Discretion: My writing is not directed to the 1.8 billion followers of Islam, but to fascist regimes and scripture. I’ll post my problems on Christianity’s scripture next week ;)
I only know Iran through the memories of my mother. I grew up in Orange County and my parents immigrated from Iran in the late 70’s because of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. If I ask relatives living in Iran whether it’s safe to visit, they’ll give me an enthusiastic yes. If I ask relatives living in the States, they’ll give me an enthusiastic no. Do I want to visit Iran?
Yes, absolutely. It’s the home of my ancestors.
I yearn to dip my toes in the Caspian Sea like my mother melancholily reminisces about, or taste the authentic street food dishes, the saffron ice cream, the pomegranate and sour cherries. I want to see the ancient ruins and observe the architecture that is Persepolis. In Tehran, they have a beautiful bridge called Tabi’at completed in 2014, built for people to stay and ponder, not simply pass. I want to go horseback riding in Mount Damavand, and visit the graves of my Kurdish ancestors in Sahneh, Kermanshah. But most of all, I want to see my family—my grandmother and cousins, that I only know through social media and minute long phone conversations that consist of broken Farsi, broken English, and some I love yous in between.
But I won’t visit. Not now, at least. I won’t because I believe there’s a distinct difference between respecting culture, and abiding to fascist policies restricting my rights as a woman and as a human. I also have a problem with the poorly executed Islamic Regime.
Iran, the country that gave birth to The Cyrus Cylinder, the first recognized universal charter of human rights, now has the number one executions per capita globally. Iran, the country who gave birth to the founding father of Algebra and one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy, now sets laws that by age 9, girls who commit crimes are liable to death sentences. Iran, the country that created the earliest version of the modern guitar, continues to sentence women to death by public stoning. Not only is premarital sex a crime to the Islamic Regime, but being accused of adultery is equivalent. Virginity is a commodity and women undergo surgery to conceal they’ve had sex. The current Islamic regime spews lies like Hate Week in 1984 (similar to what Donald Trump is doing, by the way), so much that the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (I think his title is terrifying too) proclaimed in a Twitter video that the hijab is the solution to end sexual violence.
That’s not how you end sexual violence, you arrogant, mindless fool, that is somehow titled ‘Supreme Leader’. You end sexual violence by placing the sexually violent in prison, not the women who refuse to wear a hijab. You end sexual violence by allowing women to wear whatever clothing they choose and not use their chosen outfits as an excuse for temptation. You end sexual violence by becoming a part of the solution, not enforcing a dress code. Enforcing the hijab is objectifying a women through encouragement of gender roles. The hijab does not give a woman her identity, it takes it away. Today, if you walk the streets of Iran, women will push their hijabs back to reveal beautiful, thick Persian hair—but there’s an upspoken rule on who’s in power and where you go as a way of deciding how much glorious hair a woman can reveal.
Islam requires both men and women to lower their gaze—or to avoid prolonged gaze. There’s even a blog called ‘Six Tips to Help Lower Your Gaze’, where number 4 is to get married. There’s another blog called ‘4 Reasons Why Men Should Lower their Gaze’ where number 1 is ‘Allah is watching you’. There’s an old Islamic adage claiming that no man is alone with a woman because the devil is present, because the devil is doing his best to make everyone have some nasty premarital sex. Attraction to the opposite sex, even being in a room alone with the opposite sex, becomes synonymous with fear and shame. This is how generalizations are created.
I believe any healthy minded adult will agree that you can be friends with the opposite sex without feeling sexual attracted to them. Sex becomes an act with fear attached, opposed to an enjoyable experience with whomever you choose to date (or have a one night stand with—no one’s judging). Millions of Muslim girls undergo genital mutilation to deaden their sexual pleasure for the sake of purity for their husbands. In Islam, sexism is mathematically established in the Quran, Chapter 4, Verse 11: “The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females.”
In other words, the country where my parents, my uncles, my cousins, and my grandparents are from or currently reside in, live under a rule where I am worth half of a man. I am more than certain if I look my Muslim uncles in the eye and ask if they agree, they would not. Hojjat Sediqi, an Iranian cleric, blamed the deadly earthquakes in 2010 on women who didn’t dress modestly because they spread adultery. Tens and thousands of people died in Iran’s earthquakes within the last decade—not because of seismic waves or tectonic plates, but women dressing immodestly.
Verse 34 in Chapter 4, a chapter in the Quran entitled Women, clearly states that men are in charge of women because Allah has given them more strength, and to strike them if disobedient.
My initial response when reading the translation was ‘oh hell no’, but I also wanted to understand how much self-worth a woman who grew up with these adages would possess. Probably not a lot. Can you convince a woman with zero self-worth that their perception of gender roles are distorted? Well, let’s take a look at my beautiful grandmother.
My grandmother lives in Iran and has been a practicing Muslim since she was born. I remember when she visited California over a decade ago, I’d watch her pray 5 times a day, cook the meanest Persian food no Michelin star restaurant can touch, and beg me to wear less revealing clothes (bless her heart). She’s in her late 80’s now and her health is declining, so I am restricted to occasionally speaking with her on the phone. In every phone conversation, she will excitedly ask me when I’m getting married to a good, nice man. Marriage, or belonging to a man, is highly valued in Islam.
But not to me. Can you imagine her Orange County granddaughter proudly proclaiming (in shameful, broken Farsi) that she’s had premarital sex and have kissed more lips than the number of phalanges in her fingers and toes? It would break her heart. Point being, there’s no point in convincing a devout Muslim women their perception of women’s role is distorted. Because it’s not to them. Afterall, a hearts only as free as the mind. Who am I to judge? I can only judge the scripture that has written what I believe to be sexist nonsense.
Here’s the good news: it’s 2018 and gender roles are shifting to equals. Whether they are Muslim women or of Middle Eastern decent, boundaries are pushed and norms are broken. In March 2018, Forbes published an article on how Persian women entrepreneurs are changing the tech industry. In September 2006, Anousheh Ansari became the first astronaut of Iranian decent and the first female private space explorer. In December 2012, Bravo’s Shahs of Sunset delivered the highest rated episode ever with 2.3 million views (don’t you dare eye roll me—I only OCCASIONALLY watched this show in college).
I know countless followers of Islam who are the kindest, most hilarious, beautiful humans to have ever graced this planet. I refuse to acknowledge Iran’s despicable Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—the man who is no Supreme Leader, but a force adding to the suppression of Iranian history and gender gaps.
I only wish to see the same Iran my mother saw before she fled—the Iran with over 2,500 years history of vibrant music, poetry, philosophy, and sciences. This is the Iran I know.