Leaders of Iran

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Hossein Mar’ashi Hero of Iran teaching Respect for the Iranian culture

The Star Online: Lifestyle: "Respecting the Iranian culture

ONE of the most common complaints heard from non-Muslim tourists travelling in Iran is discomfort over the requirement for females above the age of eight to cover their heads.

While women are no longer required to conceal every single strand of hair – and many Iranian women, especially in Tehran, show more hair than they cover – every female still has to adhere strictly to the code.

Women must also not wear tight-fitting clothes and certainly not reveal anything more than their hands, face and maybe a little neck. Shoulders, upper arms, legs and, of course, the other parts of the body, are certainly no-nos.

However, tourists need not go overboard with the chador (similar to the tudung labuh) or the purdah (fully covered veil) unless they want to impress. These are now mainly worn by those from conservative backgrounds only.

The common perception is that women in Iran are all hidden away, living separate lives. The truth is more like this: this group of women are gleefully cheering on Laleh Seddigh, a woman race car driver who beat out the men to take the trophy at a race in Tehran stadium in January.--AFP photo
A few of the tour agents who were invited to Iran on a familiarisation tour recently called for tourists to be exempted from the rule, although this is unlikely to happen.

When asked what he thought of this suggestion, the Iranian vice-president and chairman of the Iran Cultural, Heritage of Tourism Organisation, Hossein Mar’ashi, said wearing a head covering was one way in which tourists could show respect for Iranian culture.

“When I visited Amritsar in India and entered the Golden Temple (the Sikh’s most revered temple), I was required to cover my head. It was done out of respect for local customs and laws,” he said.

He said it was acceptable for women to wear a hat instead of a scarf. “Any form of covering is all right, as long as the hair is covered,” he said.

Mar’ashi said the custom of covering the heads of females was not strictly Islamic, but more Persian. He said this was born out of the yearning to “protect women” and “ensure that due respect is accorded to them”.

This practice now has become an integral part of Iranian culture.

“For the visitor, I would say wearing the headscarf should be deemed to be part of your Iran experience,” he said."

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