Saturday, May 06, 2006

Similarities Between Forced Hijab and Nuclear Energy

Omid Memarian, Rooz Online:
The battle outside Iran to find a compromise on the country’s nuclear dispute, and the debate inside country about women’s Islamic dress constitute the two major issues of the Islamic regime, one a foreign policy issue, the other a domestic one. READ MORE

Since the revolution of 1979 while most cultural, religious and educational agencies of the country strived to propagate a specific form of Islamic dress code for women and get it accepted by people, they have had very limited success in imposing this dream on the whole nation and with every year that passes, the costs of this goal have been rising. And there has been so much stress on this particular form that it appears as if the identity of the “Islamic Republic” is now identified with it. This is why some officials view any reconsideration in the actual form of hijab as if it were sell-out of a principal of the revolution, and not merely a rectification of the improper imposition of an idea.

The way this issue is treated, things could even get worse. Presenting a dress form that is mandated to be worn by all women, the interpretation that it is the “national dress” or the demand that clothes have to follow certain rules when worn in public have also been thrown into the debate which is gradually turning more into a farce. But as amusing as it may seem, this issue is also reflective of the erosion of the government’s effectiveness in its relations with the public. In short, the government does not know what exactly it expects from the public, or what the public expects from it and where are its boundaries in defining directions of life for the public. Under these circumstances, the personal views of certain members of the ruling elite are presented as the mainstream view of the administration.

The nuclear issue, which is the main critical concern in the realm of foreign affairs is in fact the continuation of the same domestic workings but in the international sphere. First of all nuclear enrichment has been stressed so much as if this too is apart of the identity of the Islamic regime, without which it would not be the “Islamic Republic” any longer. And the foundations of the revolution will be shaken. And just the like the hijab issue which is the oldest issue before the Islamic Republic, nuclear enrichment is portrayed as if it is the wish and desire of the whole Iranian nation. Seems like the principal mission of the Islamic Republic is the attainment of nuclear energy, without which the mission would remain unaccomplished. Third, a free debate of these two issues has been banned in Iran for any group whose violators would face punishment. In the first instance a critique is interpreted as an indication of the person’s opposition to a basic principle of Islam while in the second it is interpreted to mean measures against the national security of the state or destroying national unity. So under these conditions, the views of different groups in the country and even those in power is not known. This approach has also allowed the conservatives who control the powerful state institutions to impose their interpretation and to pursue these two goals “at any cost”.

The failure of the diplomatic machinery of the state regarding the nuclear issue and the imposed social policies such as the one regarding hijab are manifestations of the failure of policy making institutions who have in fact taken the public as ransom so that they can anything they please, regardless of their utility and benefits to the country and nation as a whole. Tying such policies with the identify of the whole regime has hurt the whole system so much that it has in fact gradually eroded its legitimacy, inside and outside the country, to unprecedented levels so much that only insignificant countries in the world and dependant domestic supporters who are under the influence of the propaganda machinery support it.

And this state of affairs is a warning to the attentive conservatists and revolutionaries as well.