April 3, 2008
Behind the scenes in covering the Dariush Eghbali incident
Accurate news coverage of the incident involving popular Iranian Muslim singer Dariush Eghbali in Las Vegas last December has been no easy task for me during the past three months. My article this week in the L.A. Jewish Journal concerning the incident can be found here.
Tensions had been and still are running high in Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community concerning the concert on Dec. 23rd when some local Iranian Jewish fans were shocked after Eghbali made what some considered to be an anti-Semitic remark between songs. In a video clip from the Las Vegas concert posted to Eghbali’s Web site, dariush2000.com, the singer speaks in Persian, quoting an alleged passage from a book he attributed to Lebanese American poet Khalil Gibran. He said, “Different people have different talents.” He elaborates, saying that Iranians notice one bad tree in a beautiful park; Germans are power-seekers; Italians are fashion-oriented; and Jews are “mochareb,” which is the Persian word for “saboteurs.”
The video of that concert can be found here:
After this Eghbali incident I was literally bombarded with e-mails from readers of this blog and some Iranian Jewish community members demanding that I denounce the singer for his words. My response was a simple NO. As an unbias journalist, my duties are not to pass immediate judgment on any person or activity, but merely uncover and report the real facts of each story. Now at this juncture, I am not defending nor am I denouncing Eghbali for his comments, my position is just as a neutral observer. Trying to get to the facts of this story without the drama and emotion involved, was not an easy task and a few local Iranian Jewish community leaders (which shall go unnamed) were not helpful to me in my quest to find real answers to this problem. Interestingly, Eghbali never returned my calls for comments and it’s sad because he could have used the opportunity to set the record straight and put the issue to rest for good.
In my opinion, Iranian Jewish community leaders need to learn how to respond to the news media more respectfully and accurately, instead of hurling threats and shouting—yes I did encounter some of both when asking certain leaders for their comments. Local Iranian Jewish community leaders need to wake up to the reality that we no longer live in a bubble, as was the case in Iran, and they are accountable to the community for their actions or inactions. I am not out to cast a negative light on anyone, but as a journalist who is trying to sharing this community’s stories accurately it is disappointing to see some involved with stonewalling.