The Iranian


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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


December 13 2000

Pedestrian ignorance

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 of us.

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.

Massud Alemi


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