Iran's oppression of women is cause for alarm worldwide, and Americans wonder if we are headed down the same dangerous path.
Last week, Mahsa Amini died from an alleged “heart attack” while in police custody during a visit to Tehran, the capital of Iran. Her crime? Showing her hair.
Amini’s murder has sparked mass protests and at least 17 deaths across Iran as well as global outrage in the days since. For Americans, it is all too familiar to hear about people mysteriously passing away while in police custody, even though they were perfectly healthy and there is clear evidence of physical trauma.
Amini’s father Amjad agrees that a heart attack was highly unlikely and believes that the authorities have lied about Mahsa’s fate, especially since he was not allowed to see her after she passed. He told BBC Persia,
They’re lying. They’re telling lies. Everything is a lie … no matter how much I begged, they wouldn’t let me see my daughter.Amjad Amini to BBC Persia
Since Iran’s mandatory hijab law went into effect in 1981, it’s become common in secular humanist circles to point to religion and say, “See? Look what religion does.”
How can we not?
Mahsa Amini was detained by the “morality police” for violating the “hijab rule.” Both of those terms are alarming. They’re not normal. For decades, women in Iran and other countries under Islamic rule have had little to no say in how they live, especially in what they wear. Because of this, it can be easy for the nonreligious to deem Islam as inherently anti-woman, which is only slightly better than Christians claiming that their religion is less misogynistic than Islam.
Misogyny and Islam
To simply claim that Islam is misogynistic is to miss the point. This idea can lead to governments going too far in the opposite direction and banning hijabs. However, the balance is not complicated. It’s not even about whether Islam is for or against women, it’s about whether we all are.
Are we giving women the power to control their own lives? Are we allowing women to make their own choices on whether or not they will wear hijabs? Do we trust them either way?
Will this happen in America?
Are the events in Iran foreshadowing what could happen in the United States? They could be, but it’s not a yes or no question.
Seeing the way that Christian Nationalism is strangling our nation and making women and AFAB people second-class citizens, it is beyond easy to fatalistically picture ourselves heading that way. But always remember, Islam and Christianity are not the same. Christians and even atheists have always pointed to Islam as the most violent, nationalist, misogynistic religion, as if it is a standard that Christian Nationalism ironically and unwittingly tries to reach.
Religion as a vehicle for control
But it’s not. There is no contest for which religion or which theocracy is “the worst.” The truth is that no matter what the Bible or the Quran actually say about women, they are both fantastic tools for men who are already power-hungry and anti-woman to use to push their agenda. The religions are not the same, but the goals are. And the goals are patriarchy, power, and money. Every time.
So even though Sasha’s tweet gave me chills, and even though American women are losing rights, 2010s America and 1960s Iran can’t be perfectly overlaid.
Misogyny and patriarchy are a global, deadly threat, no matter where they’re coming from. Religion just makes them easier to achieve.