Tag Archives: expectations

The irony of stereotypes

As I have already mentioned in my previous posts, like “Bikinis, Niqabs, oppression and assumptions” and “Good luck to him, he married a foreigner”, there are just as many stereotypes about the West in Middle Eastern countries as there are stereotypes about the Middle-East in the West. A lot, if not all, of these stereotypes are completely incorrect at worst, or distorted at best.

One of my Iranian friends (who lives in Australia) has a relative (who lives in Iran) who honestly believes that all Western women are prostitutes. The relative of my friend believes that all people in the West recreate pornographic movies by attending pool parties where young men and women walk around half naked, rubbing oil on one another and procreating with anything and everything that moves. Funnily enough, I have never been to such a pool party in Australia, but I have witnessed such an occurrence in Iran. The parties that I attended in Iran were 100 times more risqué than those I attended in Australia, or any other Western country for that matter. Either I have been going to all the wrong events in Australia (and have clearly been missing out) or the stereotype that my friend’s relative has set is not an accurate representation of Western social events.

To make myself very clear, I have nothing against people who are sexually liberated and choose to attend social events where everyone walks around naked and openly has sex with one with another, but it’s just personally not my thing. I was particularly shocked to see this happen before my eyes in the Islamic State of Iran. It wasn’t something I was expecting to see. It took a lot of willpower to resist the urge of filming what was happening around me and showing it to my friend’s relative and saying- “Do you see this? This happened here, in the country in which you you live, not in a Western country…. please explain”. Don’t worry I didn’t do it. The relative of my friend’s world of “Iranian is good; Western is bad” has remained intact. The only footage I retained is a memory of the hilarious irony of what I witnessed.

*Please note: I specifically restricted this post to dismantling a particular stereotype that some Iranians hold about Westerners. I can just as easily dismantle stereotypes that Westerners hold about Iranians, but the post would be too long. I acknowledge that this specific post is one-sided and does not give a balanced perspective of the various stereotypes people of different cultures hold towards one another.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled“Introduction…”.

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A plot twist to the “Not Without My Daughter” scenario.

To recap, the movie “Not Without my Daughter” is about an American woman (and her daughter) who needs to escape from her husband in Iran. This film has now apparently set a precedent for the fate of all Western-women who date/marry Middle-Eastern men (sarcasm intended). I discuss this particular phenomenon in one of my previous posts titled “Not Without My Daughter”.

Given the way in which this film has depicted Iran, I can imagine how it could seem somewhat unfathomable for a woman of Western origin to live in Iran with her Iranian husband and children by choice. Nonetheless, I met such a woman during my travels in Iran.

This woman I met was from England. Her husband was originally from Iran, but held a British citizenship. The couple has two children: a teenage son and a daughter under the age of 10. This woman told me that it took her a long time to convince her husband to move their family to Iran. Her Iranian husband was, at least at first, against moving with his wife and children to his motherland. When I asked the woman why she chose to move to Iran, she answered with the following simple statement- “to have a better life”. Usually this answer is the precise reason why Iranian people choose to live abroad.

The woman told me that her children faced racism at school in England from both peers AND teachers. The entire family unit experienced racism and Islamohobia in England. She went on to follow that neither she nor her children experienced any such racism in Iran. She also told me that the financial position of the family was improved by moving to Iran- her husband was able to make a greater profit, giving his wife the opportunity to work less and spend more time on their children, as well as giving the whole family an opportunity to travel more.

I am sure that there are unfortunate fates of Western women like that of Betty Mahmoody (the protagonist of the film “Not Without My Daughter”); the movie is after all based on a true story. Conversely I also presume that there are Western women, like the woman I spoke to, who have exercised their free will and have chosen to lead a happy life with their family in Iran. The only difference is that Hollywood won’t make a movie out of the fate of the woman I spoke to, as it did with the unfortunate fate of Betty Mahmoody.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled“Introduction…”.

Does he drink alcohol? Does he eat pork?

Much to my surprise, and perhaps to your surprise, apparently there is an implicit and silent prefix of ‘devout’ before the word Muslim. At least that’s the impression I get from people when I tell them that my husband is of Muslim faith. The typical follow-on questions I usually receive are “Does he drink?” and “Does he eat pork?” I don’t really know if this is intolerant or not and the answer to that depends greatly on context.

If my husband and I are invited to someone’s house for a meal asking such questions may be considered on par with asking about someone’s dietary requirements e.g. ascertaining whether or not someone is vegetarian, has allergies or intolerances. However, outside of this context I find these questions if not at least a little intolerant then definitely strange.  The reason I feel this way is because I highly-highly doubt that if I had told someone that my husband is of Christian denomination they would have go ahead and ask “Does he go to Church every Sunday?” or “Did you both abstain from having sex before marriage?”

The other reason why I think it’s intolerant is because when I apply the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” tactic, the person I speak to gets confused at best or offended at worst. Upon being asked whether or not my husband drinks alcohol or eats pork, sometimes I respond by asking my interlocutor whether or not they adhere to everything that their religion prescribes. Apparently, while its okay to ask a Muslim if they drink or eat pork, it’s not okay to ask a person of Christian denomination if they abstain from sex before marriage. Personally, I don’t see the difference, but the person I was speaking to sure could.

Furthermore, if I am to answer “yes” to the questions, people then question how my husband is Muslim in the first place. Does that make it okay for me to question someone’s Christianity if I know for a fact that they practice sex before marriage? Obviously, people hold various degrees of religiosity. So why is that common sense when it applies to Christian denomination, but not so much when it comes to Islam?

People follow religion to various degrees and at times pick and choose which elements of that religion suit their individual needs. One Muslim woman chooses to wear a headscarf while another doesn’t; and each woman feels just as Muslim as the other. One Jew chooses to observe the Sabbath while the other Jew doesn’t and that doesn’t make him or her any less Jewish. One Christian practices sex before marriage, while the other Christian abstains, yet both occasionally go to Church on Sundays and consider themselves to be religious. When someone says that they are of religion X, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they follow each and every element that religion X prescribes. Moreover, just because you are born into a particular religion, doesn’t automatically mean that you are devoted to it. Religion can be an individual experience and an individual expression.

So, to answer the questions of whether or not my husband drinks alcohol and eats pork…He married a Russian-Orthodox Jew, for crying out loud! What difference does it make if he eats pork or drinks alcohol? He’s definitely more open-minded than some of the people who ask about his drinking and eating habits.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.