I can believe her. I have seen families who do not really believe in Islam, but don't let their daughters to wear open clothes. They don't care if there is a piece of hair out of the scarf, but overall, they want their daughters be covered. So, Hijab may be more of a cultural thing rather than a pure Islamic thing.
Mehdi can you explain her experience with Hijab issue in the prison a little more?
Could I help giving you a piece of my mind on this utterly important issue, although Mehdi's cool and noncommittal treatment of the subject doesn't leave much room for debate? No freaking way! :-) I too find Parsipur's "linguistic" explanation (as related by Mehdi) far-fetched. I personally like Farzaneh Milani's deeper analysis of the subject of hijab, what it means/meant for an Iranian woman to wear hijab in various contexts. (Around the time of 1979 revolution, for example, many young female fans of Dr. Shariati's ideas chose hijab as a means of expressing themselves politically and/or ideologically, while in the short time-spane of 25 years, having as scant a hijab as possible has come to symbolize some of fed-up girls' defiance in the streets of Iranian cities.) Granted, Milani too sometimes offers rather far-fetched explanations (she finds the fact that the nightingale in Persian poetry is always the *male*... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
By the way, the head-cover (or various sorts of head gears) have not been, throughout the history, only restricted to women. I remember reading hadiths (Islamic traditions) saying it is MOSTAHAB[=religiously commendable] for men to cover their head while sitting in the restroom or wherever there is no roof. (I may have gotten it the other way around, so please correct me, if it is the case.) Here, in the United States, Jewish men cover their head, although symbolically, by yarmulkes. And if you watch the movie "Fiddler on the Roof", which is about the suffering of a people as well as the inevitable transition of their culture, you see that the protagonist wears something much heavier than a yarmulke. Enlighten yourself: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/judaism/FAQ/05-Worship/section-37.html
And much more important than my comments above is the following that I've always been wondering: Assume, for the sake of argument, that it is finally somehow proved that God has meant muslim women to wear hijab, the way it is prescribed by the Iranian authorities. So far, so good. Still, I believe there is a wide (logical?) gap between this as an Islamic rule and *legislating* that kind of hijab (or any other kind) as mandatory, even for muslim women. In Islamic jurisdiction(s), certain punishments are established for certain acts. For example, if (in an Islamic society) someone in the holy month of Ramadan eats in public, then they are punishable by law, but I seriously wonder if a muslim who for whatever reason decides not to fast, but do not eat in public either, should also be punished upon being found guilty of the sin of not... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
Senior Grad, Unlike we all hear these days, I personally think that someone could very well argue that Hijab is not a private and personal issue that everyone has to deside herself. The fact that people are walking in the public and therefore seen by others gives the authority to the government to enforce certain dress code. The problem with Hijab in Iran is not that the government is intervening in personal life of women, but it is that there is no longer this consences among the people that not wearing Hijab is harmful to the society. I do belive that there are certain rights that even majority of the people can not take away from the minority but Hijab does not fall into this category. That's why I personally think that for instance it is the right of the minority to take benefit of a nude beach (... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
Thanks for the prompt feedback, Yaser. What I was saying was, even after unanimously agreeing on what Islamic hijab really is, we'll be still a step away from making it, that is to say, the Islamic hijab, *not* covering your body parts, mandatory. Yes, I suppose one can argue that in human societies today observing certain rules for covering certain parts of the body should be legalized (although I do not have a first-hand information about such arguments, even in a country where they're so fussy about the smallest details in matters related to legislation and jurisdiction), and violating those rules should be punishable by law. But, did Prophet Muhammad himself, for example, ever jailed, or in any other way punished, a woman for not covering her hair? What about Ali, during his short reign as the ruler of Islamic society? See, the problem is there has never been,... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
By the way, the above comment was just a response to the first three lines (or so) of your comment, Yaser. As for whether nudists have the right to have their colonies, I could ask again: why should we, Iranians, go from one extreme to another? Don't we people have some common sense about what is decent and what is not? Towards the end of your comment, you seem to have equalled "unveiled" with "nude". If I had more time tonight, I would use google to find so many decent images of women with their heads uncovered. In fact, believe it or not, I've seen with my own eyes, female muslim professors of Islamic studies without hijab on TV. :-) But I see your point/problem. You fluctuate between the extremes, because endowed with the mind/training of a scientist, you want to offer an all-encompassing argument, thus covering all possible... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
And although it is not 100% related to Mehdi's post(ing) here, I should like to bring up the issue of hijab being mandatory in Iran, not only for Muslim women but for the minorities. Again, I suppose Muslim clergy cannot make up laws (BID'A) out of their own will, so if Koran requires the female *believers* to cover their head, then the heathens should be left on their own. Isn't it not only absurd, but *un-Islamic*, therefore, to force non-Muslim women in Iran wear veil as well? Here's some pseudo-analysis as for why Muslim clergy (specifically in Iran) have found it their duty to impose hijab, as well as other religious FORMalities (form, as opposed to *content*), as much as they have been able to. It seems that for many centuries now, the common strategy in their keeping the religion of God alive has been making it hard and... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
So while in other Islamic societies (I've been to none, but I've seen non-Iranian Muslims here, who wear hijab because they believe in it) the efforts of the clergy seems to be focussed on persuading the believers to practice Islam and behave Islamically at their own *free will*, in the Islamic Republic of Iran mullahs have found it much easier to simply *force* practicing Islam and behaving Islamically. Is it, I wonder, yet another unpleasant outcome of having the religion and the state intermixed? :-)
More thoughts: So from I don't know what time (Arab conquest of Perisa, or maybe much later?) up until the year 1848 when Tahirih Qurratu'l-'ayn (see http://www.maryams.net/articles_veil03.html ) unveiled herself in front of men, all Iranian (urban) women were observing hijab steadfastly. It probably did not even occur to most of them that they could live their life any other way. Hijab was a given. It was a very stong cultural element, so mullahs didn't really have to do much to preserve it. (I'm trying to see things from the perspective of an Iranian living in mid nineteenth century.) I don't know what exactly happened to Iranian women's fight against their traditional cover (among many other things) after Tahirih was killed up until 1930s when Reza Shah openly enforced a mass unveiling of women. But I suppose during this period ulema/mullahs did not see a significant opposition to hijab... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
A treasury of articles about cultural aspects of clothing: http://www.jolique.com/archives/archives1.htm
Your article reminded me of the story of a man called Enkidu in the Gilgamesh epic. His fall from his innocence is sexual, seduction by a harlot, but then the outcome for him is civilization, though he loses his happy association with the natural world. Sumerian law gave women important rights, for example divorce arrangements provided for women as well as men to seek separation, though a wife’s adultery was punishable by stoning while a husband’s was not. This can be explained with the concern over inheritance. Mesopotamian law later began to emphasize the importance of virginity and to impose the veil on women from the high class. It seems that the society was very conscious of the dangerous and even awe-inspiring power of female sexuality and actually they are the fist who wrote about passion! So I agree with that lady that veil has a deep root in... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
Yaser, you said "I do belive that there are certain rights that even majority of the people can not take away from the minority but Hijab does not fall into this category", My question is: "Who should decide what issues fall into the former vs. the latter category?" For example, what if I believe not wearing Hejab does fall under the natural right category? Or 51% of population think "Freedom of thought" is NOT in such category (I guess you would put it in a natural right category)? I think invoking public vs. private in answering this question is not enough, as for one thing, if sth is really private, then no rule can trace it so the rule becomes almost meaningless. I don't have any clear answer, just wanted to ask the questions and see how other think... I might have missed Senior Grads answers to these questions,... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
I'm not sure when we can say a society has really reached a point at which its women can be treated justly courteous and therefore hijab would no longer be an issue -if it does in fact reach such a point at all!? One thing I know, is our society has not. Dear Senior Grad, you have mentioned that "we have been sticking to some "laws" that have made us the object of ridicule throughout the world." I would argue that a nation's rules are path-dependant. As many might agree these rules are absolute and natural repercussions of Reza Khan's unprecedented unjust and voilent civil actions in regard to hijab, at the pre-revolutionary times in Iran. If a society would naturally reach the point I mentioned, why should it be Forced in such a barbaric way.
Hazhir, Your question is: "Who should decide what issues fall into the former vs. the latter category?" My answer is "the majority". Because this is the only way to decide on that. Obviously everyone has his own judgement of what is private and public. For instance my judgement says that Hijab is publich issue and not private. But in order to implement it in the society, we have no way other than to see what majority thinks. When you say "If something is really private", this is simply your idea. What if someone says "No, this is not." An example, if majority thinks that women have to wear Hijab even in their homes, you and I would think that this is meaningless. However we have to let the majority to do what they think is right. Senoir Grad, Just want to thanks for your comments. I agree with many... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
To be honest, I haven't developed a consistant opinion on the issue of Hijab even though in practice I support letting women choose to have it or not. I tend to agree with Yaser that wearing Hijab in public space is something that can be decided by the majority. It is not intrinsicly any different from let say females going topless or gay marriage(which are both banned in the U.S.). But what I think is missing from Yaser's perspective is the role of constitution. A constitutions can set general principles that can later on be used by a minority in a specific issue against the will of majority. For example, in a constitution, it can be written that no laws should discriminate between men and women. Majority of a population might agree with this principle because they can not forsee all the future implications. So if the issue of... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
Answering to AliS question: Female prisoners who did not wear black chador were constantly harassed. Parsipour resisted to wear chador for a while, but after a cell-mate who had befriended her was executed, she realized that the situation is very dangerous and she shouldn't risk her life by being stubburn. a segment of her Prison Memoirs in Persian
In response to Maryam, Parsipour in fact talked about Chinese culture in contrast to Middle East. She said that because China is protected by its geography from 4 directions, there is no strong concept of good vs bad, and unlike Middle East, women can not be categorized with other BAD things since the concept of bad(darkness...) doesn't exist in the same way.
That's an analogy taken to extremes... I really like symbolic reasoning but this is simply too far-fetched, Mehdi.
Sorry about writing a lot, guys. I must have been in a frenzy yesterday (and, all right, on Sunday as well). Upon re-reading my comments last night I realized that there are some conceptual gaps in my writings. The most notorious one, IMO, is where I wrote: "I think what determines what the boundaries of decency in every society are ... depends on so many parameters [a big gap here] *at least* because the words involved ... are hard to define." The large number of parameters doesn't seem to have a lot to do with the words being hard to define. I myself cannot bridge the gap right now, but let me say a few things in regard to the well-founded concern (fear?) that if we allow women to go bare-headed in public, then who knows what they're going to do tomorrow? In other words, how are we going... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
maryam wrote: "Also,I don’t know whether other societies such as Chinese had the same view about women and the veil! Could it be related to the fact that Near-eastern women were/ are more feminine and seductive!?" which, first of all, makes me realize I misspelled "whether" in my previous comment. :-) I understand that maryam is being at least half-humorous about Near-Eastern women being exuding more of what can perhaps be called as "female mystique", but I've got to share my viewpoint: Like our proverb-obsessed foerfathers I think every flower has a scent of its own. :-) You can learn to like Chinese food, for example, although at the beginning it smells horrible to you. In other words, what charms (or seduces) you is more like an acquired taste. ;-) One could waste thousands of pages about the aesthetic aspect of femininity, as scholars have, certainly done, but the... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
Dear Sara, I don't quite understand what you mean by "path-dependent". (Is that also a mathematical term?) But I agree with you that Reza Shah's actions were not wise at all. Like our beloved mullahs, he too thought he could simply change the culture of a people by setting up certain strict rules and designating severe punishments for those who violate those rules. I don't know what he (or his grand viziers ;-) ) were thinking. Who knows, he might have wanted to show ulema/mullahs who the boss is. :-) I also think harassing women who are not "properly" covered on the streets, in the name of NAHY AZ MONKAR is no less barbaric than what Reza Shah did to women who he thought were "over-covered". :-) I also have some faint recollections of Shah's time and how hijab-less women were perceived in our society: Iranians came in two... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
Something else about my own comments yesterday: I realized that my Ramadan analogy was simply a bad example. (The worst that one could come up with, perhaps!) Once again, I agree with Yaser than clothing is a public issue, but who decides to what extent what people wear should be legally ordained by the authorities? Now, one important question: What would really happen to a brave Iranian woman who decides to go unveiled (while wearing quite decent clothes) to Vali-Asr avenue and decide to somberly walk from Tajrish to Toopkhooneh? Okay, people will stare at her (as we do whenever we see something out of the ordinary), and before she will probably be arrested before she reaches Parkway, but what does the Iranian law *exactly* say about such a case? Suppose she refuses to sign a paper saying she will cover her head next time. Will they beat her,... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
Sorry, you may want to replace "somberly" by "solemnly" in my previous comment. Up to you. :-)
Okay, I guess I now have a word that may help convey the idea: Mullahs' overly legalistic (make sure to look up the word, in a dictionary, or by google!) approach to human affairs has had the major role in leading us to where we stand today. Too bad I know too little about the history of Muslim societies, but just from hearsay, I suppose there has always been the battle between Faqihs who insisted on the *outside* [POOSTEH] of religion on one hand and Sufis who were more concerned about the *inside* [MAGHZ] of it. I'm sure there's been various such divisions, but I don't remember the exact words applied to the propnents of such opposing worldviews. In today's Iran, Elahi Ghomshe'i is the only popular advocate of a certain version of Islamic mysticism. Most Sufi orders are legally banned in Iran. In any case, nowadays the battle... [more at the permalink of the entry above]
Senior Grad, I suggest you to write a full article on Hijab or maybe two full articles. It seems you have an endless interest on this subject:)
I am not sure if anyone is interested in this or even if it is relevant but if you want to know what a veil symbolizes in Catholicism may be you'd like to have a look at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15321c.htm
Mehdi Y. wrote: "I suggest you to write a full article on Hijab or maybe two full articles. It seems you have an endless interest on this subject." Why, thank you. I'm flattered, Mehdi. I don't know about an endless *interest*, but I sure seem to have an endless spring of ideas. :-) As for your suggestion, I don't think I'll have time to write a defensible article, let alone two, on the subject anytime soon. So I'll remain content to toss around some half-baked ideas in my admittedly incoherent comments and let others polish and perfect them. ;-)
This is timely. Try a fresh perspective! "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16 Amen. http://www.lutheranok.com/partners/2001/1104.htm
Now Khadija can stop taking daily showers. :-) [LINK]
I asked in a comment: "[D]o we know how women were dressed in public during the era of Sa'di and Hafez?" Interestingly, I ran into this today: "Sheikh Hussein [ibn Juban] took the precaution of ordering the three sons of Mahmud Shah [Inju] to be seized and imprisoned; but while they were passing through the streets of Shiraz in the hands of their captors, their mother, who accompanied them, lifted her veil and made a touching appeal to the people, calling upon them to remember the benefits they had received from their late ruler, the father of the three boys. Her words took instant effect; the inhabitants rose, released her and her sons, and drove Sheikh Hussein into exile." From the Introduction of "The Garden of Heaven; Poems of Hafiz". http://www.doverpublications.com