On my last trip to Iran, a few months ago, I visited the ancient city of Yazd near the center of the country, at the edge of one of its large deserts. The city is also home to the Zoroastrian temple of fire, the ancient Persian religion before the Arabs introduced Islam to the land.
As a student growing up in Iran (party in the post-revolutionary era), we had many lessons on how Islam was peacefully introduced in Iran and readily adopted by the Persians. Generally, young minds are shaped to be thankful to have been given the honor to grow up as Moslems. But like many things in life, facts are always twisted and bent to serve a purpose, in this case to make people feel blessed to have been given the gift of Islam.
I don't intend to open up a discussion on the right or wrong of what happened in Iran centuries ago, but the truth is that the Persians most likely were coerced into accepting the Arab customs and religion and abandoned their traditions under the Arab sword. By some accounts in the early years of Arab invasion, Persians who would dare challenge the Arab rule were murdered, their cities were plundered, their culture hijacked, and their women taken as sex slaves.
Most Persians today have traces of Arab blood. Their language is still Persian, but it is heavily influenced by Arabic, and their customs is a mixture of traditional Persian and Arabic traditions. Thankfully there is still a great deal of pride in Iran for their Persian heritage, as if to resist complete capitulation to the invading culture of so many centuries ago.
Seeing the Zoroastrian temple in Yazd had a profound impact on me with some conflicting emotions. A sense of pride in my lineage, and sense of sadness in what was lost so many years ago.