February 28, 2010

Sweet Moments Gone

It’s so easy sometimes, so simple, so everyday issue, that you just get impressed once it’s gone.

That’s when you find out how badly you needed it, grown accustomed to it, even though it didn’t last for more than a few hours.

Those sweet moments which you didn’t taste when you sampled.

February 22, 2010

Book of Law, narrative of an inherent conflict

Book of Law, the movie

Book of Law is the latest movie of Maziar Miri, the young, promising Iranian director. The story begins with an Iranian scholar, Rahman Tavana, traveling with his colleagues to Lebanon to meet a group of representatives of Lebanese NGOs. There he meets a young, Christian interpreter, Juliet, who also owns a café in Beirut. He falls for her. In his next trip to Lebanon, he finds out that Juliet converted to Islam. In his third trip, he marries Juliet and they together come to Iran to live with Rahman’s family.

Almost all members of Rahman’s family (save a sister of Rahman, Kobra, who is the second good-guy of the movie next to Juliet) as well as the people around the neighborhood play an important role in the movie. They constitute a traditional Muslim society which is, in some respects, far away from original Islamic norms. The newly converted Juliet, who chose the name Amena, tries to educate them, challenging the traditional Muslim community to put aside what she finds non-Islamic. The salesman who sells expired dairies, the Muslim women who talk behind others’ backs, etc. do not hesitate a second to accuse Juliet of being naïve and unaware of ‘True Islam.’ Rahman’s family even use Juliet’s personal album including her old, not-properly-dressed photos to prove that they are better Muslims for their hair and body was never seen by a stranger. Indeed, they can’t bear numerous, harsh criticisms she makes based on the Book of Law, i.e. the Quran. Due to its long-standing experience of Islam, the traditional Muslim society believes in its authenticity to prescribe Islamic version of things. This is the most important theme of the movie.

The story of Book of Law indeed presents a cliché of contemporary art forms dealing with self-diagnosis of Muslim society. A non-Muslim converts to Islam only to find out that the Muslim society is not that Islamic at all.

The movie is idealist in the sense that it repeats an old theme, that ‘the original Islam is all good.’ And the storyteller gets pragmatist in one of the last scenes, when a Lebanese taxi driver preaches secular ethics according to which being good doesn’t have anything to do with the religion one chooses to follow. (No wonder that these statements were not translated in subtitles, probably a consequence of editorial pressures.) And maybe this idealism-pragmatism conflict is another indication of today Iran’s tough situation, symbolizing a transient nation which is still hesitant to give up on its traditional values despite all the setbacks such values brought about, the nation which still hopes to cure all the problems through radical reforms, getting back to True Islam.

Juliet can not tolerate all the inhospitality she faces in the family, in the society. In a so-called Muslim nation, she can’t adhere to original values of the Book of Law. She returns to Lebanon just to find Rahman getting there to find her. They are still in love with each other.

The last scene of the movie pictures an airplane taking off, carrying both Rahman and Juliet on board. But going where?

To Iran? Or to a dreamland in which you can be a true Muslim and enjoy all the benefits of original Islam, even if this dreamland happens to be a non-Muslim country? Rather a tough question, as tough as the choice some devout Muslims have to make.

February 17, 2010

My Dream School

Managers of my dream school, only concerned with sharing their affections, traditionally reserved for their own kids, with orphans.

My dream school’s statute, comprised of only one article, no exception or discretion included in it. “Your only income shall be the peace you earn by serving the disadvantaged.”

My real friends, each of them, playing a role in my Dream School, established in the most disadvantaged neighborhood of the city. One of them, a civil engineer, prepares blueprints. Another friend, again a civil engineer, supervises the construction. A professor prepares the concrete and a businessman lays the brick. Our wives arrange for the lunch. In less than a year, the banner is unfurled.

Interesting is that we wouldn’t pay a penny for workers. More interesting is that we wouldn’t need to flatter investors.

My Dream School (or, Our Dream School, better said) welcomes all the children who face severe problems or miss their fathers. No need for mothers to hide the facts, for example, that the father is imprisoned. The more disadvantaged the kid, the more appreciated he will be.

Teachers of our Dream School devote few hours a week to receive a child’s happy smile, insuring their success, both here and in hereafter. A teacher comes from a public department, another from his office or company, the third from a university and the fourth comes right after participating in the cabinet meeting.

Hoping for a day in which the first bell rings in our Dream School, the sweet childish humming filling our sad, discriminated neighborhood.

February 16, 2010

Veiled Feminism

Feminism is of some common expressions known to almost every observer, namely claiming equal, indiscriminate access to sports, cultural and political opportunities, or the girls becoming less willing to get married. However, a subtle feminism does exist in which religious sections are involved as well. This subtle layer of feminism, which is indeed of a feminist nature but to which least attention is paid, is “women’s dissatisfaction with just fulfilling the role of a noble wife and/or mother.” This tendency demonstrates itself in the girls’ willingness to pursue higher education, acquire job opportunities or involve in social activities. Once such efforts replace women’s primary duty, i.e. playing the role of a perfect wife and an affectionate mother, it should be regarded an indication of a chronic problem.
For such women, devoting themselves to the husband and family is not satisfactory. They can not justify some Islamic traditions, such as the famous one, “the noblest strife of the woman is to treat and serve her husband the best.”

The author of above paragraphs, who blogs in Armankhahi (which roughly means Idealism), is an old friend of mine. He (yeah, I know, you expected the author to be a He) usually writes concise, clear-cut texts to express his ideas. You might find the above an indeed incomplete analysis of the current gender issues in Iran, or just a confession to an increasingly evident fact, i.e. that the Iranian women are no more satisfied with their traditional roles. The author tries to diagnose current status, while you may appreciate it. Choice is yours. Or ours?