The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran
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A Los Angeles Times and Economist Best Book of the YearWith a New PrefaceThe grandson of an eminent ayatollah and the son of an Iranian diplomat, journalist Hooman Majd is uniquely qualified to explain contemporary Iran's complex and misunderstood culture to Western readers.The Ayatollah Begs to Differ provides an intimate look at a paradoxical country that is both deeply religious and highly cosmopolitan, authoritarian yet informed by a history of democratic and reformist traditions. Majd offers an insightful tour of Iranian culture, introducing fascinating characters from all walks of life, including zealous government officials, tough female cab drivers, and open-minded, reformist ayatollahs. It's an Iran that will surprise readers and challenge Western stereotypes.In his new preface, Majd discusses the Iranian mood during and after the June 2009 presidential election which set off the largest street protests since the revolution that brought the ayatollahs to power.
Revolution had promised, in 1 979, to do away with class and more particularly with any royalist, taghouti (which implies class structure) trappings in government and society, and in Javanfekr's office at least, it had succeeded. It was not theater; Javanfekr did not strike me as one to affect a style, as it were, nor was I someone, say, a foreigner, whom the presidential office wished to impress with its overt dismissal of both Western and sometimes Persian pomp and airs. No, Javanfekr and his
won. "Are you staying for the election?" he asked me, right before the Ahvaz jaunt. "No, but I'll come back for the second round;' Hiu P R E FA C E T O T H E A N C H O R B O O K S E D I T I O N I told him. "There won't be a second round; we will win outright on June 1 2." Strong words coming from a cautious man two weeks before the election, a man who didn't believe he himself was going to win his landslide in 1 997 until days before the vote. And based on what I had seen in Iran over the
to speak on the subject of my host's opium habit while 1 lay on the floor happily puffing away at his pipe. There was, much as the last time I had visited, no talk of politics or the U.S.-Iran dispute, even with a son-in-law in the Revolutionary Guards who might be called to the front lines of a war someday, for this family, like most in the middle and working classes, had bigger problems and issues to gq HOOMAN MAJD worry about. I hoped that other guests would arrive, to save me from both
intimidate opponents of the regime. Indeed, a simultaneous crackdown on crime and gangs resulted in an unusually high number of executions by the state-a state that is second only to China in the number of its citizens it puts to death and exile groups made the claim that the government had used the opportunity in enforcing Sharia (Islamic law, which automatically im poses the death penalty on crimes such as murder and rape unless the victims' families agree to receive blood money as
there is no break in traffic. Unlike Muslim cabbies in New York City, many of whom will pull over, usually to a gas station, and pray right on time, not even pious Iranian taxi drivers will pause when their radio broadcasts the thrice-daily call to prayer.) Taking my cue, I took out my camera and stood up. "You can go anywhere with your camera;' said Mohammad as the guard excused himself for his own vozou and left us. I was some what relieved that I wouldn't have to stay in one place throughout