American Freedom or Sharia Compliance

In 1965 Elizabeth Warnock Fernea joined her husband, a social anthropologist, in a southern Iraqi village.  Her time there is recorded in Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village. Although balking at first, she decides to wear the "servile garment" [or abayah] in order to be "well thought of in [her] new home." She discovers that in this society "an uncovered woman is an immoral woman" and "women don't appear in the market."  These same women are often illiterate, make camel dung pancakes for fuel, may be one of the many wives of the sheik, and prepare food for any guests that appear since "tradition decrees that any guest may expect food and a bed for three days without any questions asked." 

Fernea also learns that "a Shiite Moslem . . . would not eat food which had been touched by Christians, and any dish from which a Christian guest had eaten or drunk was smashed so that the infidel wouldn't contaminate the faithful."  Since she and her husband were Christian, no one in the village would do their laundry.

In addition, "paternal first-cousin marriage was the preferred marriage arrangement." 

One young girl, Amina had been "married to a sixty-five year old man when she was fifteen.  Her marriage brought nothing but grief for she nearly died delivering a stillborn son."  When her husband died, she was purchased for twenty pounds and given to the sheik's wife. Yet, Aimna considered herself very fortunate since she could "have as much bread as she want[ed] every day."

Fernea describes the period of deepest mourning in the Islamic month of Muharram.  In the seventh century, Hussein, grandson of the prophet Mohammed was slain in battle on the plains of Karbala.  His death contributed to the split into Shiite and Sunni sects.  During this month, the Shiite communities in Iraq, Iran and India commemorate Hussein's martyrdom.  Though some Iraqis found the ceremonies, i.e., flagellation, uncivilized and backward, the ritual persists to present day.

Fernea explains that while every Moslem hopes to visit Mecca, the Shiite Moslem has an additional duty to visit the shrines of the twelve imams of the Shiite sect and "the essential character of the pilgrimage has not changed much in a thousand years.

Fast forward to Mahtob Mahmoody's book entitled My Name Is Mahtob where the reader learns of the events following the daring escape of Betty Mahmoody recounted in Not Without My  Daughter. On August 1, 1984, Mahtob's father took his wife and daughter back to Iran for a two-week vacation.  But it was not until 1986, that Betty and her daughter would escape the tyranny of her husband and return to America.  Now in 2015, Mahtob writes about the trials and triumphs that have colored her life.  She describes how "the women wore black chadors . . . revealing only a portion of the face.  The chador was held in place from the inside, so even the skin of their hands was hidden." She had a glimpse of her future when her father stated "you are in Iran until you die.  Now you're in my country.  You'll abide by my rules." Betty and Mahtob constantly feared for their lives. 

Mahtob writes that "life in Iran in the mid-1980s was bleak" and her school "looked more like a military compound than a nurturing environment[.]"  Students' "identities were stripped from [them], as were [their] right to speak or even think freely.  Classes were segregated by gender and each student wore a government-sanctioned uniform."

Mahtob describes how each day as the students entered school they were "required to either stomp or spit" on the American flag which was "painted on the ground."  After doing this, the students were "lined up in military fashion and chanted Maag barg Amrika or Death to America." And just as Hitler did, Khomeini abused children and "used them as moles."  Children were peppered with questions about their parents and "any wrong answer was grounds for government action" so that "people disappeared on a regular basis and public executions were commonplace."  The Pasdar or morality police roamed the streets looking for "wardrobe offenses."

In essence, the students "were told what to think and nothing else was tolerated."

In fact, so complete was the government's control on the populace that "it even dictated which shades [of crayon colors] children were allowed to use when coloring in their own homes."  Moreover, "children were told that they would make their parents proud by sacrificing their lives for Allah and that dying in this holy war ensured their souls would be immediately welcomed into paradise."  Thus, as Mahtob writes "the Iranian government knowingly murdered its own children."

Mahtob writes that she and her mother are not "anti-Muslim or anti-Iranian."  They are, however "pro-freedom." Eventually baptized, Mahtob writes how God helps her through her difficulties. She worried that if her father ever found her, would he "want to restore the family's honor by killing her for being Christian, for not wearing [the] hijab, for wearing makeup, for listening to rock music, for reading books that weren't approved by the Islamic Guidance Committee" -- in essence, if she were to return to Iran, it would be a death sentence because she was now a Christian born to a Muslim father."  Mahtob writes, "no religion is exempt from those who hijack the cause and use it for their evil purposes.  When that happens, the devil rejoices for to him that is a victory."  Her father, "once a gregarious, gentle man soon became a fanatic militant who was prone to violent outbursts," prejudice and fanaticism.

So why juxtapose these two stories -- one from Iraq, the other from Iran and a half-century apart from each other? Because women in the Islamic world are degraded, because freedom of expression and religion are non-existent in the Muslim world, because slavery still exists in many Muslim countries, because Christians are being annihilated daily, and because the infidel can expect to be humiliated or destroyed.

Too few Americans want to understand the cultural climate of the Muslim world and the dictates of the political-religious system of Islam or shariah.  The events described in Fernea's book still occur -- the condition of women in the Islamic world is filled with horror.  The over-arching themes in Mahmoody's memoir reverberate every day in Iran as their anti-American stance continues.  We are the infidels in the eyes of the Muslim world and, hence, need to be exterminated.

Equally alarming is that America has lost its way and has succumbed to political correctness, ignorance, and indifference.  So on the campus of an American university, Mahtob is cruelly rebuked for her belief systems and her Christian religious convictions.   Although she had been asked for her opinion, suddenly she came under personal attack. She writes:

This is America.  What is happening?  As an American, am I not guaranteed the right to freedom of religion?  Am I not guaranteed the right to freedom of speech?  That's what makes this country great. We are free to disagree.

Thus, Mahtob learned that "in the name of political correctness, -- religion and specifically Christianity had become taboo."  While she vowed not to speak up again, she could not abide by the idea promulgated by a professor that "the world is full of injustice, and we have to accept that because society is more powerful than the individual" no one person can make a difference.  She cites the far-ranging work of her own mother that resulted in federal law forbidding international parental child abduction -- thus proving that one person can, indeed, have an impact. 

Mahtob learned early on that she had to be vigilant and alert to even the smallest detail.  Thus, "things others overlooked were glaringly obvious to [her].  Whether a blessing or a curse, this quiet attentiveness quickly became a mandatory safety precaution." She sensed "the vital importance of noticing all that happened around [her]" because it literally meant the difference between freedom or enslavement. 

Americans need to actively assert this quiet and constant attentiveness to the never-ending encroachment of sharia in the United States coupled with vicious assaults on our freedoms by the left.  As our freedoms erode, we continue to lose the war of ideas. Future memoirs will, sadly, recount what we lost instead of how we reclaimed the gift of liberty.

Eileen can be reached at

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