Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Moral Police

Demonstrating once again a positive genius for shooting himself in the foot, the Supreme Leader (*snicker*) of Iran has ordered that 70,000 Moral Police are to be deployed on the streets of Tehran this summer. The stated targets of this deployment are women who fail to fully cover their hair or who wear revealing clothes, and also men with "inappropriate hairstyles". It should be noted that many Tehrani women wear a scarf over only the back half of their hair, rather than covering all of it.

If this seems utterly ridiculous to you, then we have that much in common. Especially considering that summer in Tehran is not quite as nasty as summer in New Jersey or Kansas City, but it's close. 90F degrees outside, 90% humidity, so by all means, let's require women to swathe themselves in yards of black cloth before going out in public, that's perfectly reasonable.

Politics in Iran right now is a three-way struggle between the zealots under the Supreme Leader, the moderates under President Ahmedinejad, and the largely-powerless opposition under whatever leaders haven't been thrown in jail yet. Yes, I called Ahmedinejad a moderate; in this context, he is. In previous summers, Ahmedinejad has publicly and vocally opposed any such dress-code crackdown, and largely prevented it from happening. This year, Ahmedinejad has just lost a spat with the Supreme Leader and been forced to eat crow, which leaves him in no position to help.

The other thing to remember about Iranian politics is that much of what is said, is only said for consumption. (Of course, that never happens in US politics, our elected leaders are always completely sincere in their public pronouncements). This seems to be more of the same, as the video below will show you. The people of Tehran, men and women both, seem to be dressing as they did last summer, and happily ignoring the Moral Police. And listen to the answers that AJE gets when they ask Tehranis about their reaction to this latest pronouncement. The replies are calm, thoughtful, moderate, and more or less what you might expect from a group of college-educated US citizens. Note that no-one even mentions God, or refers to religion at all, except in the phrase "Islamic Republic", which is how Iranians refer to their nation.

Some Iranian leaders may be loony tunes, (but of course you could never say the same about any of our leaders, right? Michele Bachmann is the soul of moderation, after all), but the Iranian people are as ordinary as can be. They're not crazy, they're not fanatics, and they're not blood-thirsty killers. They are, in fact, very much like us.

(Open Salon readers can view the video here)

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