Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Reuters)
On September 28, I appeared once again on "Inside the Sulphurbath," this time to discuss censorship, banned books, and freedom of expression. The conversation coincided with the end of Banned Books Week in the United States.
Shahrnush Parsipur’s writing career began in 1974 with the publication of her first novel, The Dog and the Long Winter. She's been in trouble with Iranian authorities ever since. Today, with more than twenty novels, short story collections, and translations under her belt, Parsipur lives in California. While she has always written in Persian and her fiction has always been about Iran, Parsipur does not consider herself to be a writer in exile.
There is no denying that hostile militant activity, sectarian violence, and political instability have left Pakistan swathed in discontent over the past few years. However, by looking at Pakistan through a despondent narrow light, people restrict themselves from appreciating the region’s innate beauty. Pakistan’s grandeur can be found in its spectacular northern mountain ranges, rich heritage, vibrant culture, delectable food, and a booming art market that has grown to become a foundation of national pride.
Nearly a half a century ago in Vietnam, a photograph taken on a Saigon street shocked people around the world. At the center of the photo was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk sitting uptight in a lotus position; his entire body was engulfed by flames. This image reportedly prompted then President John F. Kennedy to reconsider his Vietnam policy.
Eleven years after the September 11th attacks, I woke up to an eerily similar day. Clear skies, nice weather, and, more or less, a noticeable amount of silence. I remember that day, first I heard the planes and then I watched the towers fall. I remember thinking how small the world had gotten, how actions elicit violent response and how this day should remind us that the world, not just Americans, must work more closely for less war and stronger relationships with, at the very least, mutual respect and understanding. Destiny sent us in an opposite direction. It sent the world toward conflict and war.