Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

July 19, 2012

Iranian religious distinctiveness is not primal

Filed under: History,Iran,Shia — Razib Khan @ 1:03 pm

Dienekes has a discussion up of a new paper on Iranian Y-chromosome variation. My post isn’t prompted by the genetics here, but rather a minor historical note within the text which I want to correct, again, because it isn’t totally minor in light of contemporary models of the uniqueness of Iranian (specifically Persian) identity in the Middle East:

Persian identity refers to the Indo-European Aryans who arrived in Iran about 4 thousand years ago (kya). Originally they were nomadic, pastoral people inhabiting the western Iranian plateau. From the province of Fars they spread their language and culture to the other parts of the Iranian plateau absorbing local Iranian and non-Iranian groups. This process of assimilation continued also during the Greek, Mongol, Turkish and Arab invasions. Ancient Persian people were firstly characterized by the Zoroastrianism. After the Islamization, Shi’a became the main doctrine of all Iranian people.

As Dienekes observes I’ve objected to this confusion before:

For example, it is routinely unknown that before the Safavids Iran was a predominantly Sunni domain. This is not to deny the presence of Shia within the borders of modern Iran, but aside from periods of state patronage (e.g., the Buyids) the status of Shi’ism was as ...

January 13, 2012

The dynasty which created Iran

Filed under: Culture,Iran,Safavids,Shia — Razib Khan @ 12:26 am


Shah Ismail I

The BBC Radio 4 program In Our Time just had an episode on the Safavid dynasty. If you want to understand how Iran as we understand it came to be, and you know nothing about the Safavids, this program is essential. Because of its outsized role in Western antiquity the pre-Christian Achaemenids are well known, while Iranian nationalists may look to the pre-Islamic Sassanians immortalized in the Shahnameh. Obviously these dynasties are important, just as the House of Wessex and the Plantagenets are essential in understanding how Britain came to be. But to truly comprehend England as a Protestant nation with a distinctive identity in relation to the continent the England of the Tudors and Stuarts, who happen to be contemporaneous with the Safavids, are much more important.


For example, it is routinely unknown that before the Safavids Iran was a predominantly Sunni domain. This is not to deny the presence of Shia within the borders of modern Iran, but aside from periods of state patronage (e.g., the Buyids) the status of Shi’ism was as it was in most of the Muslim world after the year 1000, a marginal minority, tolerated at best, oppressed at worst. It was the Safavids, originally a cosmopolitan Sufi order of variegated Greek, Kurdish, and Turkic origin (albeit, culturally Turk by the period of the Safavids) which realigned the identity of the Iranian nation with Shi’ism in the 16th and 17th centuries, recruiting Shia clerics from Lebanon and Iraq to reform and convert the multi-ethnic populace of the Iranian plateau.

August 3, 2011

1 out of 3 young Iranian men “gay”?

Filed under: Data Analysis,Gay,Health,homosexuality,Homosexuality in Iran,Iran — Razib Khan @ 9:46 am


Married at age 21

A few years ago the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asserted that his nation did not have gays as they did in the West. What Ahmadinejad seems to have meant is that a public gay identity does not exist in Iran. He has to be aware that homosexual behavior is not unknown in his nation. More generally Ahmadinejad’s comments brought up the issue of men having sex with men throughout the Middle East before marriage. This is a taboo topic in much of the region, so getting good quantitative data seems pretty much impossible. But today PLoS Medicine came out with a paper with a result which suggests that the anecdotes of relatively widespread homosexual behavior in the Middle East are not totally unfounded or unrepresentative (the journalist Hugh Pope has indicated that Middle Eastern men have sometimes assumed he would naturally be open to sexual propositions because he was a Westerner. He grew a mustache to discourage such inquiries) . The paper is about HIV, Are HIV Epidemics among Men Who Have Sex with Men Emerging in the Middle East and ...

May 14, 2011

Pakistan-Iran border

Filed under: Borders,Iran,Pakistan — Razib Khan @ 6:46 pm

The Iran-Pakistan Border Barrier:

One of the world’s most heavily fortified borders stretches between Iran and Pakistan. The Iran-Pakistan Barrier, currently under construction by the Iranian government, features a three-foot thick (.91 meters), ten-foot high (3.05 meter) concrete wall extending across 700 kilometers of forbidding desert terrain. The actual wall, however, is merely one part of an elaborate system of barriers. Exploration via Google Earth reveals several parallel structures running along much of the border, which evidently consist of linked embankments and ditches. Fortress-like structures are also visible in several areas, as are extensive road and track networks. As the walls, berms, dry moats, and other fortifications are all built on the Iranian side of the border, Pakistan has voiced no objections to the project. Tracing the barrier on Google Earth, however, shows several places in which it seemingly crosses the divide between the two countries. Either Iran has encroached on Pakistani territory or—as is vastly more likely—Google Earth does not accurately depict the actual boundary between the two states.


February 3, 2011

A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind

Filed under: A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind,History,Iran,Middle East — Razib Khan @ 6:12 pm

Link to review: A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind

Quotes on Religion

Filed under: Identity,Iran,morality,Quotations,Real Life,Religion,Zach — Zachary Latif @ 9:41 am

“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”….Carl Sagan

“No man of any humor ever founded a religion”….Robert G. Ingersoll

[ The Bible ] has noble poetry in it…and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”……Mark Twain

“A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and is turned out for what he knows.”… Mark Twain

“I cannot believe in a God who has neither humor nor common sense”…W. Somerset Maugham

“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence”. Richard Dawkins ( Scientist )

“Only the Atheist realizes how morally objectionable it is for survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God while this same God drowned infants in their cribs.” Sam Harris

“Mystery [the divinity of Jesus Christ] is made a convenient Cover for absurdity”. John Adams (founding father)

“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” Benjamin Franklin

“All thinking men are Atheists”…Ernest Hemingway (P.S., notice the word THINKING ?)

My post on HinJew led to my uncle (who is Chicagoan) and I to banter about on email. He pointed out that while I am quite forthright about my views on the Baha’i community I’m a soft touch when it comes to Muslims. Two reasons:

(a) I’m an outsider, have been so for at least 3 generations, so am not qualified to comment

(b) self-censorship; at our talk last week the Christian rep amusingly contrasted  how many “liberal extremists” killed people versus Muslim extremists.

Anyway to end our back and forth he sent me a few amusing quotes on religion, which I thought I would share below. I’m not  irreligious by the way is just I feel the path to true religion is  valuing one’s moral and intellectual conscience as the  guide to living rather than hearsay or scriptural texts of any hue. Adopt the good of all, eschew  the bad where-ever you find  and if God is telling you something wrong defy him/her.

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