Friday, May 19, 2006

Iran Oks "Nazi" Social Fabric

Amir Taheri, The New York Post: The original source for the original National Post story.
WHILE Iran's economy appears to be heading for recession, one sector may have some reason for optimism. That sector is the garment industry and the reason for its optimism is a law passed by the Islamic Majlis (parliament) on Monday.

The law mandates the government to make sure that all Iranians wear "standard Islamic garments" designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions reflected in clothing, and to eliminate "the influence of the infidel" on the way Iranians, especially the young, dress.

It also envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct color schemes to make them identifiable in public. The new codes would enable Muslims to instantly recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis" (unclean). READ MORE

The new law, drafted during the presidency of Muhammad Khatami in 2004, had been blocked within the Majlis. That blockage, however, has been removed under pressure from Khatami's successor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The new law replaces the one passed in 1982 dealing with women's clothes. That law imposed the hijab and focused on the need to force women to cover their hair in public. The emphasis on hijab was based on the belief that women's hair emanates an "evil ray" that drives men "into lustful irrationality" and thus causes harm to Islam.

The new law cannot come into effect until consensus is reached on what constitutes "authentic Islamic attire."

The world's estimated 1.3 billion Muslims live in more than 180 different countries and dress in a bewilderingly large number of styles reflecting national, tribal, ethnic and folkloric traditions. The Ethnological Museum in Tehran shows that Iran itself is home to hundreds of different styles of clothing for men and women.

According to Ahmadinejad, the new Islamic uniforms will establish "visual equality" for Iranians as they prepare for the return of the Hidden Imam. A committee that consists of members from the Ministry of Islamic Orientation, the Ministry of Commerce and the Cultural Subcommittee of the Islamic Majlis is scheduled to propose the new uniforms by next autumn. These would then have to be approved by "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei before being imposed by law.

Although the final shape of the uniforms is yet to be established, there is consensus on a number of points. The idea of adopting an Arab-style robe (known as dishdash) for men has been rejected along with a proposal that men wear a form of turban.

"Iranians have always worn trousers," says Mostafa Pourhardani, minister of Islamic orientation. "Even when the ancient Greeks wore woman-style dresses with skirts, the Persians had trousers. We are not going to force Iranian men to do away with trousers, although they predate Islam." What men will wear on top is not clear yet.

Some Islamic experts want a kind of long, almost European-style jacket known as sardari and used in Iran for centuries. Others propose only a waistcoat.

On color schemes, however, there seems to be consensus. Islamic legislators are unanimous that Islam is incompatible with "gay, wild, provocative colors" such as red, yellow and light blue (which are supposed to be favored by Satan). The colors to be imposed by law are expected to be black, brown, dark blue and dark gray.

Some Majlis members have been trying to lift the ban on green - which is, after all, the color of the Bani Hashem, the family of the Prophet Muhammad, and thus regarded as the color of Islam. The majority view, however, is that green is not "serious enough" to underline the gravity of a Muslim man's position.

Religious minorities would have their own color schemes. They will also have to wear special insignia, known as zonnar, to indicate their non-Islamic faiths. Jews would be marked out with a yellow strip of cloth sewn in front of their clothes, while Christians will be assigned the color red. Zoroastrians end up with Persian blue as the color of their zonnar.

It is not clear what will happen to followers of other religions, including Hindus, Bahais and Buddhists - not to mention plain agnostics and atheists, whose very existence is denied by the Islamic Republic.

The new law imposes a total ban on wearing neckties and bow ties, which are regarded as "symbols of the Cross." Will Iranian Christians be allowed to wear them, nevertheless? No one knows.

The law also mandates the government to wage a campaign against "expensive attire" without defining it. Some mullahs, for example, wear robes made of pure hand-woven silk that cost several thousand dollars. Nor is it clear whether the kind of blouson that Ahmadinejad often wears would be deemed Islamic. (Shops in Tehran are selling the so-called "presidential" blouson for $3 apiece.)

One aim of the new law is to impose a total ban on imports of clothes and dress designs from the West. The Majlis hopes that all jeans will disappear form the Iranian scene within five years. The boutiques selling haute couture Western gear for men and women will also be closed over the next few years. A total ban on designer items, marked by logos, will come into force by the end of the year.

'There is no sense in a Muslim man or woman wearing something that is, in fact, an advertisement for an infidel designer or clothing merchant," says Pourhardani.

Another aim of the new law is to abolish the chador, the overall piece of cloth that Iranian women have tucked themselves in for centuries. The reason is that the chador existed before the Khomeinist revolution and thus cannot be regarded as "properly Islamic." Women must wear clothes that would, in fact, transform them into advertising billboards for the regime's ideology.

One remaining problem is to decide the age at which girls should wear the uniforms. At present, the hijab is mandatory from the age of 6. But some of Ahmadinejad's advisers want to reduce that to 4.

During the committee debates on the new law, some Majlis members tried to include articles determining the shape and size of men's beards and moustaches and impose an Islamic standard for male facial hair. But it was agreed that the issue be tackled in another bill to be presented to the Majlis next year.

By September, the Majlis is expected to approve an initial budget of $800 million to help "the poor and the needy" adopt the new uniforms. All public-sector workers, estimated to number 4.5 million, will be in uniform by 2009 at the latest.

What is already labeled "the Islamic clothes revolution" will not be limited to Iran. Tehran has already sent a team to Lebanon to inform the Hezbollah of the new law and train cadres to impose it on Lebanese Shiites.

"Our aim is to make sure that every Muslim, wherever he or she happens to be on this earth, is a living and walking symbol of Islam," says Pourhardani.

Amir Taheri was born in Iran and served as executive editor of Tehran's largest newspaper in the 1970s. Taheri, a columnist for The New York Post, has written numerous books on the Middle East. He is a member of Benador Associates.
This article has created a firestorm of controversy. Some have denied that the Iranian parliament has drafted a law on a common Islamic dress code. But further reports seem to indicate that in fact the parliament has indeed produced such a law, but it has not yet been approved by Iran's Supreme Leader.

The discussion of special dress for religious minorities has created the greatest controversy. Amir Taheri said the law "envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities." This was taken by many to mean that the current law requires it, but the word "envisages" means: To conceive an image or a picture of, especially as a future possibility: envisaged a world at peace.

Why does he say it "envisages" it? Perhaps it is because it has been reported that a separate dress code for minorities has been included in earlier versions of the proposed law. Later in the article he discusses specifics of what this dress code would require. This has created confusion for many since in this part of the article it appears as if he is saying it is part of the current bill. Hopefully Amir will clarify this point in the near future. Unfortunately, since no one has yet published a complete translation of the actual text of the law we will have to wait until it is available. One would think that the main stream media would publish a complete translation of it, but as of this time it is not available.

If the Supreme Leader approves of this law, how it will be implemented will likely be the responsibility of a committee that consists of members from the Ministry of Islamic Orientation, the Ministry of Commerce and the Cultural Subcommittee of the Islamic Majlis.

What does not appear to be in dispute is that those faithful to the Khomeinist revolution will be quickly identifiable, as will as those who are not. This in and of it self would have a chilling effect on the Iranian population.

It should also be remembered that the Islamic Republic seldom acts in a manner to anger vast numbers of Iranians all at the same time. They tend to act incrementally. My expectation is that the regime has drafted a broad and non specific bill and then the committee's over seeing its implementation will slowly and incrementally add ethnic and religious elements to it. Time will tell.