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January 27, 2004

 Life 
A Punch
Guest Author: Sarah Kamal

I'm in Iran now, trying to readapt to regular life after spending two weeks in Peshawar, Pakistan, one week in a refugee camp close to Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and one week in Afghanistan itself. I'm having a bit of a hard time re-entering my old world, and have a lump of sad in my throat that can't be swallowed.

I pity the people who are around me, because I'm being even more difficult than usual. I've taken up walking everywhere — cars are too decadent for me right now — and what I call voluntary simplicity is driving my family bananas, since I'll walk forty minutes under the midday sun rather than spend 10 cents on a taxi, and wander home alone at midnight through the streets of Tehran rather than climb into the car with my Dad and step-mom (even though they are going to the same destination). Hello, re-entry shock.

It's madness, I know. It makes me laugh and smack my head to type this, but my current mad-ness also led me to punch a poor unsuspecting guy in the street a few days ago.

You see, I was walking in the streets a few days ago when a guy started following me and asking for my phone number etc, etc, ad nauseum. I didn't give him the time of day. Then another guy began trying to arrange a date with me, and I told him to get lost. By the time a third guy began hounding me, I was pretty annoyed. Men in Tehran can be pests, but this was ridiculous! It was only a bloody fifteen minute walk, and I seemed to have chosen the street full of idiots. So I just ignored this third guy - he wasn’t even worth the bother of speech.

But he was persistent. He followed me for a good half-kilometer or so, muttering things at me the entire way despite the fact that I was almost sprinting to get away from him. Then he fell behind, and with a sigh of relief I began walking across a small park towards a shopping complex.

But of course, since I no longer had an idiot, I had to find me another idiot. And this idiot was in the form of a tall bearded man who told me to put my headscarf on properly. So I whipped around and said "what business is it of yours?!!", gave him the finger, and walked on, taking my headscarf off my head completely and flipping my hair in his direction. I was now fuming.

As I walked into the shopping complex, I replaced my headscarf loosely, hackles still raised. And it was at this unfortunate moment that idiot number three decided to catch up to me and whisper sweet nothings in my ear. I don't remember much, other than him saying something like "I've found you now" and then my sensing a hand touch my waist, and then

KAPOW!!

my fist shot out into his kidney. When he turned a completely shocked face to me, I pointed my finger in his face, said "don’t touch me" in a quiet and intense voice, then marched on. He disappeared.

I don't know who was more surprised by the punch...he or I! I'm generally non-violent: I let non-malaria mosquitoes drink freely of my blood, and even cockroaches have nothing to fear from me, other than the occasional screech of terror and disgust. (I do beat up my brothers sometimes, but only because I like them, have their best interests at heart, and the stinkers deserve it.) I never ever ever hit for real.

But you know what? I'm glad I hit this guy. Once my sense of humour returned, I became more and more pleased with myself. In fact, I was grinning the entire way home because I realized that I've wanted to do this for a very long time but always held myself back.

I've always felt that it's unfair to lash out against men and women when they stifle me with gender restrictions or diminish me into a sexual object. After all, the society they live in allows the things they do, and they themselves likely don't know any better. I said nothing when my buttocks were squeezed in the crowded marketplace in Afghanistan (I was fully covered in the burqa); I walked on when the police officer, rifle in his hands, told me to cover my hair properly in Iran; I turned away when the fruitseller told me to cover my breasts with my headscarf in Pakistan (I was dressed appropriately in a salwar kameez).

The dirty old man with the goggles crouching underwater in the pool, watching me (watching me) swim in Hong Kong, the idling car stalking me (stalking me) down the streets of Los Angeles, the guy grabbing me (grabbing me) as I'm dancing with friends in Canada. They live on in my mind, imprinted.

My feelings on these incidents make no rational sense. I can't explain why I feel humiliated when young men flip through Hustler magazine in front of me – I think nudity is beautiful, but quite a few types of porno make me feel bad (perhaps I'm repressed?). I can't explain why I am moved to tears of fury when I see women with veils covering their faces walking behind their husbands — I respect different cultures and ways of being, but can't accept that women should be covered and secluded (perhaps my mind's not open enough?).

Somehow, I always tell myself that I don't have the right to make a fuss — that I'm living in a society that is governed by a culture to which I must conform. And somehow little humiliations pile up and I am silent, because really, each incident is so little and unimportant, and making a scene won't solve anything.

But ah! But then I punch this guy. Unfairly. And I don't care. I'm happy!

I punch him because I'm frustrated at the big goddamn amorphous blob called Society called Perceptions called Attitudes — enemies I can't see don't understand can't fight; I punch him for all the times I didn't act because I was afraid or thought it would be wrong or thought I would disrupt; I punch him because there is a beautiful talented 24-year-old woman, my Afghan sister-self, lady E, chained to her house, a refugee in Pakistan while I am so free that I can hold her hand then leave (and I know she is still there weaving beautiful works of art so she doesn't go crazy and that HURTS); I punch him because there are intelligent fabulous competent women in Afghanistan who are imprisoned by fear, slaughters, beatings; I punch him because there are more intelligent fabulous competent women all around the world who are free and do NOTHING; I punch him because every time a little girl is denied schooling, every time a woman is forced to stay at home, every time a woman is seen only for her body and not her mind her soul her spirit, a little piece of beauty dies; I punch him because inside I am roaring goddammit SEE US!

And the poor guy bears the full brunt of my anger against societal restrictions, women and men bound by farcical and impossible laws in Afghanistan, and sanction through apathy in one swift, angry, unthinking lashing out of my furious fist.

God. It makes me so angry.

He's lucky he got away with just a bruised kidney.

Sarah Kamal is a graduate student at Department of Comparative Studies of MIT. She has spent several months in Afghanistan working for an Afghan NGO called HAWCA (the Humanitarian Asistance for Women and Children of Afghanistan). She keeps a personal diary of her reflections on her trip. The above article was originally published in her personal website under the title of "I am Pissed off" as a part of the letter series that she wrote for her friends back in school.
Comments
Ali Mostashari at January 27, 2004 03:20 PM [permalink]:

Sarah, I really have no other comment than to say that I enjoyed your post.

Señor Græd at January 27, 2004 04:35 PM [permalink]:

Good writing!

I've sometimes wondered how it feels being a female in Iran, or a female for that matter. (I guess I'll never really find out!) See, as a guy, and especially as an urban Iranian guy, one can more or less choose to be "aggressive" in his street encounters with (eligible) girls, or just mind his own business and don't even give a damn.

But as a girl, in our society, you're bound to receive a lot of MATALAK (and what's the English word for that?!) on the street, among other forms of harassment, as mild as being asked for a phone number, or as serious as being groped when you're standing in a crowded minibus. (I guess the buses are still seperated into male section and female sections.)

So I find it interesting to see the realities of our society through a female lens sometimes. You girls have got to write more!

hajir at January 27, 2004 07:31 PM [permalink]:

Nice writing!
Senior Grad, I think Matalak is "Picking up lines" in english. Not sure though...

Sarah, about the punch, I think you had every right to punch the guy; so you don't need to feel guilty about it. :)

The only thing that you should know is to understand the men in Iran. They are not beasts who are walking around waiting to bother women. Actually iranian men are kind and lovely. Women should know that and don't take what men are saying in the streets personally. The averag age at the time of marriage for men in Iran is above 26 and desire for the opposite sex is there much before that age; many of them can't have sex before marriage (even if they want to) and so put your story in that context.
Maybe the poor guy that you punched, was out looking for a girlfriend for the first time, to get your phone number to talk with you over the phone and simply to fall in love and emotionally 'survive'. That's all. Such men are not sex predators.

.

AmericanWoman at January 27, 2004 08:34 PM [permalink]:

Dear Senor, I think the correct translation for Matalak is "annoying bullshit." I disagree with Wessie on this point. It is never a compliment, it is just a demonstration of aggression and dominance. If Prince William of England "whispered sweet nothings" to me in the street, I'd ignore him. Let him get himself introduced, if he wants to meet me. And as refreshing as Sarah's story is, violence is really not the answer. If someone feels entitled to grab your ass in public, he will probably have no qualms about striking back. A rape whistle might help though...

Wessie at January 27, 2004 10:03 PM [permalink]:

I really identified with Sahra's post. This is how I have always experienced Muslim/Middle Eastern men—obnoxious and aggressive to the point of having to violently push/punch them away. Every time a woman is on her own some Muslim male thinks she is fair game. They are not flirting—they are hunting. And like flies they keep coming back again and again and again.

AW you misunderstood my post. I don't mind an admiring glance or a whistle. I DO mind being accosted as Sarah was. And I DO think defending yourself IS the answer. Women in the West have been taught in "Lady Beware" classes to fight back, just as Sarah did.

Good for her! I would have done the same and perhaps more. Training in martial arts is very helpful. I can get pretty aggressive if some guy touches me. He may hit back (which has never happened) but he will get hurt!

Last year there was an article, I think in Arab News, about young men in Saudi Arabia who constantly harass women in shopping malls in that country. One day one young woman had, had enough. She whipped off her abaya and beat the s**t out of the young men who were bothering her—much to the delight of astonished onlookers.

I believe that Muslim men bother women so aggressively because they (the women) are "forbidden fruit" and because society says that any woman out alone must be a loose woman.

I hope that all you ME boys here in the West to study remember your manners when you meet western women. To be honest, I have never had a good experience with a Middle Eastern man—colleague, acquaintance or client. Sooner or later they ALWAYS proposition you and they always believe it is just a matter of price. Hajir's BS excuse for the "boys" is just that. If they need gratification let them stay home with "themselves" instead of bothering some poor girl out for a walk. When I was in school the boys used to complain that they were going to "explode" or be sick if we didn't give in. Those of us who planned to be physicians or had a bit of medical knowledge just laughed and went home without giving in. ;-)

Muslim women need to literally fight for their rights just as Sarah did. If islamic societies were more normal then these things would not happen in the same way. Yes, there will always be criminals and rapists. However, ordinary men would not make such idiots of themselves if they were used to seeing women everywhere. They might flirt and ask, just as they do in the West, but they would not behave so desperately stupid.

Right on Sarah! :-D

Wessie

yahya at January 27, 2004 11:39 PM [permalink]:

It is really funny to see how Wessie is trying to compare herself with Sarah. Wessie is sitting on her butt producing stereotypes and generalizations against Middle Easterns and on the otherhand Sarah is taking so much risks to go to Afghanistan clean up the mess that people with the Wessie's mentality (either in Taliban, Russian or American cloth) created.

Yes, it is a funny world where people who have not contributed anything to humanity, freedom and democracy can claim all the universal values for themselves by the virtue of being born in a democractic and prosperous country.

Wessie at January 28, 2004 12:13 AM [permalink]:

The only way Wessie is "comparing" herself is after having had pain-in-the-butt Muslim males accost her as they did Sarah.

As for not doing anything, Wessie works and has done so all of her life. What do you do little Persian Prince, aside from sitting on your ME butt and whining and blaming the West for the problems in your part of the wold, Yahya. Are you a Prince or a Princess? Can't tell from "Yahya."

Good for Sarah and other Muslims to go to Afghanistan or where ever to clear up the mess that Muslims themselves have made. I reject that the U.S. created the Taliban. Check in with Pakistan will you. There was a long civil war in Afhanistan. I don't recall the West or the Russians taking part in that. Muslims didn't like the "godless" commies, they gladly accepted our help. Did you know that the Afghans are the world's largest opium producers? Very un-Islamic.

Blame, blame, blame—Won't get you anywhere. Maybe you could go to Saudi Arabia and help them to stop funding and exporting Wahhabi terrorists, Yahya.

Of course, they just don't just let anyone in like the U.S. does.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at January 28, 2004 12:44 AM [permalink]:

Great Post!

AIS at January 28, 2004 01:33 AM [permalink]:

Please read this:

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=11791

Yet another of the glories of Islamic rule. As Jahir said, slavery is OK in Islam and out mullahs are just doing their job, eh?

In the mean time, my dear believers, just clinge more to this filth!
Congratulations to all.

AmericanWoman at January 28, 2004 01:36 AM [permalink]:

Sarah, what if you and say, 35 other women walked down the same street, not in formation or anything, but just within sight of each other, and an the back of your headscarves, you all painted 2 eyes, and that word that means "God is wathching you." Or maybe the word "Respect," which is what is posted on all the windows of empty buildings being renovated in the UC Berkley area. Also sunglasses. What do you think would happen? What is the Iranian word for Womens Suffrage? -- Exactly. You have to start somewhere.
And Hajir, don't even try to rationalize the behaviour of street hustlers acosting and harassing women. Their frustrated urges are NOT OUR PROBLEM, let them go take it out on each other, or inanimate objects, or farm animals or something. Do any of those guys really think they are going to find true love by demanding phone numbers in the street, or running after someone down the sidewalk? Its all the same as kicking a dog, they do it because they can. Then they justify it with this kind of thinking "if you didn't want company, why were you out here alone?" How about one of those noise canisters? It looks like a can of shaving cream with a funnel on top, and when you press the button, it sounds like a police siren? That might back them off.

AIS at January 28, 2004 01:47 AM [permalink]:

Sorry but I forgot to congartulate specially those respectable progressive people that participated in the 1979 revolution-now living their lifein the 'decadent' West they hated so much back then, and those who can't sleep at nights because of 'American' horrible atrocities around the world.

And sorry, Hajir for misspelling your name.

Wessie the Decadent at January 28, 2004 02:05 AM [permalink]:

Sittin' in La-La Waiting for My Ya-Ya— Ahummmm

Azad at January 28, 2004 02:45 AM [permalink]:

Congratulation to you Sarah! You clearly made your point in this post.
I am not going to argue what the reason might be for such abnormal behaviors of the men in our society and whether this is because of being a “forbidden fruit” in an Islamic society or due a battle between tradition and modernism and so on. But what I want to remind us is the principal role that our women have played (and will play) in Iran society. I hope this post does not give the impression that Iranian women are fragile human beings wrapped in veils and subject to daily harassments and so on. We all know that at least in Iranian middle class families women are the unseen super power! Iranian women are very different from other ME women. They actively play a great role in family daily decision makings. Now, Iranian women are moving to attain more and more social responsibilities. Every day we witness another achievement from Iranian women all over the world. Just two days ago the shares of the shipping giant "Sadra Company" was offered through the Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) which was the biggest one day privatization in Iran history and two Iranian female agents played a very sensitive role in that trade:
(Read in Persian: http://www.sharghnewspaper.com/821107/exchan.htm)
Or it will not be an exaggeration if we call the year 2003, the year of the Iranian Women:
http://www.payvand.com/news/04/jan/1091.html
Yes. Our Iranian women have fought (with or without punch) and progressed inch by inch. However, in spite of all restrictions on them, I do believe they have found the right track of progress and no matter what the world thinks about them they will proceed. I do believe the key of Iran social reform is in the hand of Iranian women and we will hear a lot from their achievements in coming years.

Ara at January 28, 2004 05:56 AM [permalink]:

Azad, you're seeing just the peak of the iceberg. Not all women in Iran are or can be as active as that. Leave Tehran's city center or north of it, go to smaller cities. See how 90+% of our population lives. This way of portraying Iran is imho just wrong. False and unconstructive pride. I beleive this false and unconstructive pride of Iranians deserves its own article :-)

Ara.

A. Mahani at January 28, 2004 06:34 AM [permalink]:

Wessie-
The names Yahya and Yoohanna are Arabic equivalents of "John". Yahya is actually a Koranic name and used mostly by Iranian Muslims; Yoohanna is more common among Christian Arabs.


Loose Can at January 28, 2004 09:36 AM [permalink]:

Wessie, by the way, opium IS Islamic.

Señor Græd at January 28, 2004 02:19 PM [permalink]:

Hajir:

Saying MATALAK is *similar* to using a "pick up line" in the sense that they're both men's ways of hitting on women. That's, however, where the similarity ends, you see. Pick up lines, it is my understanding, are used in bars and parties. Nobody in the US tries to "pick up" a woman on the street, without introduction (I mean: BEE-MOGHADDAMEH!)unless that woman is a professional sex worker. MATALAKS, on the other hand, are meant to be used in public places. Nobody in a party says MATALAK to a girl! In fact it is very inappropriate.

In modern societies some social rites have been developed in order to provide an opportunity for eligible members of the opposite sex to mingle and *meet*. For example, the prom ritual (that I must confess I've seen only in comedies) is one such thing. But there are dance parties and bars and other sort of gatherings. And of course there is the institution of "dating". In our society, Iran, such mechanisms for helping people to get to know each other are either totally absent or in their embryonic phases. Not only there are no means for people to meet, talk, and, God forbid, flirt in Iran (except sometimes in univeristies and some work places), the *non-traditional* methods of matchmaking are also frowned upon. (Well, although there's no personal ads section in Iranian publications, internet has facilitated things a little bit, I have to admit.)

So all of these restrictions (Cf Babak Seradjeh's post from a while ago about sex segregation in Iran and all the following comments!) leads to the only possible way out: spitting out MATALAKs on the street to female passersby, in order to show your appreciation of the ladies' grace, or proving your bravery in defying the laws of culture and government. And I do believe, since there is no other way for young girls in Iran to receive compliments on their looks, by and large, they do not mind such flattering gestures either, as long as it doesn't go to extremes. :-)

Welleley Girl at January 28, 2004 02:32 PM [permalink]:

Good Job! Go Sarah! The first time I was harrased on the streets of Iran I was 11. Not to mention I was stunned and abashed, but I still wonder which pedophile would find an 11 year old sexually arousing.

Ordak D. Coward at January 28, 2004 02:43 PM [permalink]:

Señor Græd, considering your comment to Hazhir on Matalak, I need to emphasize once more that no proper places in Iran exist for men and women to meet strangers. For this lack of establishments called bar, night club, or pub; both single men and women use public places, such as shopping malls, and any corner of street as a pick-up place. Also, as far I understand and had witnessed -- but really never experienced fitsthand -- it is OK to try to pick up a person in public places in US. However, the difference is about the tone of pick-up line. In Iran, Matalak is most definitely offensive, on the other hand, in US, if not flattering they are neutral.

I have heard that Iranian gals have recently started to say Matalaks to guys as well. Anybody in Iran to confirm this?

Wessie at January 28, 2004 03:35 PM [permalink]:

"The names Yahya and Yoohanna are Arabic equivalents of "John".

Thanks, Ali. "John"—isn't that a hysterical irony given the subject of this thread. LOL

Johanna is a woman's name in the West. And "John" is a colloquialism to a man who frequents prostitutes.

" by the way, opium IS Islamic."

Yes, I know, LooseCan. Khomeini said, "Wine and all other intoxicating beverages are impure, but opium and hashish are not."

"Nobody in the US tries to "pick up" a woman on the street, without introduction (I mean: BEE-MOGHADDAMEH!)unless that woman is a professional sex worker."

That is not true, Senior! Lots of men (and women) in the U.S. and the West in general try to "pick-up" people on the street, in cafes, in museums, libraries, theaters, parks, etc. All perfectly normal and natural—PROVIDED the guy does not get aggressive if she turns him down. The unwritten rule is if she says "no" he has to back off.

Proms are not for "meeting" people. They are for going to either with friends or someone whom you are serious about. Prom night is a BIG date night. When people married younger it was traditional to propose marriage at the Senior Prom.

" but I still wonder which pedophile would find an 11 year old sexually arousing."

Mohammed married a 6 year old and screwed her when she was nine. . . In Iran the marriage age is quite early. Recently changed from 9 to 13 if I recall correctly.

Many an eleven year old looks very mature. She might even have hit puberty already. Besides, most men, Muslim or otherwise, "like" young things. They are more stupid than older women and won't give the men such a hard time. By the time the little girl wises up, he's on to another wife. ;-)

"There are eleven things which are impure: urine, excrement, sperm, bones, blood, dogs, pigs, non-Moslem men and women, wine, beer, and the sweat of the excrement-eating camel. "

So why bother?

"You, young people of the new generation, try to think more clearly. Stop running towards science and its laws which have led so many among you to neglect your major reponsibilities! Come to the help of Islam! Save the Moslems! " Ayatollah Khomeini

Señor Græd at January 28, 2004 03:41 PM [permalink]:

Read this, Welleley [sic] Girl:

Hazrat Ali ... is still a favorite of the US military. ... His commanders and troops rob, steal, kidnap, and violate women and indulge in sexual violence against young boys. "Many of the soldiers in the military unit with Hazrat Ali are just teenagers, and the commanders use them for sex purposes," says a university student in Jalalabad.

From: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/16897

But joking aside, I completely agree with Ordak. I want to emphasize, however, (what goes around, comes around!) that bars, pubs, and night clubs are not really good places for starting a serious relationship (how many married couples have you seen who have first met in a bar?), but of course they have their own use and function. Westerners rely a lot on personal ads posted in papers or on internet or chatrooms, and there are matchmaking agencies and as reluctant as they are to call it this way, there are "arranged" meetings, when your friends set you up with someone they think is good for you (and you for her/him). This said, meeting someone is just the *beginning* of your "problems", if you will, not the end of it. That's where dating comes into play, you know.

Señor Græd at January 28, 2004 03:57 PM [permalink]:

"Lots of men (and women) in the U.S. and the West in general try to "pick-up" people on the street, in cafes, in museums, libraries, theaters, parks, etc."

In cafes, museums, libraries, even theaters, I can believe. On the street and in parks, I'm not so sure. In cafes, museums, and libraries there is a *context*, especially in museums when you seem to be attracted to and interested in the same kind of art. But how would a man go about picking up a girl on the street, I wonder? Start talking about the weather?! I don't think so.

"All perfectly normal and natural—PROVIDED the guy does not get aggressive if she turns him down. The unwritten rule is if she says "no" he has to back off."

Generally, the young guys in Iran do not get *physically* aggressive if they're rejected. In fact, sex crimes must be much more prevalent in the West. Many an American girl have experienced varieties of sex abuse in their teens. This said, it must be noted that, thanks to Hollywood and MTV, the common understanding of Western women's moral code in Iran is far from reality. What I'm saying is, an American blonde in Iran should be more careful if alone than her Iranian sister, because the Iranian is not *supposed* to be as "easy".

Señor Google at January 28, 2004 04:16 PM [permalink]:

How can we understand the concepts of ritual purity and impurity today? First of all, get out of your mind that this has anything to do with dirtiness or negativity. Such concepts result from the inability to accurately translate the words taharah (purity) and tum'ah (impurity) into English. What this really has to do with is boundaries between life and death and helping us deal with times, places and things which involve ambiguity in those boundaries.

Think about the following, real-life, modern example. A woman's father was in the hospital in the process of dying from cancer. He had to be moved to a new room. The last occupant had died in the room to which he was to be moved. The nurse found this information important enough that she asked the woman if she minded if her father was put in a room in which the last occupant had died. There was probably nothing objective about the room which caused the death. Yet, our intuition tells us that something about the death happening there had changed the room. It is as if, in passing out of this world, a bit of "disembodied soul residue" was left in the room. This feeling, this concept, this is what ritual impurity is about. Anything that is connected with death is in some way impure, i.e., is touched with "disembodied soul residue". So, for example, blood that is flowing unstaunchably (e.g., menstrual blood) is considered impure because it is normally related to death: if a wound bleeds uncontrollably, death is the inevitable result. Only whole, complete items (obviously, defined by cultural norms) can become impure. Incomplete or broken items cannot become impure; cannot receive the "disembodied soul residue". So, for example, a piece of pottery could become ritually impure but the shards of a broken piece of pottery could not.

From: http://www.maqom.com/102495.html

Even Better at January 28, 2004 04:20 PM [permalink]:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purification_rite

Ordak D. Coward at January 28, 2004 04:25 PM [permalink]:

Señor Google, Huh ?!? So, is google ritualy impure or pure? Probably as google has some cached pages relating to death, or in computer terms halts/crashes/freezes/deadlocks.

Señor G. at January 28, 2004 04:28 PM [permalink]:

Ask Jewish/Christian?/Islamic "scholars", Ordak. I'm not an expert.

Borghan N. Narajabad at January 28, 2004 07:34 PM [permalink]:

Wessie writes:
"There was a long civil war in Afghanistan. I don't recall the West or the Russians taking part in that. "

I'm just wondering why did Freethoughts.org censor her comments before?
She’s amazing!

I couldn’t think of anyway better than her writings to show how “ignorant” and, as Ali Mostashari pointed in his post, “short-memory” are some of American so-called intellectuals!

Dear Wessie, there was no civil war in Afghanistan prior to mid-1970s when Russian KGB and American CIA started their confrontations there. First KGB won the battle, conducting military coups, then when resistance, led by CIA, became strong, Russia sent its troop over there; when the US realized domestic resistance is not enough, it was solely CIA, who sent Arab fundamentalists there, and provided financial, military and logistic support for them. I think usage of “Stinger Missiles”, which was the most advance technology in mid-1980 and even most of close allies of the US didn’t have it, by Arab fundamentalists, gives you some idea of level of the US involvement.

AmericanWoman at January 28, 2004 09:44 PM [permalink]:

Senor Google, You ask "But how would a man go about picking up a girl on the street, I wonder?" Well, unless she is a prostitute, and therefore on the street trying to be "picked up," he can't. The whole idea of "pick up" implies an interaction between strangers, like the phrase "scoring (a goal)," or "getting lucky." Dominance and aggression again. Meeting people and striking up a friendship, on the other hand, can happen anywhere. The best places are activities where people gather to pursue a common interest, like school, work, church, fundraisers, sports events, political campaigns, etc. The idea is that you get acquainted casually, then start to arrange to spend more time outside these activities. Or you are introduced through mutual friends. "Dating" is not really a great way to MEET someone. It is better to start meeting a few friends for volleyball and BBQ in the park every Saturday afternoon, and as people join in, you meet them, and their sisters, or whatever, and then maybe start dating. Or, put a bunch of flyers around for a 10k run, or whatever, some event, then meet everyone who comes, give them info about any other runs going on in the future, see if anyone has interest in doing anything else, then its like, "I may see you there." No chasing, no coercion. just sharing. Once, I was waiting in a crosswalk near my old University, and a young man from The Region (Iranian? --Maybe!) approached me. He asked me, very formally, if I would like to take a coffee with him. I just happened to notice that his hands were shaking a little. He was so sweet! I would have gone, I think, if I hadn't been on my way (and late) to a meeting. Plus, I guess I would never really go anywhere with a stranger like that. But, if you want to pick someone up in the street, that's probably the best way. Coffee, in broad daylight, not dinner or anywhere dark.

hajir at January 29, 2004 12:23 AM [permalink]:

AIS,

It seems you have misunderstood my post on slavery in Islam. I think I made it clear that it is forbidden to enslave people except the enemy soldiers and even that is restricted to international agreements.
What is going on in Iran with regard to abusing women is totally unislamic (like many other things that are going on there). It's really Islam 101. Prostitution in any shape and form is forbidden in Islam. It's a horrible sin to spread, encourage, advocate, advertise or faciliate prostitution or take part in any activity that leads you or others to it. Any single penny made of that business (the buyers, sellers, those who conduct the business, even the owner of the houses, if they know about it) or having business (for example selling or buying products to them in case you know about what they do) with the people who make their money out of that business is haram.

Even if you consider those poor women 'slaves', still Quran strictly forbids the masters from forcing their slave-girls into prostitution.
So don't blame it on Islam. The same situation happened in Middle Asian countries after the fall of soviet union, even in Russia.
Prostitution is a product of poverty and to fight such a social disease, we need to fight poverty.
We can't fight poverty, drug addiction, porstitution and all other problems that our society is facing, by sitting behind a computer and blame everything on Islam or the west. What we can do it to sacrifice for our people, if we really care about them, by donating money even little through our families and friends, by going back to Iran if we can to help out our people.

And if you can't help them, let them have the last thing that has remained for the poorest, for the weakest, for the oppressed and that's their faith; a simple faith that beleives in justice, that someday the oppressors will be punished and the oppressed will inherit the earth, that the victory will come and we wait and you wait and the oppressors wait too.

hajir at January 29, 2004 12:29 AM [permalink]:

Wessie

Opium is not haram but disliked (makrooh) in Islam. It's not impure and for example touching it doesn't require you to wash your hands (while wine is impure). And as you know it can be used in many kinds of medecine.
Drug addiction must be considered a disease and be dealt with properly.

Azad at January 29, 2004 12:44 AM [permalink]:

Ara writes:
“This way of portraying Iran is imho just wrong”

I do not want to play down our social problems but I think there are some good evidences that support my view on Iranian women standings and their progresses. Like:
1-In the last five years, Iranian women have made up more than 60 percent of university entrants (Not sure if there is any other country where the number of female college students exceeds the number of male college students)
2- Although limited in the number, women law makers in the parliament (such as Haghighatjoo, Koolaei, Rakeei, Amani, etc) have earned acceptable reputations and they have actively played major roles in reforming movement
3- Ebadi, Aghdashlo,...achievements.

Thus, I do not think I am overoptimistic.
“I beleive this false and unconstructive pride of Iranians deserves its own article”

I look forward to reading any article on this subject (maybe posted by you?) but I hope it will be supported with acceptable facts and evidences as well.

Wessie at January 29, 2004 01:03 AM [permalink]:

"Generally, the young guys in Iran do not get *physically* aggressive if they're rejected. In fact, sex crimes must be much more prevalent in the West. Many an American girl have experienced varieties of sex abuse in their teens. This said, it must be noted that, thanks to Hollywood and MTV, the common understanding of Western women's moral code in Iran is far from reality. What I'm saying is, an American blonde in Iran should be more careful if alone than her Iranian sister, because the Iranian is not *supposed* to be as "easy"."

Well, normal women consider the behavior of ME men aggressive because they just won't go away. What makes you folks believe that all Western women are *easy*?

Speaking of ignorance: There is a LOT of prostitution and sex abuse in Iran not just the U.S. Indeed, in Iran, the Mullahs often are the perpetrators of the sex trade.

It just astounds us in the West that Middle Easterners/Muslims have this attitude that their s**t doesn't stink. Yet, they have this mess in their decadent "pure" societies.

Sex Slave Jihad

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=11791

". . .The head of Iran’s Interpol bureau believes that the sex slave trade is one of the most profitable activities in Iran today. This criminal trade is not conducted outside the knowledge and participation of the ruling fundamentalists. Government officials themselves are involved in buying, selling, and sexually abusing women and girls. . . "

"Drug addiction is epidemic throughout Iran, and some addicted parents sell their children to support their habits. . . "

". . .Popular destinations for victims of the slave trade are the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. According to the head of the Tehran province judiciary, traffickers target girls between 13 and 17, although there are reports of some girls as young as 8 and 10, to send to Arab countries. . . "

". . .The exposure of sex slave networks in Iran has shown that many mullahs and officials are involved in the sexual exploitation and trade of women and girls. Women report that in order to have a judge approve a divorce they have to have sex with him. Women who are arrested for prostitution say they must have sex with the arresting officer. There are reports of police locating young women for sex for the wealthy and powerful mullahs. . . "

---

As to the *impurity* of menstrual flow. If it were not for that, none of you "superior" Muslim males would be here. ;-)

Many hospital rooms have had someone die in them. You'd be hard pressed to find one where it has not happened. They simply place the body into a bag, sanitize the room and —next. That's the way life is.

Speaking of ignorance and superstition:

Supermarket Chain Sells Sacrificial Sheep

http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1§ion=0&article=38706&d=27&m=1&y=2004

AmericanWoman at January 29, 2004 01:11 AM [permalink]:

Azad, if your facts are straight, then there is hope in this world. Another thing I can relate to in Ms. Kamal's post is her desperation about the situation of women in Afghanistan. It is just too much to be expressed. Really, I feel that it is only Iran who can save those people. --I suppose the Iranian School system can't be blamed for why I don't write an article explaining that statement.
Also, Sr. Google, your new nick name is so funny! I hope you thought of it yourself. After considering, I'm wondering if "tribute" might not be the equivalent of matalak.

Wessie at January 29, 2004 01:23 AM [permalink]:

Azad, the U.S. has more women than men going to university. Many professions such as Veterinary Medicine, law, etc. also have more female students enrolled than male.

---

Borghan, the reason I was "censored" was because I got tired of people like you calling me names like "ignorant" (as you did above) and retaliated in kind. Just for the record, you too are IGNORANT and very selective in your memory or perhaps you simply did not study history in school. And by all rights they should censor you, because you started it. Just like ObL started it on 9/11.

It is people like you whose ignorance should be read by Westerners so they understand that you and your kind have no sense of personal responsibility and continue to blame the West for problems of your own making.

Certainly, (as I said before) the U.S. helped to arm and fight the "godless" Commies in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden himself was happy to get assistance from the U.S. Thereafter we left— which was admittedly a mistake. However, it was the Afghans themselves and their very own war lords who destroyed the country via civil war for decades—and they continue to do that to this day. And it was Muslims who brought in the Taliban. It was the Taliban who destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan—part of the heritage of humanity. Now the West will be responsible for rebuilding these. Sweden is first in line. Why is it that filthy rich Saudis feel no responsibility to rebuild the Buddahs?

Why is it that the U.S. is made responsible for every p*** country and its problems? When will Muslims be responsible for the messes they created and clean them up?

Don't forget, it was your parents who brought in the mullahtocracy in Iran, not the U.S. It was Afghans who brought in the Taliban, not the U.S. It was Saudis who spawned the Wahhabists, not the U.S.

Certainly we support the governments whom we feel will give our nation the best "deal" for our people. That's the way politics works. The U.S. government is beholden to the American people and NOT Middle Easterners or Muslims!

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Wessie at January 29, 2004 01:32 AM [permalink]:

I would like to write an article on the "selective memory" of the Islamic world—they forget about the atrocities they commit, or worse yet, they glorify them in song and art works—such as massive paintings of the Twin Towers and ObL or even terrorist children's toys; while they also forget who helped Muslims over the last few decades.

The last few days have brought back the pain of 9/11 with a vengeance, given the release of the tapes from flight 11. Below is just one of a dozen articles on the subject, so you too can remember.

We can still see the spectacle of Muslims/Arabs, joyously dancing in the streets in celebration of America's tragedy.

Many on the FToI site seem to believe we should simply forget about 9/11 and move on giving more aid to miserable Islamic nations and not hassling "poor" visitors to the U.S.—especially Iranian students. When Muslims try to make restitution for their crimes against humanity instead of denying them, perhaps then we can talk. Until then, we too shall have a long memory!

Wessie

Courage ... Betty

Tragic air girl: Pray for us

http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2004041977,00.html

Wessie at January 29, 2004 01:34 AM [permalink]:

Link was cut off:

Tragic air girl: "Pray for us"

http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2004041977,00.html


AIS at January 29, 2004 01:59 AM [permalink]:

I know Hajir, those remarks were meant sarcastically.

Wessie at January 29, 2004 02:07 AM [permalink]:

"Opium is not haram but disliked (makrooh) in Islam. It's not impure and for example touching it doesn't require you to wash your hands (while wine is impure). And as you know it can be used in many kinds of medecine.

Drug addiction must be considered a disease and be dealt with properly."

Drug addiction is often a mater of choice, Hajir. Everyone knows that drugs are addictive. Yet, people take them "recreationally" anyway.

Alcohol has been around longer than humanity. Even animals like alcohol in the form of "fermented" fruits.

As to wine being "impure" that is just plain stupid and ignorant, as is most Islamic "logic," Hajir. Wine (especially the reds) in moderation, is very good for your health—as countless scientific studies show. Spirits too are good for health in moderation. Additionally, alcohol is not addictive for most everyone as are opiates. One cannot take opiates in "moderation." In general, the only people who don't become addicted to pain killers are terminally ill patients who are receiving palliative care with opiates. The rest get addicted. That does not happen with alcohol. Most people in the world who drink alcohol do not become alcoholics or even problem drinkers. Real alcoholism is a genetic problem.

The ban against alcohol in Islam is yet another reason never to become a Muslim. Wine enhances great food adn makes ordinary food more special. Spirits i.e. Cognac, make for a fine finish to a great meal. Champagne makes any occasion a celebration. Civilized peoples drink wine and fine spirits. Lowlifes and idiots do opiates and other drugs.

There are a couple of people on this site who regularly drink (or whatever,) imoderately and post. It shows. ;-)

As the Italians say, "A meal without wine, is like a day without sunshine." My sentiments exactly!

AIS at January 29, 2004 02:12 AM [permalink]:

And they say (I don't know who exactly-probably not the Italians):

Life without wife is a kitchen without knife!

I don't believe that of course. My kitchen has knives!

;)

Somebody at January 29, 2004 02:17 AM [permalink]:

About alcohol being impure, it's used as a disinfectant so what's cleaner than that?

Ali at January 29, 2004 10:39 AM [permalink]:

Sara's article points out to an important issue which I think deserves a lot of attenton throughout the world and across national or religious boundaries. With the comment chain hijacked it is hard to bring it back to the topic.

I would like to ask the editors to take action on their own comment policy rule 2. Irrelevant comments should not be given a separate space, they should be deleted as a whole, be they from Wessie or from the people who try to respond to her.

Paraturner at January 29, 2004 10:47 AM [permalink]:

Their comment policy is not about deleting comments that are just irrelevant to the original article:

       RULE 2: Comments and the post have to form a connected chain, in context.

The CHAIN, my dear Watson, the CHAIN.

Wessie at January 29, 2004 01:44 PM [permalink]:

Ali, it appears that people from your part of the world have more difficulty in seeing connections compared to Westerners.

There are many, many comments on virtually any thread that are "irrelevant" and not connected for some and very relevant and connected for others. Just depends on who is looking. Some people get deleted more than others. The process is arbitrary and that has been the complaint all along.

I continue to say if you find a poster's comments "irrelevant" then scroll or simply block their e-mail if you have chosen the e-mail route.

Some sites have "Bozo" filters. I could think of a couple of people here whom I would like to filter—but, I won't because even the most "irrelevant" seeming comment sometimes is worth thinking about.

For me scrolling is the answer.

Sepehr at January 29, 2004 03:13 PM [permalink]:

Wessie, I am not an advocate of Islam neither do I deny our people's responsibility in creating the mess we see in Iran currently. But I personally get offended when you repeatedly call us uncivilized-stupid-aggressive-idiot-etc. Do you think these terms should be used in a civilized dialouge?
I think the Iranian students who set up this web site had the intention to stablish a venue for intelectual and polite conversation. We are not biased towards Islam/Iran/Middle East. If we are, we shouldn't be. We are here in the West to learn, to observe, to compare and to re-build our belief systems.
I beg you to be more cautious in choosing words and also to think twice when tempted to generalize ALL muslims or ALL Iranians with a certain characteristic.
Peace,
Sepehr.

Señor Græd at January 29, 2004 03:41 PM [permalink]:

Just stopped by to read the comments, but didn't get a chance to read most of them. AW's comment, however, dated yesterday 09:44 PM, I read. Thanks a lot for the tips, AW. ;-) You clarified some of the points I had not been able to well elaborate on. I think we agree on a lot of stuff that you talked about. Striking up a conversation out of the blue on the street or in a park is not a socially acceptable way for approaching a woman unless she is a prostitute, which is again, not quite acceptable (I mean "being a prostitute").

Just to clarify, I didn't say "dating" is a way to *meet* someone. How can you date someone before you meet them? Well, okay, dating and meeting a person can happen simultaneously, as in the so-called blind dates, but even when you date someone blindly ;-) you talk to him/her on the phone or exchange emails with them in advance. It is only in Iran (and similar societies) that, due to the absence of a socially approved institution for meeting people (add to that the ubiquitous presence of "moral police" that up until a few years ago used to harass un-related couples on the streets of Iran for talking to each other, flirting and laughing out loud), you are almost forced to throw a MATALAK, which can be funny, complimentary, or outright offensive, to someone on the street that you know nothing about.

All in all, it still strikes me as strange that meeting people can be so hard even in today's modern societies. Why does it have to be this awkward all the time? Why, for example, can't a guy approach a women he finds attractive on the street, smiles and simply asks: "Conversation?"? What the hell is wrong with that? The way the society works these days, so many glances are exchanged in vain, many potential opportunities are missed forever (at least in Iran young people are used to exchanging phone numbers!). Is that awkwardness an *inherent* part of the mating game, or can it be changed?

P.S. By the way, the guy with shaking hands was no one but your truly, Señor Græd. Just kidding!

Wessie at January 29, 2004 11:25 PM [permalink]:

Sepehr, I would ask you to beg your "brethren" to do the same. They CONSTANTLY claim that ALL Americans watch CNN or Fox, that they are fat, stupid and not half as "civilized" as Iranians—who are more civilized than the "barbaric" Arabs, etc.

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones! When people on this FToI stop being bigots and having a superior attitude about their "culture," despite having accomplished little to nothing in the last 1000 years, then we shall get somewhere.

In the meantime, I shall call a spade a spade. Those who don't like standing in visa lines, despite coming from an enemy state, are whiners. Those who believe "Persians" are superior to Arabs or Americans are bigots. And those, like Hajir, who believe in the literal Qur'an are TERRORIST supporters—and just as culpable as if they themselves were jihadis!

There are a few here such as AIS, Kaveh and Ali who appear to be normal and civilized. Many of the rest still have to prove themselves. Others read this website you know. They can see what you all write about America and the West.

What will you do when the mad mullahs get the bomb? Will you be better off in the West then or in Iran? Either way you will have a problem.


Wessie

Sarah at January 30, 2004 08:20 PM [permalink]:

Just a few points:

My article was written sometime in summer 2001, while I was working through a lot of anger at the state of women under the Taliban regime. I was in Iran at the time, but could just as well have written such an article from Spain, Guatemala, or Canada, if I’d gone there after Afghanistan. Further, while I have received unwanted attention from some Muslim males, I’ve also been moved a number of times by the deep respect I’ve been gifted with from others. So, just to contextualize, this is more an article of how I was feeling at the time, rather than commentary on Iranian men, Muslim men, or men in general. It’s title is “I’m pissed off” on my website.

I tend to think that all perspectives are right – you just have to live the life that led to it to see why. Thanks to those of you who’ve posted the “guys side” of living in a highly segregated society. Also to you women for expressing your feelings on male aggression. But I found it odd that this thread was all about East/West and Male/Female binaries – I was trying to get at the borderlessness of human experience. I’m a non-Muslim feminist, and I think the real strength of the women’s movement comes when it embraces all walks of life and breaks down barriers of hate and dehumanization. Clearly, I have to work on my writing skills...

I’m really impressed by this website and what it’s trying to do. Great work, guys – I look forward to lots of interesting reading.

Sarah at January 30, 2004 08:29 PM [permalink]:

AmericanWoman: I did try to mobilize a number of women to walk in the streets and create change, but they weren't yet ready. Even in northern Tehran (very European in culture, not representative of the rest of Iran), women were not yet prepared to march. And I wasn't a good leader, since I look like a foreigner no matter how I dress. Women's suffrage as you've defined it emerges in its own sweet time, I think.

AmericanWoman at January 31, 2004 12:02 AM [permalink]:

Sarah, thanks for the response, and I am happy to hear that you made the effort you did. Even if it came to nothing at that time, this is how seeds are planted. I can see that any assertion of individuality would be difficult and dangerous in Iran. When Ayatollah Khomeni first came into power, and made all the women "put on the veil," I laughed and joked with my friends that we'd see how long that lasted. After 2 generations of living in the 20th century, I couldn't imagine that half of an entire nation would submit to a dress code developed in the Middle Ages. But I was wrong, -- chillingly wrong. Any efforts to change would have to be very subtle indeed to "fly under the radar" of such totalitarian intolerance. Like, my only idea would be to start Girl Scout troops. Surely the theocracy wouldn't mind a few Brownies planning bake sales and sleep-overs? But a systematic enabling of girls to take responsibility for themselves, and to practice leadership skills might have a big ripple effect down the road. It might also get a bunch of teenagers abducted and brutally tortured to death, like it did in Soweto during my Junior year in High School. All we can do is keep looking for a Way Out.

AmericanWoman at January 31, 2004 10:01 AM [permalink]:

Oops! The above post is a little disjointed. I meant to say that after living in the 20th century since the time of the then Shah's father's regime, (2 generations of rulers) I didn't think the women would submit to fundamentalist restrictions, at least not the educated elite class.

Wessie at January 31, 2004 02:34 PM [permalink]:

I always wonder about the inability of men to "let go" of their dominance over women. My theory is that men, having made such a mess of things, would then be shown up by free women—who can do a much better job of having a job and running the world.

With so many women in universities, in the work force and in positions of power both in the corporate world and in government—it's just a matter of time.

---

Sarah, I would be very interested in your experiences with Western men (if you have any.) I find there are cultural differences with assertiveness, but in general Western men are gentlemen and don't harass women like bow flies—as ME men do.

Wessie

M.A. at January 31, 2004 11:17 PM [permalink]:

"With so many women in universities, in the work force and in positions of power both in the corporate world and in government—it's just a matter of time. "

Wessie, no offense, but if all the women think the way you do, I doubt that time makes any difference.

Wessie at February 1, 2004 04:31 AM [permalink]:

Could you explain the above comment, M.A.? "Wessie, no offense, but if all the women think the way you do, I doubt that time makes any difference."

When someone says, "No offense," they usually do mean to offend.

I believe that women have the right and the duty to take up their rightful leadership positions as half of humanity—especially since men have made such a mess of things. I also believe that women should assert themselves as Sarah did, and make (some) men stop being jerks. Now, granted, ME women have a tougher job of this, because the ideas of chivalry and gentlemen are concepts that don't really apply in their societies. Men may have "good manners" but, all too often, they don't extend those to women.

At least in my experience, I have never met a MEastern gentleman. And I have known more men from the ME than most Western women. But, perhaps they only have "good manners" if a woman is wearing a shroud. Otherwise, she is fair game for harrasment.

Wessie


Sarah at February 1, 2004 11:11 AM [permalink]:

Wessie:

I’m not interested in creating us/them dynamics, as I feel it to be counter-productive. However, to answer your question, when I was 17 on my first independent trip out of Canada, I was stalked by an idling car for several blocks in Los Angeles. I’ve been grabbed quite a few times by what you term Western men in bars when I’ve been dancing (which is something I REALLY dislike –when I’m dancing I generally like my space).

I find encounters like this disagreeable, but I think it would be a bit much to lay all the blame on men. If we expect men to hold back their physical power and not use their superior strength against women, we should also, I think, give men a break and not flaunt our sexual power quite so much. It seems we want to be able to wave around sexual availability and expect men not to react, to be asexual. Mating is a natural part of the human cycle, and there are certain implicit signals in any society that enable that cycle.

Arguably, according to social constructs, I had given the men a green light to approach me – in the first case I was a young woman walking alone in shorts and a tanktop in a questionable part of town. In the second, I was in a bar dancing provocatively. I’m not trying to excuse aggressive men (personally, I don’t understand why standing on a dance floor suddenly puts my body in the public domain), but I do have to recognize that sexual encounters are social negotiations that have reasons for being. I really do have to factor in my own behaviour and see how others perceive me according to the social code of my surroundings before assigning blame so readily.

Middle eastern perceptions of Western women is coloured significantly, I believe, by Western pornography beamed into their countries. I watched some porno in Afghanistan, and I was appalled. It's really not all that surprising that Muslim men don't respect Western women, if that's the extent of their experience of free women.

I remember flipping through Hustler (for those of you happily unfamiliar with it, it's a porno rag) as a freshman, and feeling weirdly humiliated. The woman portrayed there wasn't me, and yet she was. And I couldn't really say anything, because that would have been uncool. Neither can I object to the surgically enhanced cheerleaders in tonight's Superbowl, as they're an entrenched part of the festivities and a hallowed American tradition, joy of joys.

In short, I’m not sure I would be so starry-eyed about the liberated state of women or the gentlemanly conduct of men in the US. A feminist friend of mine made this observation: in Muslim societies, women are kept covered as sexual objects for private consumption – but in western societies, women are displayed as sexual objects for public consumption. I’m not sure I prefer one situation over the other.

Wessie at February 1, 2004 12:38 PM [permalink]:

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Sarah. I too don't want to make it an "us vs. them" scenario either. I like men. Quite frankly I like men more than women (at least Western men). Most of my colleagues and friends are men. They tend not to be as petty and jealous as women and they talk about things other than their hair, nails and children. Yes, that is a broad generalization. However, I have found that even women in the professions tend to descend into girlie chit-chat all too often. Of course, I still prefer that to football talk. ;-)


As to being "grabbed" I too have had the same experiences. Although I never wear shorts, I have worn my share of tight sweaters (still a favorite) and short skirts. My position is this. Men can wear whatever they want. Many wear tight, sexy clothes and don't really expect women to grab or jump them in public. Thus, what's good for the goose. . .

Yes, I expect men to control themselves in all public and even private situations as appropriate! That is called discipline and mature men of honor have and exhibit such discipline. However, in the right circumstances, with the right man, being a sexual "object" is very nice. Being admired, and nothing more, in public is also very nice.

I am not "starry eyed" about Western men. They are after all prisoners of their sex—and "boys will be boys." However, I stand by my statement that for the most part Western men are gentlemen, particularly if women remind them to mind their manners. Whereas, ME men are just plain obnoxious most of the time because of their distorted view of the world.

And—why is that? Muslims rail against Western porn, but they import and watch it anyway. In Afghanistan the first thing that came out after the defeat of the Taliban was the Indian girlie pictures. Why don't they import some of our cultural offerings like great dance, theater, art and music? Why not beam in the A & E channel instead of Playboy or Hustler? Or how about importing Martha Stewart's programs instead of filth? ;-) One thing to remember, many, many Western men read or watch porn and still don't behave as if at every stop a woman must do their bidding.

In my opinion ME/Muslim men have a very immature (read: adolescent) view of the world in many areas from religion to women.

OTOH—common sense must always come into play. I probably would not dress to the nines and flaunt a lot of jewelry in an unsavory part of town. Ditto for provocative clothing. But, I EXPECT men to behave. And IF they don't I let them know. I have been known to call a man's mother or boss or at least threaten to do so. That usually shocks them into reality.

" in Muslim societies, women are kept covered as sexual objects for private consumption – but in western societies, women are displayed as sexual objects for public consumption."

There is a difference. In Western societies women have a choice (for the most part) to cover or not, to display or not. I prefer the RIGHT to dress how I desire—whether men like it or not, whether they are "bothered" or not. And the only thing that I might be censured for is "bad taste"—which is after all in the eye of the beholder.

It is a lot of fun to watch people—particularly how they dress and put themselves together. There is nothing more fun than sitting in a cafe watching the world go by.

I remember the Ayatollah Khomeini saying, "There is no joy in Islam." That is certainly the way it seems.

Wessie