– Mister Peter, but I want to kiss you! – Mohammad was very disappointed to learn that in Poland men’s affection is only expressed by a strong and hearty handshake. Finally, after two days, when he was already accompanying his first ever encountered Europeans, he found the courage to ask about all the issues that had been bothering him. Got to say, he didn’t like the answers too much…
– Do women in Poland get irritated when their husband gets married again?
– Weeell, I’d say they would be more than irritated…
– But why? – an expression of astonishment hit Mohammad’s face.
Monogamy is a funny topic In Iran. Theoretically a man is allowed to have four wives at a time, as long as he treats them equally and is able to provide well for each of them. In reality, there are not many guys suicidal enough to do that. Also women will tap their foreheads when asked about their opinion on this matter. Generally speaking, the fact that some acts are accepted by the Quran (and, hence, also by law), doesn’t necessarily mean that they are customary in the society. A for instance? Temporary wife – for an hour, a week, a few years. Let’s say, an Iranian Barney Stinson walks into a bar with his wingman, meets a nice girl and the wingman, provided he knows the correct Arabic sentence, may make their union legal for any amount of time they like. Does that actually happen in life? Well, nope.
– How much money do you have in your account?
Eyes wide open.
We’d better get used to that. There is no such thing as an inappropriate question, at least not in European understanding. If someone is interested in your finances, they’ll ask. And since you arrived from the paradise which Europe most definitely is, than you must have a full money vault with a trampoline back at home.
– Are you two related? – Mohammad’s questions didn’t cease to surprise me.
– If you are cousins?
Oh my, oh my… Not only is marriage between cousins legal in Islam, it is considered blessed and unique. That’s something new and unexpected!
– Can the government do something to you when they know you haven’t been to confession?
My eyes went from wide open to lemur sized.
As a matter of fact, if you think about it, it’s a reasonable question. For an Iranian, it is natural that being a good citizen equals being a good Muslim, at least on the outside. Is every Iranian super religious? Just as much as every Pole and Spaniard. Unfortunately for them, living in a country ruled by religion makes them keep up appearances. If someone is after a government job, say, maths teacher, the interview will check neither their acquaintance with numerical integration nor the didactic skills. It will, however, grill the applicant from their knowledge of the Quran and investigate how good a Muslim they are. If they play their role well, such a teacher/actor can educate the youth until pension, but if they’re caught eating a pork cutlet (I’m kidding, there are no pork cutlets in Iran) or not saying their prayers five times a day – goodbye job with government benefits!
There is no one Iran. Living’s easier for people who truly believe and practice religion, because faith gives them a reason to do all the things that seem like a weird and irksome obligation for others. These “others” may have a true life only at home: they may take off their headscarves, put on shorts, take the jug with freshly fermented wine and pour themselves a glass, turn on the software which hides their computer’s IP and check what’s going on on all the filtered web-pages, watch the Godfather drink his glass of wine, and not orange juice, while advising Michael on how to take care of the family, or the blind Al Pacino teach the younger generation dance the tango… Then dance themselves till they drop and go to sleep.