Greetings! I just read Mr. Al-Rabei's comment on the Iranian customs decision regarding entry of commodities labeled "Made in Arabian Gulf" into Iran (see The Gulf: Persian or Arab? in Asharq Al-Awsat, 11/6/05). I do not wish to debate the merits of this policy at this point. However, since Mr. Al-Rabei seems to be interested in cooperation and friendship among the neighboring countries, I merely wanted to mention a few points.
As Mr. Al-Rabei correctly alludes to, naming any body of water does not imply ownership. This logic is sound and examples he provides (Gulf of Mexico, Sea of Oman, and Indian Ocean) are all valid and to the point. Names are just names and imply nothing more. No ownership, no superiority, etc. If that is the case, then only historical names should be used without any revision and arbitrary changes. Historical names are outcome of natural historical evolution and should be treated and respected as such. This much, it seems we both agree. But allow us, in the interest of fairness, objectivity, and historical accuracy (not to mention friendship and neighborly conduct) to continue this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion.
If northern part of the Persian Gulf is "Persian" and its southern part is "Arabian" just because it borders the homelands of these groups, then would our Arab neighbors and Mr. Al-Rabei concede that the portion of the "Sea of Oman" that borders Iran should be called "Sea of Iran"? Or extending the same logic to other parts of the world, may we use two (or more) names for the Indian Ocean, the Sea of Japan, the Gulf of Mexico, and so on?
If the debate and sensitivity on Persian Gulf is "silly," would our Arab neighbors and Mr. Al-Rabei concede that these debates on the Sea of Oman or the Arabian Sea would also be silly? Would they be upset or bother to defend the historical names if a country or groups of people decide to use different names for these bodies of water? How about if historical names of monuments, cities, and territories? If you still maintain "a name is a name" and arguing to defend any name is "silly," "extremism," and "emotional" then I have nothing more to say. You are at least honest and consistent. However, if you think otherwise, then how would you, and our Arab neighbors, resolve the glaring contradiction and inconsistency?
Mr. Al-Rabei calls the Iranian action "emotional" and "extremist" which "sabotages" our neighborly relations. One wonders if Mr. Al-Rabei would label our Arab neighbors deliberate action to revise history and use ahistorical name in place of the historically correct name of Persian Gulf the same way?
Dear friends, calling the body of water between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula by any name really changes nothing. It does not make one group superior to the other, nor does it imply ownership. It is just being fair to the history. It is respecting historical facts and accuracy. Changing these historical facts is what could rightfully be labeled "extremism" and "emotional."
Ali Reza Jalili, MA, MBA, CFP, CMA, Ph.d Stetson School of Business and Economics Mercer University Atlanta, GA
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