The large scale immigration of Iranian Muslim to the United States of America is as a result of a continuum of causes, resulting from the Islamic revolution of the 1979 and the policies of the cold war era (Pollack, 2004). Immigration of Iranian Muslim women increased over time leading to the more Iranian Muslim women in US than men.
These women were viewed through the orientalist construct which ideally acknowledged them as immigrants and though rewarded them accordingly, it left a vacuum where most of the felt discriminated facing a wide range of challenges and conflicts within themselves as well as from the external forces (Yazbeck et al, 2000). Introduction The 20th century saw the United States as the most desired country due to its promise on financial and educational possibilities.
The results of cold war policies allowed many Iranians to access the entry to the US without much hitch until the climatic events that followed the 1979 revolution in Iran which overly altered the Iranian migratory ties to the US (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007). The was an upheaval in the political and cultural ideologies, that positioned Iranian Muslim as a whole against the America and the west at large.
New forms of radicalization faced these Muslims eventually leading to Americans to develop great hostility towards them and as a result, the US policies that were formulated favored only those Iranians that were refranchised from their faiths, culture and religious affiliations (Pollack, 2004). This paper attempts to examine the myriad conflict that the Iranian Muslim women face in the United States today, considering the possibility of their hijabs, veils and religious mode of dressing in engendering more conflict between the western culture and theirs.
Forms of conflict There are many varied forms of conflict that Iranian Muslim women face in the United States. They range from internal to external conflicts. Most of the them originate from the sharp differences that exist in the cultures because, Iranians strictly uphold the Islamic culture that is in line with the middle Eastern roots, which the Americans western culture disregard and discredit following the developments related to terrorism in the 21st century(Pollack, 2004). The conflict of cultural differences affects the Iranian Muslim women at great lengths.
At the heart of this conflict is the point that most Iranian women are met with tough opposition against their overt practice of their Middle Eastern cultures, coupled up by the Muslim faith (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007). Theologians argue that Islam is more of a way of life than a religion and from this fact, most Muslim become more staunch in their faith and extend it into a way of living, a phenomenon that Americans do not welcome (Yazbeck et al, 2000). Because of the existing, stereotypes that most Americans have over Muslims in general, discrimination against Muslims sets into play leaving Muslim women at a conflict.
At first, these Iranian Muslim women must leave in accordance to their culture but at the same time, they are in a foreign country where their religious orientations are not welcome and are openly discriminated (Pollack, 2004). As a matter of fact, this creates conflicting divergence among them, because they must leave happily without offending those they interact with who are Americans. Iranian Muslim women are generally proud of their cultural identity hence; they are caught in a dilemma of not knowing what exactly they should do.
The conflict of acculturation yet another form of challenge. Slightly similar to the internal conflict above, Iranian Muslim women who immigrated to the US face another stiff challenge of integrating the American ways of thinking and life into their traditional way of living (Yazbeck et al, 2000). In as much they want to fit into the American culture, they feel a strong sense of betrayal and guilt for discarding the ancestral norms maintained by their parents back in Iran, significantly arousing feeling of anomie, guilt, depression, lack of identity and anxiety.
In an interview made by the Associated Press to identify the extent of conflict faced by Iranian women, Hadija, a young Muslim woman from Iran and studying in Massachusetts, confessed having felt desperate and without a sense of belonging for finding it difficult to harmonize the western way of life with her tradition Iranian Islam culture. Consequently, her peers wanted her to acclimatize to the American way which left her more remorseful and guilt without any sense of worth (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007).
Adaptation to the American values such as pre-marital sex, marriage, and gender roles has left more Muslim women in the US suffering much consequences of a new face of lifestyle. Many of them find a lot of problems handling relationships in a new culture. According to (Yazbeck et al, 2000), there is a conspicuous difference in the way relationships and marital affairs are handled. For example, in Iran a typical Muslim woman is expected to be a virgin up to the time she gets married. Upon marriage, this woman is meant to be subservient and submissive to the husband, without contemplating divorce should she get her marriage not to be working.
On the contrary, these values of virginity and submissiveness to husband are not fashionable to American women, following the springing up of gender equity movements. Therefore, the rising numbers of divorce cases affecting Iranian Muslim women are as a result of lack of adaptability to the American values. As such these affect their self esteem and the general emotional wellbeing (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007). Political alienation is experienced by majority of Iranian Muslim women and it affects them adversely.
In the survey done to establish the role of Muslim women in politics, it was found out that the immigration of Iranian Muslim women due to the 1979 revolution caused and continues to cause them to loss ties with their family ties and experience a sense of loss from their native culture (Yazbeck et al, 2000). With regard to this, most of them lack the agility to actively get involved into the political landscape of the United States. At the same time, the political tension between the US and Iran promotes this political alienation amongst Muslim women contrary other Iranian women in the US.
Most of the alienated women report cases of symptomatology as compared to the bicultural Iranian women (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007). Inter-religious differences present another form of challenge to Iranian Muslim women in United States. Accordingly, there are four groups of religion in Iran. They include the Jewish, Bahai, Muslim and Armenian Iranians. Historical experiences fueled by political situation determine different forms of treatment to Iranians in the US, depending on their religious grouping (Pollack 2004). The Bahai and Jewish Iranians have overall different experiences in US whether while migrating to US or just leaving there.
Anthropologist argue that the cause of the difference is pegged on the mentality that the Bahai and Jewish Iranians move to the US to achieve religious freedom and their ethnic identity is strongly recognized as compared to their Muslim Iranians who exhibit a weak ethnic identity recognition(Yazbeck et al, 2000). Because of the existing terrorism threat tagged on Muslim as a whole, Muslim Iranian women in the US suffer a loss of ethnic identification, since they move from being members of the majority group in Iran to one of a minority group in the US.
The reason behind this is that, in Iran, Muslim form the majority in respect to the minority Jewish, Armenians and Bahais (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007). A baseline survey carried out in2002 found out that Muslim Iranian women in the US are not united with their counterparts back in Iran (Pollack, 2004). Apparently, the Jewish Iranian women immigrants uphold to cohesiveness with other Jewish Americans especially those in Los Angeles . This element of unity reduces the problems they encounter in adjusting to the new environment and way of life.
Unlike Iranian Muslim women, the Iranian jewfish women maintain their cultural orientations and social networks with ease. Therefore, Muslim women experience conflict between two distinct groups: the fellow Iranians and the hostile Americans. At some point, the Iranian Muslim women have meant to forcefully use religion as a means of coping with the new situations and harsh conditions of discrimination and as a result, they continue to experience more conflicts.
The coping styles used by them are not habitual as recently seen in the rising numbers of Iranian Muslim women converting to Christianity to seek control over their general lives and achieve a sense of belonging but nonetheless, they continue to experience excessive anxiety, spiritual desolation and paranoid ideation (Yazbeck et al, 2000). Another conflict is the ignorance about Islam. This ignorance often leads to fear, distrust and stereotyping. Accordingly, they suffer from the generalization syndrome where inhuman acts of a few Muslims are associated to the rest of Muslim fraternity (Pollack, 2004).
This therefore questions the loyalty of Muslim Iranian women to the United States’ values and ideals. A case to point is Zaitum, an Iranian Muslim woman who has stayed in America for ten years. She confessed, that they have been discriminated against, as Iranian Muslim women, dehumanized and eventually fallen prey for these injustices. In a bombing of a Federal building in Oklahoma, the first suspects were Muslims and news reports asserted that Muslim looking women dressed in veils were seen leaving the area shortly before the bomb explosion (Pollack, 2004).
Zaitum continues to narrate that the following few hours left them as victims of harassment often being threatened . Later own, investigation shown the really culprits and the harassment towards Muslims stopped. Muslim women in America have a strange history. In as much as many of them immigrated to the US for genuine reasons of educational and economic interests, they are still perceived as maidens of security threats. They are regarded as people who collaborate with their husband to destroy the United States (Pollack, 2004).
The image of Muslims as violent extremist is fuelled by the media which at many time it reports the negative perspectives about Muslims and Islam. Hence most Muslim women especially those from Iran are collectively treated negatively by many departments in the US. For instance, everywhere they go people treat them with distrust and discriminating caution. Worse still, in schools textbooks and different literatures contain erroneous and biased information about the Muslim, possibly meant to caution all Americans against them (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007). Muslim Iranian women also face gender based discrimination.
Although it is not as open as in other parts of the world, the gender related conflicts take different forms. They often meet opposition whenever they must move themselves up in the modern world. Somehow, they are discouraged from achieving their potentials in education and career with the media continually portraying them as subsidiary and sex objects who cannot do anything better. Furthermore, for those who are working, their salary scale is often based on dollar- for –dollar, which in essence is less than that of their male counterparts (Yazbeck et al, 2000).
Those who do not work are forced to remain at home and subsequently play their roles as housewives. Seemingly a good number of Iranian Muslim women who wear hijab (the traditional Islamic attire for women which is the veil and black dress) find themselves in more conflicts often mocked at places of work or even on streets. This in most cases endanger their career prospects because of the discrimination that is leveled against them, leading to some of them not to get jobs (Pollack,2004).
In addition, those who continue wearing hijabs are often targets of sexual harassment and even physical assaults because, they are viewed as Muslims who in many American minds are enemies to security. Xenophobic attacks threaten the peaceful coexistence of Muslim women from Iran. In fact, immigrant Muslims come from different backgrounds and they are targets of a host of problems like xenophobic attacks (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007). The hoslity that has grown among American towards immigrants has left these women and other immigrants to be erroneously blamed for all the socio-economic problems that abound the US.
They are therefore harassed and face many hurdles of racial segregations, vestiges of slavery, religious and gender discrimination (Yazbeck et al, 2000). Furthermore, Muslim Iranian women are often surprisingly faced with discriminations from their own Muslims. This unexpected form of discrimination primarily grounded on the possibility that they attempt to forsake Islam and embrace American values and cultural attitudes that demean women in the context of Islam (Yazbeck et al, 2000).
They are therefore, expected by their folks in Iran not to keep a breast with the technological and scientific changes that occur in the modern world but instead, uphold the traditional teachings of the Quran and the models provided by Prophet Mohamed. The role of the hijab Muslim women is far much misunderstood but away from the existing conflicts between the west and Muslim world, there are fundamental constructive cultural commonalities between the two. Hijab is an artifact of identification just like any other cultural attire but in America the hijab seemingly engenders conflict against Muslim women (Yazbeck et al, 2000).
According to CNN, hijab can be used to elicit unnecessary discrimination that would have otherwise not been experienced. Last year during Christmas time in New Jersey, a young Muslim woman went to shop in a local Wal-Mart. The shop attendant, upon seeing her distinctive hijab began mocking her as he sung “The 12 days of Christmas” adding insulting lyrics to the song to basically point out the connection of Muslims with Osama bin Laden and terrorism as a whole (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007).
The stunned woman hastened to ask the shop keeper if she looked like a terrorist but rudely surprising, the shopkeeper responded by asking how else a terrorist looked like. Such an occurrence points out how terrible the traditional head covering attire engenders conflict that Iranian Muslim women faces in the US. In a recent poll research by Pew Research Center, a significant 53% of Iranian Muslim women in the US confessed that it has become increasingly difficult to be a Muslim woman in the US since the September 11 incident (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007).
The poll further reported that another 51% of them are worried about wearing hijab because, they fear being treated with discrimination. The hijab, as opposed to the simple headscarf that is used by the women fraternity to cover their hair, has raised a lot of controversy and several countries have banned Muslim women from wearing it publicly (Pollack, 2004). In a telephone interview, Seyam, an Iranian Muslim woman who immigrated to the US while still ten, said that she never realized the problems a hijab can cause to her until she put it on while in college.
Seyam says that it triggered her college mates to start catcalling her; an experience she agrees made her to feel “Worthless and like a piece of meat”. According to Seyam, whenever you wear a hijab, people look at you differently as if you were threatening and it is totally different from when you do not put on a hijab (Suad and Afsaneh, 2007). Conclusion The conflicts that an Iranian Muslim woman faces in the US are many, serious and often against the human rights.
Most of the challenges occur as a result of stereotypes and the generalization that has been made due to the extreme violent choices taken by a few Muslim. Most of the conflicts border racial discrimination, gender discrimination, and political orientation of their mother governments, religious differences and cultural identification. They have effects that lead to more conflict especially the internal clash, which if not addressed in good time may explode into social disorders as the Muslim women ask themselves hard questions as to why they are going through all these conflicts.
It is evident that attempts to reduce the conflicts are underway since many advocacy and awareness measures are being put in place to ensure or just facilitate the fair treatment to all; something that will empower Iranian Muslim women to zealously and confidently live in the United States. Reference Suad, J and Afsaneh, N (2007). The Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Culture: Practices and Representation. Chicago, Brill Publisher. Pollack, K (2004). The Persian Puzzle: Iran and America. Michigan, Random House Publisher. Yazbeck, Y et al (2000). Muslim Communities in America. Los Angeles, Sunny Press.