December 13 2000
Just finished reading your back and forth with Termeh Rassi about someone
commenting on an Iranian woman's marrying a black man ["Drawing
the line"]. Then I reread the comment ["Married
a Black man?!!"] and my first thought was: how disgusting. The
dry and vile sentiment stopped me but for a moment. What shocked me is
that somewhere within I could understand where all that hatred was coming
from. I think we're all trapped in that understanding, men and women, all
Namoos, in the Iranian untranslatable sense, is a sacred concept in
every man's subconscious. It's not quite honor in the sense that Westerners
understand it, but an integrated part of the Iranian sexual politics. In
general terms, it is the question of the place of a woman--either on the
pedestal of purity or at the bottom of the barrel with the tramps. More
specifically, it's an idea in the vicinity of what constitutes femaleness
in the eye of an Iranian man (and Eastern men in general): it has to do
with men's possessiveness toward women's genitalia.
Allow me to assert that in Iran it does not necessarily have to be the
genitals of one's wife; it could very well be those of one's unmarried
sister, mother, servant, lover, a friend's sister or whoever else that
happens to be in the affected field which one's namoos has come to claim
(i.e. an Iranian woman whose picture one sees on the Internet). All in
all, a man is expected, by men and women equally, to defend not only his
own namoos, but also his brother's, his friend's etc. Failure to do so,
regardless of the reason, brings shame to a man and his family, his brother,
friends and so on.
In the transplanted Iranian community where everyone is a hybrid of
sorts, this clear-cut phenomena takes on a bizarre twist. The poor sob
is no longer in Iran, but has the need to feel a close affinity with the
land of his (I'm assuming that he's a man; women are less hostile and more
understanding of affairs of the heart) parents. So, he borrows the concept
of namoos from them, and marries it to another concept, one that he has
picked up here; the idea that Black is foreign, inferior and such like.
Our poor sob also feels the need to close ranks with his adopted country.
It is that irresistible need, coupled with a pedestrian ignorance, that
forces him to express and define himself in such base terms.
I don't feel sorry for Maryam
and Daryl for being a subject to all this unwanted exposure. They knew
what they were getting themselves into when they crossed the boundary.
It is the warped, twisted and vicious that deserve my pity.