Janet Tavakoli’s ‘Unveiled threat’ is her personal memoir in an Islamic country, not only it is her eyewitness account to the transition from one rule to other, but also an in-depth study of the fundamentalism in Islam.
Before going into details of this wonderfully styled creative nonfiction, let us look into some background of Islamic fundamentalism. Fundamentalists are totalitarian. To them Islam is not a religion, but rather a ruling system without any compromise. Islam is observed as the best ideology, not the best religion and hence the shift is on power. To fundamentalists, tolerance is a word to be found in only dictionary! In countries, they assume power in the clout of democracy and make a mockery of the term afterwards. For example, in Iran Ayatollah Khomeini promised real democracy (an assembly’ based on the votes of the people’). Once in power, he partially fulfilled the promise. Elections were held and parliament didn’t have any authority! He himself declared himself as supreme leader and couldn’t be voted out of power. Other religious identities simply don’t have any identity under the fundamentalism and it is worse than dictatorship or tyranny! Under Islam woman is considered to be a second class citizen and considered no match with respect to man in terms of intellect, morality and faithfulness. The evil practices of polygamy, child marriage, hijab and degradation of woman in socioeconomic life are rampant under the Islamic law.
Janet had moved to Iran in 1978 with her Iranian husband. Iran was under the tyrannical rule of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi then. Her book begun, with a beautiful narration of the socioeconomic status of people in general and the woman in particular under the rule of Shah and continued with depicting the reform measures taken up by the ruler to prosper the state. However the trouble began when he started to claim the divine power right. In the words of the writer -“the large class divide, grand ambitions of the insecure Shah, discontent among religious leaders, brutality of the dictatorship and crucially ,an old grudge against the United States were about to spark a revolution.”
The description of overthrowing of the Shah and transition of power from a tyrannical rule to complete anarchy is dramatic –offering the reader an opportunity to visualize rioting people, bombing, riot all in front of them-something that a nonfiction work does rarely offer!
The second chapter is her personal memoir with the Islamic republic of Iran- painting the picture of a ruthless, brutal rule that had no respect for humanity, where disorder was the order of the day. The daily trial of the loyalist of Shah’s rule, the rich under the previous regime by Islamic clergymen had been described in a heart touching way! The economy had come to a standstill. Dignity of women became a thing of the past. When Iraq tried to invade Iran -‘Khomeini sent men to war. He also sent untrained prepubescent boys into bloody battles, instead of to school. He told parents their virgin children would be martyrs and find their reward in paradise.’
Women are viewed merely as a commodity under Islamic law! The writer expressed strong notion in that respect. In a witty language she had commented-“in his fifties ,Muhammad married his friend’s six year old daughter, Aisha and took her into his house when she was nine……………..if Muhammad were alive today and living in the United States, he would be guilty of statutory rape. By U.S. standards, Islamic states that recognize marriages of nine –year-olds and other underage girls are enabling perverts.” the evolution of tennis playing dress in the club where she had played tennis will simply arouse laughter in the minds of her readers, but it is not a ho-ho-ho affair after all!
And leave aside fundamentalism! What about the countries where Islamic rule is in vogue. Are the rulers tolerating other religions? She made a detailed study and showcased a true reflection of what Islamic democracy in reality is. From there she traced the roots of terrorism in countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, the way the terrorist groups are working and more importantly the ‘philosophy’ behind the action of these groups. The anti western violence has been dealt in depth. However, in this respect we feel that reference of terrorist attacks in eastern and Muslim world would have given completeness to the study.
Religion is the personal belief that should always be respected. The purpose of the religion is to transit man from ignorance to knowledge, from darkness to light, from dishonesty to honesty. The mediavel customs practiced by these men can never be termed as ‘religion’.
But the irony is-everything is happening in the name of religion!
This is a valuable treasure to anyone who wants to gain a concept on origin and development of Islamic fundamentalism!