Excalibur – –
February 18, 2011
The other day, as I was on campus making my way to class, I couldn’t help but notice a group table set up in Vari Hall with a big poster with the word Iranium written in green with a large backdrop of the Azadi, or “freedom,” tower that we have in our capital, Tehran.
I knew exactly what it was about through the coverage it was getting on the news; it was the story of how a film called Iranium was being shown at the National Archives in Ottawa, but was cancelled after complaints from the Iranian embassy. Critics say the film is misleading and makes false allegations, and that its producers are trying to instigate hostility toward Iran.
As I approached their table to discuss the film, someone from behind came up and knocked down the poster; then a crowd on the opposite side cheered. As I turned around to see what was happening, I saw a big Iranian flag draped across the wall – not the one that many of us Iranians are used to seeing, the one with the lion and the sword, but rather the eyesore that reminds us of the mullahs who took our country from us.
Then it hit me – the people who denied us our freedoms back home in Iran have found their way here, on free soil, in what seems to have been an attempt to have the film Iranium banned from being shown on campus. Now it seems even Canada is no longer immune to ideological radiation from Iran.
In Ottawa, the Iranian embassy officials were not so successful, as the Heritage and Official Languages Minister, the Honorable James Moore, gave the go ahead last Sunday and said, “In Canada, we value democracy, and one of the cornerstones of our democracy is the principle of free speech. It is in this spirit that we support the ability of Canadians to screen and to view films representative of different points of view, including this one, which examines Iran’s policies, including its nuclear program.”
“As we all know,” the minister added, “there were attempts to prevent this event from happening. I want to reiterate that our government will not bend to pressures or threats of violence and will not allow others to dictate which films will and will not be shown in Canada.”
While I am not endorsing the movie in any way or defending it, I agree with the minister – let the people decide for themselves what they think, as this is not Iran under a dictatorship. This is Canada, and we are proud as Iranian-Canadians to defend the rights granted to us. It is not anyone’s business to tell others what they can or cannot see.
It was Cyrus the Great who declared, “Now that I put the crown of kingdom of Iran, Babylon and the nations of the four directions on the head with the help of (Ahura) Mazda, I announce that I will respect the traditions, customs and religions of the nations of my empire and never let any of my governors and subordinates look down on or insult them until I am alive.”
“From now on, till (Ahura) Mazda grants me the kingdom favor, I will impose mymonarchy on no nation. Each is free to accept it, and if any one of them rejects it, I never resolve on war to reign. Until I am the king of Iran, Babylon and the nations of the four directions, I never let anyone oppress any others, and if it occurs, I will take his or her right back and penalize the oppressor.”
Iranium was screened at York University last week, an act I’d describe, in one word, as a “victory.” Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore said just as much, after he was forced to intervene and order the National Library to screen
the film in spite of numerous threats against the event.
To illustrate the nature of the attack on Canadian democratic values resulting from the screening of Iranium, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmnaparast, clearly in panic-mode, denounced Canada as following a policy of “state-sponsored Iranophobia and Islamophobia.”
After Minister Moore affirmed the fundamental nature of free speech in Canada, Mehmnaparast said Moore’s remarks were both “baseless” and “discourteous.” What we should surely reflect on in the thick of all this controversy, then, is the fact that we live in a country where free speech is as an intrinsic component of our very Canadian fibre.
While others view such values as “baseless” and “discourteous” to the point of interfering in our sovereign affairs, this is our accepted way of life, and it is defended on a daily basis through the blood, sweat and tears of our fellow citizens at home and abroad. It must be understood that Canadian democracy was reflected in the screening of Iranium at York University, both for those watching the film inside and those protesting outside – all voices were heard.
The government protesting against this film and our democratic values, on the other hand, crushed its own voices of protest with impunity and shamelessness en masse not long ago, and continues to do so today.
With the screening of this film, York University has managed to prove once again that it is a shining beacon of Canadian democracy and that we as Canadians will never allow our values and rights to be infringed upon by others. While many of us here in Canada take free speech for granted, we should not forget that our reality is nothing more than a distant dream to countless millions around the world.
In closing, it is our opinion that York University continues to be an institution where all groups have the right to practice free speech, and thus we applaud and thank the university for allowing the screening of this film and upholding those values which we cherish so dearly.
This article was originally published here.