Saturday, September 29, 2012

Man Bites Dog--Sort Of

We've all heard about the joking headline concerning the role reversal where man bites dog. Here's a role reversal you might actually like. It's more like “woman pummels man.” It caught my attention, and I laughed with ironic laughter all the way through it. I just hope it has a happy ending. I suspect this is a story you won't be reading on the front page of the New York Times.

But it might show up in the fashion section. It is common practice in both Saudi Arabia and Iran (and parts of Afghanistan) for the “moral police” to lecture women who appear on the street in less-than acceptable head-to-toe coverings. In the city of Shamirzad, Iran, one woman had just apparently had enough. When the local busybody cleric told her that she was not sufficiently covered, she looked him in the eye (not a good idea) and told him if he didn't like the way she was dressed, he should close his eyes.

The cleric, one Hojetoeslam Ali Beheshti, later reported to the government-supported newspaper Mehr that he continued to admonish the woman (as yet unidentified in the press). She wasn't having any of it. The more he lectured, the more she clenched her fists. “ Not only didn’t she cover herself up, but she started shouting and threatening me.” But being a good protector of the public morals, the cleric kept it up. At that point, she hauled off and clocked him.

Down he went, as the cleric describes: “She pushed me and I fell to the ground on my back. From that point on, I don’t know what happened. I was just feeling the kicks of the woman who was beating me up and insulting me.” By now this is becoming a juicy story, but it doesn't say much for the manliness of Iranian morality enforcers. He ticked her off so badly that he spent three days in the hospital. Who says violence doesn't solve anything?

The story was picked up by a correspondent from Radio Free Europe named Golnaz Esfandiari. After the obligatory “we don't condone violence” nonsense, Esfandiari, herself an Iranian woman, confirmed at least the general details of the story. She also told of how she had experienced similar treatment on numerous occasions while living in Iran. She even came close to sympathizing with the pent-up rage that a large number of Iranian women feel over being required to cover every part of their bodies except their eyes (in some regions, even the eye-slit must be semi-opaque).

Esfandiari went on to elaborate: “As a woman who grew up in Iran and was harassed many times for appearing in public in a way that was deemed un-Islamic, I understand the frustration that that woman in Semnan Province must have felt and why she lashed out at the cleric. For the past 30 years, Iranian women have been harassed by the morality police, security forces, and zealots over their appearance.” Prior to the Islamic Revolution, sophisticated Iranian women were noted for their Parisian sense of fashion. The older women remember, and the younger ones yearn for the freedom to look that way themselves.

Clashes between Iranian women (dressed very conservatively by Western standards) and the no-skin-showing police are becoming relatively common, according to Esfandiari, who still visits Iran frequently. The most common mode of dress that brings the morality police to a state of excitation is western-style jeans, combined with three-quarter length blouse sleeves,topped with a head scarf. Somewhat more conservative than the average twenty-something church-goer in America. Most of the young women insist that the Koran commands “modesty,” not head-to-toe coverings. But the easily-aroused clerics aren't buying it. The sight of a woman's wrist or ankle (let alone her lips) is just simply too much for a good Islamist to bear without turning into a raving sexual beast. The hijab, after all, is a rape-preventative, not an insult to or clothing slavery for women.

The reason I say I had to laugh ironically is that this story is very unlikely to end here. The cleric himself says it was “one of the worst days of his life,” but is willing to forgive and forget. Not so for the local police who are investigating the woman for religious violations as well as a charge similar to assault and battery. The chief prosecutor for the province calls the incident a “public beating.” I guess by a strict legal definition, it is. But if the cleric had done the beating, and the woman put in the hospital for dressing in a “provocative” manner, it would have been business as usual.

Note: I will be "babysitting" for six of my grandkids in Bakersfield on Saturday and most of Sunday while my daughter is attending a conference in Sacramento. I'll try to sneak in a few computer sessions, but if I don't respond as quickly as usual to your comments, please bear with me.

11 comments:

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

Could it be that the women of Iran have more testicular fortitude than the men? Wouldn't it be something that the most misogynistic religion in the WORLD gets tempered by women?

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: In world history, stranger things have happened.

T-Rav said...

It would probably be too much to ask for the cleric to reflect because of this on how victimized women must feel under Islamic law. That's different, of course.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: That's way too much to ask of an Islamist. Reflection requires the ability to think for oneself. Right now, it looks like at least some of the women of Iran are doing that, but don't count on the men.

Patriot said...

LawHawk........I imagine you posted this as sort of a wry reflection on Islamic culture, yet I think these incidents are the type that allow "progressives" to show their deep distaste of human nature as it shows how "uncivilized" other nations are compared to theirs. This is not a good thing, nor I believe, a conservative perspective. Conservatives understand that other cultures, nations, religions have different traditions, morals and laws, and therefore, we should not judge them on our so-called enlightened society. When we start to act like progressives, we want to "do something" to stop the bad behavior and bring them into the 21st century. Wars happen like that, and we have then ceded our response to our progressive betters.

How in the world can we do anything to change another country's culture?! Not the old way through nations fighting each other. I believe the internet will be the catalyst to change this stone age behavior as the people across the globe start to see what freedom looks like from a Western perspective, and start demanding it from their leaders. That push from the common man/woman in this case will go much further than idiotic statements from the UN dais on how we should all just get along and respect each other. That naïveté only leads to conflict, no matter how much we profess otherwise.

So I say, so what if this Iranian woman fights back. Until more and more like her start to do the same, then the mullahs will continue to win and keep their people in a 6th century culture...albeit with nuclear weapons. All these incidents do in my opinion, is serve to make progressives smug in their knowledge that they, and they alone, have the right answer to how to change a culture. Conservatives understand that these incidents will happen on a daily basis, and we shouldn't get riled up or psyched up that it means more than it does.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patriot: It was meant to be "a true word said in jest." But I do think that we every right to condemn any culture which treats women like chattel. I am not exactly a big fan of our over-permissive society, but changes in either culture will have to come from within. That said, I largely agree with your concluding paragraph, except that I do think a little righteous indignation is good for the soul. I don't think I suggested that we "do" anything about it.

Joel Farnham said...

Patriot,

It does matter. This may not mean much to you, but it means something to me. It means that the control of Iran's citizens is not absolute. It means that there is a spark of life in Iran.

We are being bullied by people who love Islam. You see it every day. We are being accused of bigoted behavior if we simply show a picture of Islam's prophet. Free speech is being attacked and marched upon because them's fighting words.

So, any spark, however small, is to be applauded. It should be talked about. It should be emphasized boldly that this woman is walking were few dare to tread.

tryanmax said...

I can only hope that the cleric's bad day may be forgotten as it is overshadowed by many worse days in the future. Alhamdulillah!

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: Ditto.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: I commend her bravery, and I think it may be just one small glimmer of things to come.

Individualist said...

Lawhawk

A few years back I read about one of the women they were going to stone for adultery. The Brassiji (to my mind I best understand this as government sponsored bullies) investigated her. They raped her so that they could accuse her of audltery and eventually had her executed. she evidently mouthed off to someone or wore inapproprite clothing.

It will remain to be seen if this is bravery or foolishness. If this woman has a rich enough husband se might get away with it. Who knows...

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