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A round-up of the week’s religion news. Continue Reading →

Painting a State of Suspension

by Narges Bajoghli

“The Chronicle of Her Innocence” by Bahar Behbahani at NYU Abu Dhabi
19 Washington Square North, New York, NY 10003
September 29, 2011 – January 27, 2012

“I, and only I, am responsible for what I recall and see, not individuals in the past who could not have known what effect they might have on me.” (Edward Said)

Sitting in her airy studio in Brooklyn, hair pulled back in a loose bun, and in comfortable work clothes with paint on her sleeves, Bahar Behbahani excitedly points to this line from Edward Said’s memoir, Out of Place (2000). One of two books sitting on her spotless work desk, Out of Place becomes a natural part of our conversation as we talk about memories, home, childhood, immigration, the Middle East, war, and stereotypes. “The importance of words, symbols, and signifiers to Edward Said really resonates with me,” Behbahani says as she flips through her notebook where she’s copied her favorite passages of his text.  “The way he plays with words, his attention to their meanings, is what I try to do with my paintings.” For the Iranian-born artist, Said’s notions of immigration and memories resonate on a deeply personal level. Continue Reading →

Apostasy in Any Other Country

Abby Ohlheiser: Something we’re keeping an eye on: Christian Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who faces death for the crime of apostasy, could face execution any time after Wednesday should he refuse to renounce his faith a fourth time.

It’s an interesting case with a bit more to say than the familiar narrative of persecuted Christianity, partially because pastor Nadarkhani’s apostasy might not even be that, according to Iranian law. Continue Reading →

Good Islam=Clergy, Bad Islam=Crystals

Amy Levin: A controversial religious tradition in Iran you wouldn’t expect to hear about is brewing in the news: occultism–or at least some relative version of it. The narrative arguably begins in medias res, when one of Ayatollah Ali Khameni’s aides accused allies of president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of engaging in “occult practices.” The aide specifically targeted Ahmedinajad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who was blamed for “‘bewitching’ the president with magic spells, of having too much influence over him and of leading a “current of deviation” aimed at destroying the Islamic regime.”

As an effort to divert attention away from the accusations, the president launched an attack on occult practices and “nonconformist ideologies.” Continue Reading →

No Headscarves, No Iranian Team in 2012 Olympics

Kathryn Montalbano: After the debate following last year’s decision by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, soccer continues its role in global religio-political contention. Warned in April 2010 that the football “monarchy” would prohibit any religious garb incorporated into athletes’ uniforms, the Iranian team designed tightly-fitting, functional headscarves for the 2012 Olympics.  In a heartbreaking decision for the qualified Iranian team, FIFA said not good enough.  Now the team will not participate.

Continue Reading →