Saturday, September 18, 2010

Email to a Chinese friend, on the movie "The Stoning of Soraya M"

Overly didactic?

Iran's democracy was overthrown in 1953 by the US CIA with some aid from the British. It was done partly for the benefit of BP. We installed the Shah, who ruled with a brutal secret police force until he was overthrown in 1979. The forces that eventually took power were religious fundamentalists, holding to a very archaic and inflexible version of Islam.

(The religion is Islam; a person who believes in Islam is a Muslim.)

Islam does hold that a woman should have her head "covered" in some way, but the method is widely open to interpretation. Some interpret it as a scarf. Some interpret it as meaning that the woman should be completely covered so she can't be seen at all. The latter view isn't
well supported by the actual scripture, but different societies have come to believe in it, and it has become ingrained in some of them over time. I think it is deeply unfair.

All religion means superstition, but there are different views within all religions as well. The official Iranian Islam is extreme. Nothing inherent in Islam, however, makes it worse than Judaism or Christianity.

Stoning as a method of killing is found in the Christian bible as well; you may remember it from The Brick Testament as a punishment for adultresses (like they claimed Soraya M. was) and children who disrespect their parents. The difference is that there isn't a Christian society that actually listens to that part of the Bible anymore, so far as I know; it's ignored. I think that gradually happens with all religions, that the more terrible parts are slowly
stripped away.

Women are still something in Iran, but barbaric ancient punishments for adultery still exist, and they don't have equal rights. You might be surprised, on the other hand, to learn that a significant majority of university students in Iran are women. I don't know why that is.

I despise the Iranian penal system, and think Iran needs a new government. On the other hand, I also admire Iran's resistance to US hegemony, and support it in that. I think you're right to admire their resistance. I would like to see the current regime in Iran end, but I DON'T want Washington to do it (you had better believe there are parts of the US government working on it), and I don't want to see a new regime subservient to the US emerge in its stead. I don't like the
Iranian government, but I support the integrity of Iran against US intervention.

You have to remember that the US opposition to Iran has little to do with its legal system and everything to do with its understandable failure to serve or bow down to Washington. Saudi Arabia has a similarly brutal regime of religious law, but it is a US ally, so Washington is very quiet about its atrocities. In fact, we are about to ship $60 billion worth of weapons there.

Islam has nonetheless come in for especial demonization in the US, for essentially the same reason that Judaism used to before the Holocaust: racism and xenophobia. Muslims are a disadvantaged minority in the US, discriminated against by fearful bigots. My criticism of Islam as a religion is tempered by the use that militarists, warmongers, and racists make of it to justify discrimination and war.

In short:
  • The US only cares about human rights violations of its enemies.
  • Religions are stupid, but there are differing views within all religions.
  • Most Muslims don't hold the views of the Iranian government.
  • I support the Iranian people both against their own government and against the US.
  • The worst possible situation for them is the US declaring war and destroying yet another country.

These are just my views, but I hope they make some sense.

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