Family and respect for social order are among the most essential values in the Islamic religion, but these have been taken to various extremes by certain Muslim factions, and unfortunately these often receive much higher attention and notice than the true values of Islam (Akgunduz 2009). More essential in Islam than the subservience to authority are the pursuit of life and knowledge, and this latter especially has had a large influence on my own life (Akgunduz 2009). My family and especially my parents have heavily stressed the importance of academic achievement in order to succeed in life and to full personal potential, both of which are very important values ot me personally and in my culture.
It is also important to not that Persians are not Arabs, and the specific pattern of the development of Persian cultural values does not follow the same trajectory as many Arab Muslim cultures (PANA 2009). In fact, Persian cultural and religious values can be seen as the creation of conflicting forces, much like modern American values (though with different results). From the Zoroastrian roots of Persian culture, there is often a heavier emphasis both on mysticism and on a celebration of life than what exists in other Muslim cultures (PANA 2009). This aspect of Persian culture, as well as the sense of independence and separatism that has marked the Persian culture since the introduction of the Islamic religion, have been major influences on my family's and my own personal values -- I am highly independent and value my autonomy, while at the same time respecting the various familial authority figures and traditions that help me make my decisions.
Values in Transition
The majority of my values have been shaped by the cultural and familial traditions of the Persian people, and the Islamic religion that has been a part of this culture for centuries. This does not mean, however, that my values are in any way fixed into this perspective. The fact that I am not surrounded by others of the Persian culture probably has a great deal to do with this. Not only am I inundated with the values of others in America and American culture in general, but my family has also somewhat relaxed and shifted their own values due to the years we have been living here, which also had a large influence on me.
There are several values that are held by the Islamic religion and by the Persian culture that are no longer a part of my personal values or my family's values, including the differences between the expectations and roles of males and females. This particular instance can be used to illustrate the procedure I use, albeit subconsciously, to alter my values and adopt new ones. Though many Americans view certain Persian and Muslim values as needlessly inhibitive, I find that the focus and self-respect they demand are generally beneficial. Other values, however, do limit what an individual is able to do for no reason other than to create oppression, and these are the values of mine that have shifted to become more 'American." There are many American values that I feel are detrimental to the individual, however; certain personal liberties simply shouldn't be taken. It is making the determination about freedom vs. harm that determines which of my traditional values remain and which are mitigated by American values, and to what degree.
Values are a complex construct, and one person's individual values care shared by centuries of traditions and change. My identity as a Persian-American and a Muslim-American as had an enormous influence on my values, and this identity stretches back through many years and many cultures. The development of my values have been centuries in the making, and they continue to evolve and adapt as I move forward though American culture.
Akgunduz, a. (2009). "Norms and values in Islam." Accessed 14 October 2009. http://www.uga.edu/islam/norms_values.html
Ebady, a. (2009). "Islamic values v. Muslim values." Accessed 14 October 2009. http://www.crescentlife.com/heal%20the%20world/islamic_vs__muslim_values.htm
Kwintessential. (2009). "Iran: Language, culture, customs, and etiquette." Accessed 14 October 2009. http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/iran-country-profile.html
PANA. (2009). "Persians are not Arabs." Accessed 14 October 2009. http://www.persiansarenotarabs.com/persian-culture/