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Long Story Short

Speaking with Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, moved me to reconsider my long-held beliefs about cultural relativity.

Nafisi, a fiery Iranian feminist, is quick to denounce her homeland's chokehold on women. There depending on the current president, or even the week women are beaten, barred from work and forced into tent-like robes and head coverings.

In the past, I shied away from condemning the veil. I shuddered at feminists who condescendingly bemoaned the plight of the Muslim woman.

It's a misunderstanding, I would think to myself. Women in Iran and Afghanistan don't need us to save them from their culture they need us to stop menacing them with bombs.

After my conversation with Nafisi (see page 16), my thoughts on the matter grew a shade more complex. No woman should be compelled to wear the veil, just as no woman should be pressured into going without it, as is the case in many French public schools.

It's all about choice.

The choice to be as religious or as secular as you see fit. The choice to work or stay at home with the children.

These choices must be available to both men and women; tradition is only meaningful when it is elected, rather than forced upon.

Naomi Zeveloff

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