Finding the Art in Everything

31 January, 2008

On Religious Tolerance

A former student of mine is Iranian, and she went home for Christmas. She came back frustrated because she had a lousy time, and I suggested that might have been because the "Spring Break" series never actually made it to Tehran.

She replied, "Actually, summer is the best time to go, and we party all the time. My cousins use heroine, and all they have to do is go to rehab--it's not even a really big deal. They pretty much let you do whatever you want in Iran, as long as they can't see your hair. I don't know why it matters, because I am more of an American, and everyone there can tell. Even the taxi drivers know, so they all tell me about Jesus. It is wierdest thing."

"Is that because they know you won't turn them in?"

"No. You can be a Christian in Iran. You drive past a mosque next to a Catholic church. I think there are even Jews in Iran, even though I've never seen one. They don't really care what religion you are... as long as you're not Sunni.

What I got in trouble for most, though, was my boots. Apparently they came too far up my calf to be decent. What doesn't make sense to me, is that I was getting in trouble for covering more of my legs. My grandmother and Iranian family want to cart me off out of shame. In Iran, they call me a 'spinster,' except this Iranian word for women like me literally means 'milk gone sour.' I'm tainted because of my boots."

"Your parents don't care about this?"

"No. It could be that I have the Iranian version of the hippie-liberal-green-party parents."

"But you were one of my most conservative students in our politics class!"

"Maybe," she replied, "but you have to consdider the rest of our family."

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