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Misunderstandings About Islam


Posted: Apr 14th 2009 12:01AM

Filed Under: Religion, Featured Stories, UMass

For nearly a decade, Islam has been involved in heated debates throughout the United State. Many of the defining issues of our time have involved religious differences, and yet the Muslim world continues to be largely misrepresented by the media. Some of the most basic rules and beliefs within the faith remain unexplored or unknown.

Here is a look at some common questions and misunderstandings.

Hijab, Muslim women's headscarf, is the most visible indicator of Islam today. Hijab literally translates to modesty and morality. Whether to veil or not depends on the interpretation of modesty among Muslim women. Some argue that Hijab oppresses women and limits their ability to interact in the social realm. Headscarf debates have developed of late in Europe, where many Muslim women claim that Hijab should be an independent and optional choice.

Hate crimes and backlash against Middle Easterners and Muslims after the tragic 9/11 attack and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq have increased both in the US and in Europe. Still, for many the term Muslim means terrorist. The majority of these hate crimes are regularly committed against average Muslim citizens. It is often overlooked that terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda who are interpreting Islam to the most extreme ends are a small minority among Muslim sects and make up a minute population of Muslims around the world.

• So, how many wives is it? It is crucial to state that monogamy among Muslims is the norm. But it is true that Islam does not provide restrictions against polygamy. When looking at the Quran -- the holy book of Muslims -- polygamy is encouraged at times of war, when many women are widowed and the support of orphans could strengthen the sense of society and community. At the same time, Islam only allows polygamy if the man is capable of providing equal opportunity and support for his wives. It is important to note that many Muslim scholars today are arguing for a more modern reinterpretation of Islamic laws.

• Are all Muslim Arabs? No. The largest Muslim nation in the world is Indonesia while Saudi Arabia is the largest Muslim Nation among Arab countries. Also, Christians, Jews, and other religious groups live in the Middle East along with Muslims.

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Obama's "New Beginning" For US & Iran


Posted: Mar 24th 2009 11:09PM

Filed Under: Politics, UMass

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard President Obama greeting the people and the government of Iran for the Persian New Year on Friday March 20th was how cute it was that he spoke a sentence in Farsi. Also, I was thrilled to hear him pronounce the name of the country correctly and to acknowledge the state of Iran in its full status as an Islamic Republic.

He won my heart even further when he quoted my favorite Iranian poet Saadi's most famous poem, which is the motto on the entrance of United Nations Building:

These songs of Adam are limbs of each other, Having been created on one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb, The other limbs cannot remain at rest.

But soon, after all the excitement, I remembered that I am Iranian and I should read between the lines. "I must not be carried away by the sweetness of the talk," I told myself. Turns out I was not the only one who thought this way.

Full Article »

Nourooz, The Persian New Year


Posted: Mar 24th 2009 12:05AM

These days Iranians are holding a thirteen-day-long celebration in every corner of the country. People are rejoicing in the centuries-old tradition of Persian New Year, Nourooz.

Nou (new) Rooz (day) refers to the first day of spring, which is celebrated among Farsi speaking people and especially Iranians to mark the rebirth of nature and the renewal of the calendar. Though the origin of Nourooz is unknown, it predates the Achaemenian Dynasty (559-330 BC).

A few weeks before the New Year, Iranians prepare for thirteen days of gathering and celebrations by cleaning their homes, baking pastries, shopping for new clothes and setting up a traditional table known as Haft Seen.

Haft (seven) symbolic objects and nutrients whose names in Farsi begin with Seen (letter S) decorate most Iranian houses to symbolize rebirth, fertility, transformation and joy. Finally, each family gathers around Haft Seen table at the specific time of Equinox to welcome the New Year. Individuals congratulate one another. The young receive money from the old and extended family members and friends visit one other till the thirteen day of the month arrives. At this day which is called Sizdah-beh-Dar (get rid of thirteen) people spend time picnicking outdoors and enjoying the wilderness.

Full Article »


What Is There to Learn About Women?


Posted: Feb 22nd 2009 10:15PM

Filed Under: Culture, On Campus, UMass

There is often an air of skepticism about when feminism is put on the table. Some - who clearly will not accept any challenge of their beliefs - shrug it off and try to change the topic. Others bring up the old argument of feminists-are-scary-man-haters-who-burned-bras and challenge any ideas put forth.

As a student of Women's Studies, I am often asked "what is there to know about women?"

For me, Women's Studies is about seeing the world through the eyes of a woman. To see what life is like for different women of color, race, class, religion, or sexual status is one of the primary concerns of this discipline.

Today, there are 652 Women's and Gender Studies programs at community colleges, colleges, and universities in the U.S. According to National Women's Studies Association, in 2005-06, nearly 89,000 students enrolled undergraduate women's studies courses.

This very young course of study was established only in 1972 and since has tried to study the historical, social, and even psychological aspects of gender and its influence in human lives. However, during this short time Women's Studies discipline has suffered harsh criticism and negative attitudes.

Full Article »


Considering Regular Iranians In Aggressive Times


Posted: Feb 15th 2009 6:44AM

When I first came to the US in 2003, many would ask me what life is like "under the burka" for women in Iran. I had to explain that Iranian women are among the most liberated women in the Middle East. A light head cover, which often is a fashion statement rather than an indicator of oppression, does not interfere with our social lives.

When President Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005, many would ask me how Iranians felt about his presidency. I had to tell them that the election of a powerless man, who is just a puppet of some authorities who consist of a small group of clergies, does not make a difference for a nation suffering a dreadful economy and a young population with an almost 30% unemployment rate.

Iran recently sent its first satellite into orbit. As an Iranian, I should feel proud of my country's significant scientific achievement. When I was a little girl in grade school, I was taught that Iran is a third world country, a country that could never produce anything on its own or contribute to solving the world's problems. Now I can only wonder whether other intentions exist behind the Iranian government's explanation that the satellite was created and launched for peaceful purposes.

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Worries Build for Iranians - Obama vs. Khatami


Posted: Feb 4th 2009 7:43AM

Filed Under: Politics, Featured Stories, International News, UMass

Barack Obama has begun his monumental work, and the excitement about his arrival in Washington is settling. People are now actually evaluating the President's action on issues like Guantanamo and the economy, though many are still glowing about the inauguration and the promise ahead.

For me, however, this influx of inspiration in American society is not a new feeling. I have tasted the sweet experience of having a hopeful president who talked beautifully and promised big things to his nation once before, starting in 1997 in Iran.

When I was a young teenager growing up in an Iran run by extremist clerics, freedom of speech, economic growth and even basic political freedoms were untouchable dreams. At the dawn of a new century, I saw hope in my country for the first time. A reformist (or an unknown clergy man, rather) named Mohammad Khatami won almost seventy percent of the votes for president in 1997. He also won the hearts of many young and old Iranian men and women by emphasizing their inclusion in the decision-making of the country. He too said, "We can."

Full Article »

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