Middle East.
Take for example the notion of marriage. Girls aged nine marrying adult or even older men is just one of those schisms that is causing much clash between West and East. Calling black people slaves is another one.
Within that context of understanding our heritage and how we practice our culture, a supreme leader of a great nation like Iran whose imperial Persian history has carved itself unto other great civilizations does not go down to the level of a Kenyan Abd to sign a piece of paper with him. A supreme leader of Iran, a great empire, does not respond to any of the four letters an Abd, or a slave, from Kenya wrote the supreme leader. Regardless of who that Abd is and what he has accomplished.
As far as Iran is concerned, her supreme leader “Verses from God” Khamenei thinks Obama a slave unworthy of his greatness.
Obama may have his doubts considering the way he has been treated so far by the supreme leader “Verses from God” Khamenei. My hope he will wake-up with a jolt of reality before it is too late. My hope is that Obama’s father appears to him in a dream to tell him to abandon Iran and its leadership. My hope is that he appears to warn him that “Verses from God” Khamenei thinks Obama a slave is impertinence of the greatest magnitude that no man from Kenya should subject himself to its derogatory hatred. I hope Obama’s father shakes him awake from this stupor.
The Mullahs will not sign any agreement with Obama because they view our President the way millions of Middle Easterners, to our shame, view him. The way my mother, unintentionally, views all black people.
With the exception of a handful of Iran experts (Michael Ledeen comes to mind), this cultural nuance has been missed by many writers on the subject of a US-Iran imminent deal.