Nazi Paikdze V. Tehran: Theocracy Under Fire
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For many Muslim women, the hijab is an integral part of their Islamic culture. However, in recent years, Islamic women are hanging up their hijabs in overt rebellion to revolt against the brute injustice they face. There are arguments on both sides of the aisle with some women believing that the hijab emulates the shackled lives Islamic women are forced to live while others see the hijab as part of the culture and embrace the cultural tenants for which the hijab stands.
In 2017, Iran will host the Women’s World Class Championship, and dominating U.S. chess player, Nazi Paikdze, is refusing to participate in the event. The Russian U.S. player, says she will not compete in the match because she will not, under any circumstances, wear a hijab. Paikdze has expressed her anguish and disagreement of the Islamic tradition as she sees it as means to belittle women. While the World Chess Federation does not require women to wear the traditional head covering during the event, they are asked to “respect local traditions, customs, laws, and religions at all times.”
Nonetheless, Paikdze is impervious with her decision and will not take part in the chess tournament. Some are saying that her outcry is selfish as this is the biggest competition that Iranian women get the chance to see and for such a prominent player in the league to not come is a shame. Others are saying that Paikdze is brave in standing for what she deems unjust even if it means sacrificing her reputation in the chess community.To see where others stand, I asked Grace Loehr and Ben Noble to give me theirs take on the issue.
Grace Loehr, Freelance Writer
Why I think it is blatantly wrong for Islamic women to be discriminated against due to their hijabs and other religious practices, I do feel that Nazi Paikdaze should not be required to wear a hijab. Just as the American government does not seek to assimilate foreigners into our culture, the Iranian government should not expect visitors to alter their cultural beliefs. Considering the Women’s World Class Championship is a globally reaching event, it is a given that many different countries and religions will be coming together. Since the World Chess Federation is not requiring players to wear traditional headwear, it is reasonable for a women participating in the event to come, compete, and leave the country without wearing a hijab—no one is requiring that any women must go out into the country and explore the Islamic faith. While I respect her personal convictions, I do feel that it is somewhat excessive for her to withdraw from the competition due to this. Bottom line is, respect is respect, but that does not denote mandatory participation, for either side.
Ben Noble, Editor In Chief
In a time where questions of Islam’s merit as a peaceful religion and the validity of Trump’s Islamophobia hang perpetually over the heads of the American public, Paikdze and her controversial decision to withdraw from the World Class Championship are all the more relevant. However, while Islamic relations in the Western world are a topic worthy of some intellectual debate, Iran is a far more cut and dry proposition. Following the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution of 1978, Iran has functionally been a fundamentalist theocracy in the purest sense of the term. In the sense that fundamentalist Christianity is a cesspool of archaic patriarchy (with a healthy helping of latent genocidal tendencies) and reformed Christianity being a collection of inspiring platitudes, the same can be said for the teachings of Muhammad. The Iranian culture fully embraces the teachings of a delusional conqueror that had a penchant for hypocrisy and child brides. The Quaran openly endorses domestic violence and treats women as property to be cast aside once they lose utility. While a state boldfacedly endorsing such a regressive ideology as creed, the acts of the post-revolution Iranian government manage to be even more heinous. The Iranian government has made many attempts to protest human rights violations within the state a crime, with activists such as Narges Mohammadi forced to rot in a cell all in the name of fighting for equality. In the 21st century, it is a startlingly common occurrence for female prisoners to be raped by correctional officers, only then to be beat or in some cases executed for violating The Quaran’s laws concerning premarital sex, as found by a 2011 report by The Guardian. Coincidentally, The Quaran is at a loss for words when concerning punishment for the actual rapists themselves. Beyond that, the hijab is used as a tool to make women invisible, forcing them to hide their visage in public all in the name of a nebulous “purity” to an even more nebulous deity. The hijab in itself is a symbol of persecution of women under an unforgiving theocracy and submitting to it would be an insult to the women who have been forced to live under subjugation in its purest form. For Nazi Paikdze to participate in the Women’s World Class Championship hosted by an unabashed violator of human rights in the first place is asking her to compromise basic ethics. To take it a step further and ask her to wear upon her head a symbol of the oppression women face every day under such a cruel regime is just too much of an insult to bear. When taking the repugnance of the Iranian government with their insistence that all foreign women submit to their borderline totalitarian rule of women by donning a reminder of their lack of rights, it is not only reasonable, but imperative that Nazi Paikdze refuse to participate.