Last year, while living with a family in Salamanca, I heard Khatami was coming to Spain for an official visit. President Aznar had visited Iran in October of 2000 and the first visit to Spain for the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran brought high hopes of accelerated ties between the two countries.
Greated by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia at the royal palace, Khatami had requested that there be no wine at the state dinner, and said that he would not shake hands with the women officials. My hosts made the comment… wow, we feel bad for the women in your country, they must have it really bad. And I thought to myself… how can I respond to a comment like that? How can I make them feel any different when the government of Iran treats them this way?
The thing is… If people from the Spanish government were going to Iran, then I would understand the stance of not having dinner with wine and not shaking hands with women. However, they had come HERE, not the other way around and the way I see it, if they want people to respect their culture and beliefs, then they should do the same in other countries.
I mean, it's not like Khatami HAS to drink wine. Who gives a crap if someone else is drinking it? It is a personal choice right? He doesn't expect people who are used to drinking wine with meals since the age of 8 to turn Muslim just because he is having dinner with him, does he?
It's like, they portray themselves like this to the world and then they expect people to not think that the Muslim religion is intolerant to other religions and that all people in Muslim countries have it horribly (not that I'm saying that women in Iran have it the best but people here think that the women are treated completely inferior and are very weak..which is definetly not true).
It just bothers me that they don't at least try to make a better image for their own sake, for their country, and Islam. I mean, let's face it, the world doesn't have a very positive idea about Muslims right now, why do you have to go and make it worse?
Khatami's visit to the average people of Spain had just confirmed all the stereotypes they had of Muslims and Islam. I found, at least in the family I lived with, they were very prejudiced against Islamic culture. In fact when a guy is acting jealous of a girlfriend or being macho, they have a saying… “No seas Maraque” — Don't be a Moroccan. So that is their idea of the Muslim world.
Although, one positive thing I have to say (yes there is one) is that in the news and all the pictures I saw of Khatami, he had a really big smile on his face and looked very friendly… I think that was good; it made me feel better. I know Khatami was probubly not the mastermind behind all these demands, and I know he was just trying to appease the conservatives. However, the world doesn't know that. All they know is a president from Iran came over and had unreasonable expectations.