I was six days old when my grandfather passed on his religion to me by reciting a series of Arabic words into my ear. I am quite positive that those were the only Arabic words my grandfather could recite and he perhaps did not know what he was reciting into my ear. We are Iranian and our language is Persian and a vast majority of the Iranians including my family do not speak Arabic, the language of God. Religion is like the color of our eyes. It is hereditary.
For kindergarten I was sent to this neighborhood school where an old lady named Kobra was its head mistress. I hated this school and the head mistress because she always looked so mean in those black shrouds she covered herself in. She wore black at all times. No laughter, no music, no play and just God and Islam. And the school was dirty and all she did was reading her Koran and prayer book. I knew she had no education and could not read, because when I would place her Koran upside down she would still read it just the same.
As a child I wanted to ride tricycle like the boys did, but I was told that girls don¹t ride tricycles. When I went to school I wanted to learn how to play violin, however I was told, a good girl does not play musical instruments. When I wanted to ride a bicycle, I was told good girls don¹t ride bicycles, the same went for horses, swimming and any other activities. From the time I was a little girl I learned the importance of virginity for a girl in Islamic culture. A girl must be a virgin when she gets married. And the marriage age for a girl is 9 years of age. As a matter of fact Khomeini the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran states that, "The most suitable time for a girl to get married is the time when the girl can have her first menstrual period in her husband's house rather than her father's."
My family were not that religious, however the culture of the family and the society we lived in was Islamic. The thought of being married and sent away to a total stranger at age 9 used to send shivers down my spine. I had watched how the father of the girl who worked for our mother married her off to a man with three sons older than she was. She was just eleven years old, an old maid by her father's standard.
I remember the time when my father had a lamb sacrificed in front of our eyes in our yard. Watching how that poor animal struggled to get himself free and how he moaned and moved his legs and body after his throat was cut made me hate and curse the ritual for which this lamb had to die. The night following the lamb sacrifice my father¹s mother, the only religious person in our entire family, told me the story of Abraham and his son Ismael. She told me how God had asked Abraham to take his son to a place and sacrifice him in order to show his devotion to Al Mighty. And that as he placed the knife over his son¹s throat he had heard a lamb and then had sacrificed the lamb instead. That was why we had to sacrifice the lamb that morning. The story was quite scary for me. I can recall, many nights I had nightmare about this story. I would dream about my father sacrificing me to show his devotion to god and then I would jump and find out I was still alive. I finally convinced myself that God would only ask men to sacrifice their sons and not daughters. After all why should anyone sacrifice a girl? In a way I would feel happy being a girl. My father¹s mother used to teach me about religion and Islam. She used to tell me "God is great, knows everything and has created man and the universe." But then she would ask me to pray in Arabic. Grandma doesn¹t God understand Persian?
Well no. You must speak to God in Arabic. But you just said God made everything. Then if he made the Persian language then how come he can¹t understand it? Following these types of arguments when at each time Grandma was cornered and did not have an answer to give I completely discard religion and Islam. My dislike of religion was re-enforced when I started studying Sharia at High School. What I learned was so humiliating to women and so oppressive that I even hated to read the book.
I did not understand why divorce was a unilateral right of a man, why women had to surrender their children to their father¹s family when their husbands divorced them or when they died? Why women inherited half as much as their male sibling and why a boy could do what he pleased and girls were denied all rights? Why we always had to wait for men and boys to finish eating and then we nourish from their leftovers? Why was my body everyone else¹s property except mine? If I stood at our doorstep and talked to the neighbor boy, every male relative of ours made it his responsibility to force me inside the house.
The most disgusting thing to me was the process of Khastegary (matchmaking). In this process women within a man¹s immediate or even extended family would search for a suitable girl for their male relative. Each time my family members visited a girl as potential wife for my uncle or cousins, their evaluation of the poor young girl would make me sick. It was like they were buying a piece of furniture. The only thing important was her looks and physical features. And that she must be a virgin. In the case that the girl’s virginity cannot be proven her parents must pay the groom and his parents for all the wedding costs and the marriage is annulled the next day.
When I was a teenager in Tehran, I went to a relative¹s wedding. This girl was only 14 years old. Her parents were so concerned about her virginity that they practically glued to the newly married couple¹s bedroom door. They stood there until the groom a thirty-year old man came out of the room. They then entered and removed the bloody sheet from under their raped daughter and with jubilation offered the sheet to the groom¹s parents as the proof of their daughter¹s virginity. I never wanted to be treated in that manner on my wedding night.
There are so many laws in Islam that will turn off any educated person completely. One such law is the Shiih custom of Sigeh, or temporary marriage. I call it the religiously sanctioned prostitution. Marriage in Islam is a contract between a man and a woman¹s guardian for a specified length of time. In a permanent marriage a man marries a woman for 99 years because no one is supposed to live that long. In reality most husbands die way before this period is over since they marry in their late thirties and early forties. And women who have been given away by their guardians when they were quite young get a chance to live alone in peace the rest of their lives. In a temporary marriage, the man specifies the term of the contract. He asks a woman or her guardian if she would marry him for any amount of time from 10 minutes to an hour, a week, or some months for a specified amount of money. If she or her guardian agree to the terms then they are married and the marriage is annulled when the time has elapsed.
Another barbaric Islamic law is that of the Mohalel. When a man actually pays another man to marry his ex-wife for one night and have sex with her and divorce her the next day so that the two of them can remarry. Years ago, one of our distant relatives divorced his wife under rage and then was sorry and wanted to get back with her. However, the Mullah would not remarry them unless she would marry another man and spend a night with this new husband (allowing him to have sex with her) and then be divorced the next day and remarry her ex-husband.
I recall what a circus this was. The ex-husband was desperate to find a man and pay him to marry his ex-wife for one night and then divorce her the next day. Since his ex-wife was a very beautiful woman from a distinguished family the man needed some one to trust that he would then divorce his wife the next day. So finally they asked one of my father¹s workers to marry the woman. The husband then paid this man a substantial sum of money and he slept with his wife for one night and they were divorced the next day and the couple could get back together. What was appalling to me was the fact that none of the women thought much about the consequences of this one nightstand. Perhaps, it was because they had all been raped at their wedding night by a strange man and getting raped again by another strange man was not such a big issue. Or may be many of them wished that they would be divorced so they could marry another man who would treat them better than their husbands.
Now that I think about this law I find it appalling and humiliating to women. In both cases the women were not consulted and they had to be forced to accept to be raped by a total stranger because their ex-husband got mad and in a state of rage divorced them. Muslim apologists would tell you this law was put in place so men would not divorce their wives three times. Basically a deterrent to divorce. In Islam a man has the unilateral right to divorce (by itself a violation of women¹s right), under following procedures. A man can divorce his wife once, by telling her "I divorce you" and if they are faced with each other the divorce is nullified and they can resume normal relations. A man can divorce his wife twice, "I divorce you, I divorce you" and then if they have sexual intercourse the divorce is nullified and they can resume their marital relation. However, once a man divorces his wife three times "I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you" in presence of a witness. Then in order for them to get back together the man has to find a "Mohallel" a man who would marry his wife for one night and then divorce her so he and his ex-wife can go back together. Many times these Mohallels do not divorce the wife the next day. And there is nothing the ex-husband can do about it.
I found this law barbaric and inhumane for the following reasons, first the woman¹s feelings and rights are not considered and she is forced to be raped for one night by a total stranger. Secondly the idea of a man paying another man to ravish his wife for an entire night is appalling. And finally in the cases where the Mohallel does not divorce the woman, she is forced to live a life in misery (unless the Mohallel happens to be kinder than her ex-husband) away from her children by the first husband.
After this circus in the family, I decided that I did not want to be a Muslim, however, I did not have the courage to do so. I left Iran with a small Koran in my pocket and passed under a large one coming out of our home on my way to the airport. Even though, I had never prayed, fasted, been to a Mosque, or had perform any religious ritual in my entire life, I still believed in God and his Prophet Mohammed when I left Iran in 1964 to come to the United States of America.
After I learned the English language fairly well to be able to read books in English. I read part of Koran in English. I had never read Koran. When I left Iran it was not translated in Persian or perhaps we did not know about it. I read some text of Koran translated into English. I was appalled by such texts as the Sura of Lights, where God supposedly tells Mohammed "Prophet, tell your wives, daughters, and other women who believe in me to conceal their eyes and their treasures from the sight of strangers." My problem was to know haw far a woman should be dressed to conceal her treasures, and beside what are a woman¹s treasures? Was a woman treasure under her belt or her brain? The way the Muslims in my family and neighborhood acted it was clear that a woman treasure was her virginity before marriage and her vagina after marriage. I resented that. After all if the vagina is part of my body why shouldn¹t I be in charge of it rather than my father or my husband, mother and the rest of the clan. Then I read more in Koran and in other books and after reading all these sayings and proverbs I was convinced that religion was only to destroy a human¹s ability to think and act on his and her own behalf. I have listed some of these saying below.
"Your wives are your tillage, go in unto your tillage in what manner so ever you will."
"Good women are obedient, as for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them."
"I was standing at the edge of fire (hell) and the majority of the people going there were women." - Prophet Mohammed
"It is better to wallow in mod with pigs than to shake the hand of a woman." - An Islamic leader in Indonesia
"A woman¹s heaven is beneath her husband¹s feet." - An Islamic saying
"Women should be exposed to the day light three times in their lives. When they are born, when they are married and when they die." - Islamic saying
Later in my research on Islam I learned about the marriages of the Prophet to his first wife when he was 24 years old and 16 years her junior. She was a rich, twice divorced lady who proposed to Mohammed for his hand in marriage and he accepted it. Then after she died at age 72 when he was 56 years of age he married a 7 year old girl. Supposedly had sex with her when she was 9 years of age, and pronounced her mother of all Muslims at the time of his death when she was only 16 years old. So that she would never be able to marry another man.
In the last 8 to 10 years of his life the prophet Mohammed married some 15 to 46 women. Muslim apologists say that these women were all widows and that they had no place to go and no one to take care of them so God ordered his prophet to marry them. I find this excuse so preposterous. Ayesha whom he married when she was only seven years old was a child. Zynab was married to prophet¹s adopted son and was quite happily married till he asked his son Zayd to divorce his wife so he could marry her. In order to get the approval of the Gorish tribe, he brought the excuse that "a Muslim man is not allowed to raise another man¹s child, therefore, Zayd is not his son, because he adopted Zayd prior to his ordaination as a Muslim prophet." That is the main reason adoption is not legal in Islamic countries. And Reyhaneh was a beautiful married woman when her husband was decapitated by the prophet¹s bandits and taken to the prophet¹s bed the same night. These women were not widowed. They indeed had some one to take care of them .
When I read such stories my mind just exploded. How could so many people in this world follow a womanizer and a child molester? How could my grandfather make me a Muslim when I was six days old to be a follower of such a criminal? Then I came to the conclusion that he did not know about it. Or if he did, it was because he had been raised in such a barbaric culture himself and did not know better.
When my son was born I did not give him any religion. I did not give him any religious education about God and his Prophets and as a matter of fact I did not circumcise my son either. My faith in God was totally eroded on April 1st, 1979 following the establishment of the Islamic Republic or the government of God, in the country of my birth Iran, when the country experienced a dramatic return to the dark ages by the establishment of the following Islamic laws. Women were the first victims of the regression. More than 130 years of struggle was repudiated by the medieval religious rulers. Bereaved of their constitutional Rights, they are socially reduced to lower individuals and second -rank citizens.
In March 1979, Khomeini employed the Hijab as a symbol of struggle against imperialism and corruption. He declared that "women should not enter the ministries of the Islamic Republic bare-headed. They may keep on working provided that they wear the Hijab" (Keyhan, March 1979).
In 1980, Khomeini declared "from now on women have no right to be present in the governmental administration NAKED. They can carry on their tasks, provided they use Islamic dress." The ministry of education specified the color and the style of the suited clothing for the girl students (black, straight and covered from head to toe for children as young as 6 years of age). To suppress the refractory women, the government set up special units. Patrols controlled whether women observed the Islamic habit on the streets.
The Islamic Government went even further. During the last twenty-two years, women conditions have continuously deteriorated. Nonetheless, in spite of the tortures (flagellation, stoning, imprisonment and total segregation) Iranian women have not ceased their worthy struggle.
Hashemi Rafsanjani, President of the Islamic Republic, of Iran recently has discovered the difference between men and women. In his quote, he says.
"Equality does not take precedence over justice. Justice does not mean that all laws must be the same for men and women. One of the mistakes the Westerners make is to forget this. The difference in the stature, vitality, voice, development, muscular quality and physical strength of men and women show that men are stronger and more capable in all fields. Men's brain are bigger so men are more inclined to fight and women are more excitable. Men are inclined to reasoning and rationalism, while women have a fundamental tendency to be emotional. The tendency to protect is stronger in men, where as most women like to be protected. Such differences affect the delegation of responsibilities, duties, and rights."
Under the Islamic Rules, the family protection law has been abrogated. Polygamy has been reestablished. The Islamic Republic resolutely supports the practice of polygamy. Under the Islamic Republic, provisional marriage was sanctioned. Consequently, a man may marry "four Permanent" and as many "Provisional" wives as he desires.
"Most Europeans have mistresses. Why should we suppress human instincts? A rooster satisfies several hens, a stallion several mares. A woman is unavailable during certain periods where as a man is always active....", Ayatollah Ghomi, LE MONDE, January 20, 1979.
"The specific task of women in this society is to marry and bear children. They will be discouraged from entering legislative, judicial, or what ever careers which may require decision making, as women lack the intellectual ability and discerning judgment required for theses careers." Ayatolah Mutahari,(one of the principal ideologues of the Islamic Republic of Iran) on "The Question of Veil"
Man's testimony is equal to 2 women's.
According to clauses 33 and 91 of the law in respect, Qasas (The Islamic Retribution Bill) and its boundaries, the value of woman witness is considered only half as much as of a man. According to the Islamic Penal law that is being practiced by the present regime of Iran, "a woman is worth half of a man".
According to the clause 6 of the Law of Retribution and punishment "if a woman murders a man his family has the right to a sum paid to the next of kin as compensation for the slaughter of a relative. By contrast, if a man murders a woman, her murderer must, before retribution pay half the amount of a man's blood money to her guardian".
rizi, said that "anyone who rejects the principle of Hijab is an apostate and the punishment for an apostate under Islamic law is death."
Girls condemned to death penalty may not undergo the sentence as long as they are virgin. Thus they are systematically raped before the sentence is executed.
"To rape women prisoners, especially virgin girls, who are accused of being against the regime, is a normal and daily practice in the Islamic Republic's prisons, and by doing so, the clergies declare that they adhere to the merits of the Islamic principles and laws, preventing a virgin girl to go to Heaven. Mullahs believe that these are ungodly creatures and they do not deserve it, therefore they are raped to be sure they will be sent to hell". The report of the Special Representative of the Commission of the Human Rights of the United Nations in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1992.
Article 115 of the Islamic Constitution clearly states that the president of the country should be elected a Man out of all God-fearing and dedicated men; this brings the conception that a woman can neither be president nor possess the rank of Valiat-e-Faghih (The religious spiritual Leader) or the position of Leader of a Muslim nation.
Iranian women are prevented to marry foreigners unless they obtain a written permission from the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry of Interior's Director General for the Affairs of Foreign Citizens and Immigrants, Ahmad Hosseini, stated on 30 March 1991; " marriages between Iranian women and foreign men will create many problems for these women and their children in future, because the marriages are not legally recognized. Religious registrations of such marriages will not be considered as sufficient documentation to provide legal services to these families."
"Married women are not allowed to travel abroad without presenting a written permission from their husbands".
In accordance with a draft resolution presented to the Majlis (The Islamic Parliament ) in May 1991, unmarried women and girls will not be allowed to leave the country. According to Keyhan of 23 May 1991, although at present there is no law forbidding girls from leaving the country, authorities in practice create many obstacles for those who wish to leave. The authorities are allegedly in particular severe with those unmarried women and girls who have won scholarships to study abroad."
The latest reports of the various international organizations such as Amnesty International and the United Nation's Human Rights Commission give a clear picture of the circumstances that Iranian women as well as Iranian men and children are suffering from all basic human rights.
The only thing the Islamic Republic has brought to the Iranian people is poverty and misery. I just wonder why is God discarding them? At the time of revolution Khomeini told people that God was on their side. If this is what we will get by having God on our side I am so pleased to not have him on mine.
That is when I realized that religion and God were only to control people. They are big businesses raising money for the clergy to live happily ever after by making others feel guilty of what humans must do. As my friend and colleague Dr. Ahmad said, there are three religions, or three big businesses one collects money on Fridays, one on Saturdays and one on Sundays.
Co-author of the book "Rage Against the Veil," Prometheus Books, 1999.
permission from Faith