Friday, March 27, 2009

When the Honeymoon Ends

12. Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni

Honeymoon in Tehran is marked with a certain maturity in hindsight that Lipstick Jihad lacked. At first, Moaveni returns to the singles whorl and Westernized cultural revolution perspective that characterized her first book. However, this book is deliberately political and faithfully follows the rise and fall of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's popularity and particulars of his policy and administration whenever possible.

It is my impression that is hard to write anything but a personal perspective on the government of Iran. As Moaveni explains toward the end, no one really knows who has the upper hand when, how, or why. The government contains too many conflicting agencies and parties, all overlooked by various schools of mullahs.

One gets the sense that Moaveni is looking over her own beliefs and motivations in hindsight. Her behavior in Iran and decision to live there were strongly influenced by her childhood needs for a sense of belonging and culture, and her spiritual attachments to Islam. It is due to this that Moaveni tries to balance her covering of the regime and the population, she checks and double-checks her stories, and submits everything before her extreme sense of justice.

I found myself greatly admiring her sense of fairness, and grappling along with her in the issues she faces. The questions that arise, especially in the epilogue, seem to be imperative to the future of Islamic, Arabic, and Persian culture today, in its native countries and extensive diaspora. What is Islam? Is it the territory of Western intellectuals and philosophers or Middle Eastern dictatorships and terrorists? Does Islamic culture inherently encourage repression, especially towards women?

Moaveni does not answer those questions, but after her experience in Iran, it is not as easy to quote the peaceful messages of the Koran and rest your case.

It is not at all or even largely a dour book, there are fun sections about her wedding and the sex-ed class the Iranian government sponsors for prospective married couples. But, in the end, Moaveni finds herself in England, facing more strict chador-clad women.

What does this say about Islam's future in the world, and the impact it is already having on the West?

I'd be interested in reading more about those experiences.

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