The Fiction of Life - interview with an Iranian woman

The Atlantic Online published "The Fiction of Life", an interview with "Azar Nafisi, the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, on the dangers of using religion as an ideology, and the freedoms that literature can bring."

I tried mightily to resist quoting large sections. I succumbed just once. This interview was absolutely fascinating and saddening. I highly recommend it.

One thing that I have been insisting since I came to this country, and it's hard to get it across to people, is that what is being touted as Islam by the Islamic state is not genuinely religion; it is religion being used as an ideology. Basically, fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon. In the same way that Hitler evoked a mythological religion of German purity and the glory of the past, the Islamists use religion to evoke emotions and passions in people who have been oppressed for a long time in order to reach their purpose. Look at Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution and the slogans that they used: anti-imperialism; anti-colonialism; the struggle of the have-nots against the haves; the state monopoly over economy, which was very much patterned after the Soviet Union. All of these things did not come out of Islam. Islam is not that developed. Religion was used as an ideology, as a system of control. When they forced the veil upon women, they were using it as an instrument of control in the same way that in Mao's China people were wearing Mao jackets and women were not supposed to wear any makeup. It was uniformity that they were after.

And later:

After September 11, I was so disappointed that when 40,000 Iranians came out to the streets in Iran under threat of jail or torture and lit candles in sympathy with the American people, it got so little attention. Why should other demonstrations, just because they were noisier, get so much more attention?

I did not know this. Knowing this gives me great pause in my disdainful thoughts about Islam.

Written by Andrew Ittner in misc on Fri 16 May 2003. Tags: follow-up, politics