November 17, 2003


Stifled by clerics, Iranians escape online: Uneasy youth abandon politics for chat rooms and porn sites (Robert Collier, November 16, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)

Despite electoral disaffection, opposition to conservative Islam appears to be growing, reformists say. The trend was acknowledged Friday by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds final power in Iran.

"Our dear youth should be vigilant against a cultural wave that has been created by the Americans," he told thousands of worshipers in a sermon in Tehran. "This is an injection of moral laxity, atheism and apathy toward morality, apathy toward the disciplined code of ethics of Islam. It is leading young people to promiscuity and permissiveness."

Ebrahim Yazdi, leader of an outlawed pro-reform political party, the Freedom Movement of Iran, says the movement is gaining strength. "Before the Revolution, secularism was basically an imported idea, imposed on Iran from the West by the shah," he said. "Now, it's domestic. It's different from the shah's time. The internal pressure for reform is strong and deep."

Another key change, says Yazdi, a former foreign minister and spokesman for the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is the emergence of women in the reform movement. "Before the revolution, the bulk of women stayed at home and were completely apolitical. Under the revolution, they have become politicized, '' said Yazdi, who is currently under indictment for slandering religious leaders. "Now, they are a major factor in the reform movement."

However, Tehran human-rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, says secular politics and culture have not become an alternative to Islamic rule.

"Iranian political parties are not viable, they are weak,'' she said. "But this doesn't mean people can't decide our destiny. Iranians are searching for a correct version of Islam, one that governs society and our daily lives in a way that is not oppressive, especially regarding women."

An Iran that disposed of even the moral strictures of Islam would be no more worth having than one that is oppressed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 17, 2003 7:27 AM

"An Iran that disposed of even the moral strictures of Islam would be no more worth having than one that is oppressed."

We liked them better when they were parading around yelling death to the great satan?

And what are the moral strictures of Islam anyway? Kill your daughter if you find her flirting with the boy next door?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 17, 2003 8:33 AM

Daughter, raped by brothers, killed by mother.

ABU QASH, West Bank - Rofayda Qaoud - raped by her brothers and impregnated - refused to commit suicide, her mother recalls, even after she bought the unwed teenager a razor with which to slit her wrists. So Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud says she did what she believes any good Palestinian parent would: restored her family's "honor" through murder.

Armed with a plastic bag, razor and wooden stick, Qaoud entered her sleeping daughter's room last Jan. 27. "Tonight you die, Rofayda," she told the girl, before wrapping the bag tightly around her head. Next, Qaoud sliced Rofayda's wrists, ignoring her muffled pleas of "No, mother, no!" After her daughter went limp, Qaoud struck her in the head with the stick.

Killing her sixth-born child took 20 minutes, Qaoud tells a visitor through a stream of tears and cigarettes that she smokes in rapid succession. "She killed me before I killed her," says the 43-year-old mother of nine. "I had to protect my children. This is the only way I could protect my family's honor."

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 17, 2003 4:57 PM

If that's what "the moral strictures of Islam" amount to, Orrin, then you'll have to work REALLY hard to convince me that the alternative is worse.

Posted by: Joe at November 17, 2003 5:25 PM

I'm with Orrin. Would you rather take a midnight walking tour of Teheran or Nairobi?

Islam is in a horrific mess, but the case that it is intrinsiclly undesirable or an implacable enemy is far from met.

Posted by: Peter B at November 17, 2003 8:20 PM
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