Soldiers crowding the streets, strapped with imaginary guns, make their way through the city as they reenact combat as if they are on the streets of Baghdad.  Military veterans from Iraq are only few of the many groups in Denver, here to make a statement.  Everybody here has a message, whether in suits and in formal panels, or in dreadlocks and on the streets.  But it is obvious what the big issues are: everything!  Oil dependency, the economy, poverty, environment, race/gender/ethnicity/religious issues, women’s issues, healthcare, foreign policy, to name a few and all of them with their own long list of subcategories.

Many of Tuesday’s events seemed to revolve around the age old issue of race and gender, blatantly placed before America in the final countdown of the Hillary-Obama race.  The Hispanic Institute hosted a panel on Tuesday, August 26 on the issue, titled Culture Wars: the role of Race, Gender, Ethnicity, Religion and values in the Fall Campaign.

The event was moderated by Dan Abrams and panelist included: Gov. Bill Richardson (NM), Senator Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Harold Ford, Richard Wolffe, Faye Wattleton, Markos Moulitsas, Dee Dee Myers, and Tucker Carlson.  The discussion was heated as panelist discussed the role of race, gender, and even age in the 2008 election.

The one consensus that seemed to exist among the panelist was that when it comes to the issue of racism versus sexism, racism seems to far outweigh in importance and sensitivity for many Americans.  This was particularly evident during the race between Clinton and Obama.  “Mrs. Clinton” (as opposed to “Senator”) and “Senator Obama” (rarely referred to as “Mr.” in the media), both faced kicks and punches.  Yet the panelists argued that the criticism faced by Clinton for being a female were not taken as seriously as those by Obama for being a black man.
The issue of religion was also fascinating.  Obama has had to clearly defend the fact that he is NOT Muslim, brushing it off as a bad disease.  We all know that Obama is not Muslim, yet, whatever your faith and belief, it is amazing to me that in today’s so called progressive world he has felt the need to go beyond correcting fact but denying and shunning any affiliation to the Muslim faith.

For many Iranians, I believe this issue touches very close to home.  Many have come here after the Islamic government’s imposing its interpretation of Islam on the Iranian society.  Many still feel resentment toward the Arab invasions hundreds of years ago and the conversion of the population from Zoroastrianism to Islam.  For the younger generation in Iran and those who have recently emigrated to America, there is a strong disconnect to the religion that they were born into.  For many of these individuals, Islam and religion have been stigmatized and there is the constant denial of having any affiliation with it other than coming from a theocratic country.

During such a pivotal time in American and even world history, where many of us as Iranian Americans are looking for change and a better future (whether here or there), we still have steps left to take in coming to terms with our own identity, whether as female, Muslim, or most importantly as Iranian.

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