Bobby Darvish: Rebuking The Victimhood Narrative

Babak Darvish is an Iranian-American activist and technology specialist. He is the CEO of Lycan Group and previously worked at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank and Cisco Systems. He co-founded the Muslim Forum of Utah and served as Executive Director of CAIR Columbus from 2009-2010. He is a graduate of the FBI Citizen’s Academy. He is a Volunteer in Public Safety Support (VIPSS), which works directly with the local Sheriff’s Office under the umbrella of the DHS and partnerships with other agencies. Bobby also serves on the Advisory Board for MALA.

My name is Bobby Darvish, and I was born in Iran. I have spent the last 40+ of my life in the greatest country on earth, the United States of America. This country is very special to me because of its many freedoms, and what it essentially stands for. America has been utterly devoted to democracy through out its history, and has confronted its problems head on. It is a country which has given me the free will to live my life and pursue my dreams.

I came to the United States as a young boy at two when my parents immigrated to the United States for my father’s education. Education was the only objective and my parents planned on leaving when my father completed his studies. However, after the 1979 revolution in Iran and the theocratic establishment of the country that it has been under ever since, it became really a matter of living in a place where there was no war or hardship. Because I was so young when I came to the United States, I do not remember what life was like under the theocratic regime. I did witness its aftermath when I went back to visit at the age of 6. My parents decided to settle in America then for good, and we have stayed here ever since with our growing affection for the liberties and opportunities it offers. Hence, my American story begins with radical/political Islam.

I faced hardship in the beginning having to learn English and Farsi from my parents, and when I came back to the United States the second time around leaving Khomeini’s Iran behind, I had a tough time distinguishing between Farsi, English and German. The extent of the vocabulary was too much for me in 3rd grade, but this experience served me well later on becoming a full blown multi-cultural person living in the United States. My German skills have deteriorated since, and I am a decent speaker in Farsi, but English remains my primary and best language.

My first impression of America was a good one. I thought America is beautiful, clean, and orderly, with incredibly friendly people. I fell in love with this country of mine from the very first day. I have gone through early education to higher education in the United States and have worked in both the public and private sector as well as for non-profit organizations. My experiences of twenty years with the variable corporate and non-profit work has given me many lessons in how to view life from a perspective of an  American from Iranian decent.

I have had great experiences both in work and life in America, and feel that I was treated fairly most of the time. There have been certain occurrences  influenced by circumstances which were complicated for me, and there were moments where I felt I wasn’t treated well. With race and religion dominated by others, I did experience discrimination, but it’s not surprising for me to think this situation through.

I have only held on to the parts of my Persian heritage that brings me joy and value. I have let go of what no longer serves me. This is the reason why I haven’t been back to Iran since 2008, and that was only to visit family. The greatest challenge that I have faced living in this country is being accepted as part of this society, and also being attacked by people of my own heritage for being too “American”.  Yet, I feel that the only way to enjoy the United States for what it stands for is to completely immerse oneself and identify as an American. After all, America is the only country in the world that can afford every person with any heritage to being an American.

The aspects of life in the United States that have made the greatest impressions on me are freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I feel that I can become anything I want based on my will to work hard for it. My greatest achievements have been my will to survive and prosper as a person. For my own prosperity on multiple dimensions, I have chosen friends of various races and religion. This serves me to understand what America really is and what it essentially stands for. Intellectually, socially, and professionally, I have grown and expanded my own self through maintaining a steady stream of open-mindedness. Integration and pursuit of happiness has been the ultimate goal of what I see America’s values be placed through a true test. From having experiences with people of different religious and cultural backgrounds, I have learned to only judge people on the basis of merit and conscience.

Integration and diverse point of views, in my opinion, brings more progress than anything else in societies. More voices that stand up against the views of extreme Wahhabi or that are central in nature will serve all of us well, especially those from Muslim backgrounds. I don’t feel there are many organizations that truly represent Muslims. I served as an Executive Director for a mainstream Muslim organization, only to be encouraged to downplay my Shia-Sufi identity for the taste of the Salafi community, solely for the sake of fundraising. From what I have seen and experienced, pretty much most well-known organizations that claim to represent Muslims has displayed a clear track record of representing a certain extreme, ideological view of Islam; charging a victim-hood narrative; and deflecting on issues that matter to the incredibly diverse population of Muslims in the United States. We rob this group of very valuable representation solely based on lack of leadership.

Rather, we need a platform that accurately reflects all views including diverse interests, values and concerns. We need a think tank and leadership institution that has as diverse dimensions as the population of Muslim communities across the United States, as well as the world. This integration of ideas and people with different views but essentially same goal of democracy, voice, and human rights will be the truest representations of all Muslim communities in the United States. The need for a representation that not only focuses on the prosperity of Muslims in the United States but also focuses on developing intra-faith relationship is vital to our future in this country. These relationships will help foster a deeper understanding between inter-faith groups; thus creating harmony, and influence economic growth.

Muslims in the United States are not very well represented currentl,y and their integration in the American society has been less than encouraging. There are organizations with dogmatic hard-line views that don’t focus on discrimination within Muslim communities based on belief, gender, education, religious devotion or background. This sends a very negative image to the general population about who Muslims are and how they are represented.  Change begins on a grassroots level. The Muslim communities in the United States are seeking fresh leadership. There is a need for an organization that focuses on the educational development of Muslim youth, sparks the respect for integrity, teaches against extremist ideologies, and works for human rights issues. I believe this is possible and that we will cherish living in the United States of America with pluralism as a central cornerstone, and work towards building an America which cherishes the  principles of freedom and democracy.