Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Iranian Revelry

Ancient Religions Clash in Modern Iran
The boisterous scenes of wine, unveiled women and song confounded the popular stereotype of religious worship in contemporary Iran. In an isolated and awe-inspiring mountain setting, followers of an ancient faith were communing with God in festive and time-honoured fashion. But when the government VIPs arrived, normal order - as defined by the country's stringent Islamic laws - was restored. The merriment ended, women were ordered to cover up - and grumbles of discontent (albeit muted and discreet) began. "This is the only time during the year when we are allowed to do what we want, but even here they don't leave us alone," said Giti, 55, reluctantly putting on her headscarf.
I'm having a hard time picturing this.
Officially, Zoroastrians - along with Jews and Armenian and Assyrian Christians - are a constitutionally protected religious minority with guaranteed parliamentary representation. In practice, complaints of discrimination are widespread. Access to high-level posts in the government and armed forces is blocked. Some Zoroastrians say they are pressured to change their religion. A law awarding Zoroastrians who convert to Islam their entire families' inheritance at the expense of non-converted relatives has caused misery and bitter resentment. Despite legislation decreeing that all religions are entitled to equal blood money (compensation) awards, Zoroastrians say that, in reality, they still receive only half the sums given to Muslims.
They want the world to convert, so do we expect the reality in such an Islamic state to be tolerant no matter what their constitution states?
Some Zoroastrians have sought refugee status in America under an officially backed programme to help Iranian religious minorities. But Behzad, 31, an unemployed computer graduate who complained of being denied a gun during his national military service, rejected that option. "Why should we leave? This is our mother country," he said. "Iranian culture is wonderful. Western culture is stress, stress, stress."
Well, I can't dispute the notion of stress. We seem to be losing our ability to relax. Interesting article.