Iran's Ayatollah: West Abuses Women, Islam Honors Them
By Terence P. Jeffrey
CNSNews.com Editor in Chief
January 14, 2008
(CNSNews.com) - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who rules
over a nation where men are allowed to have four permanent wives and as many
"temporary" wives as they like, declared in a recent lecture to
Iranian students that Iran honors women, while the West abuses them.
The ayatollah said one indication of this is that women in Iran are forced to
wear the hijab -- clothing that covers much or all of a woman's head, face and
body -- while women in the West are not forced to wear it.
In the West's "sensationalism concerning women's affairs, they blame us by
saying: You have made hijab compulsory," the ayatollah said in a January 3
lecture to a conference of Iranian students. "They themselves have made
lack of hijab compulsory."
Khamenei, whose remarks were broadcast on Iranian national television and
translated by the BBC, may have been alluding to a controversial 2004 French law
that banned wearing "conspicuous" religious symbols in French
schools. The ban encompassed large Christian crosses and Jewish yarmulkes, but
was understood to be targeted at female Islamic clothing, such as the hijab.
In October 2006, then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair caused a stir when he
advocated that Muslim women in Great Britain should voluntarily decline to wear
veils. "No one wants to say that people don't have the right to do
it," Blair said. "That is to take it too far. But I think we need to
confront this issue about how we integrate people properly into our
Khamenei told the Iranian students' conference that in the Iranian vision of
Islam, it was determined that poor women should be compelled to cover their
entire bodies and faces in order to honor them and make their dress conform to
the style adopted by aristocratic women. This policy, he said, logically
followed from the conclusion that men have an "inborn desire for sexual
In ancient Iran, aristocratic women used to wear hijab," he said.
"Women from lower classes did not bother. But when Islam came, it rejected
such instances of discrimination. It said that all women must wear the hijab.
In other words, it wanted to honor all women. This is what Islam says. Now,
they [in the West] behave as if we are doing something wrong and they are doing
the right thing! No, they are in the wrong. They must answer why they have been
treating women like a commodity in order to gratify their own lust.
"I received some statistics yesterday," the ayatollah continued.
"According to those statistics, one third of women in the world are beaten
and battered by men. In my opinion, this is very heart-rending; it makes one
tearful. And these instances of abuse mainly happen in the industrial countries
of the West. This stems from men's inborn desire for sexual violence.
"In their sensationalism concerning women's affairs," he continued,
"they blame us by saying: You have made hijab compulsory. They themselves
have made lack of hijab compulsory. They do not allow girl students to enter
university, if they wear a headscarf. Yet they have the audacity to question us
by saying: Why have you made hijab compulsory?"
Wearing the hijab, he said in answering his own question, "is aimed at
honoring women, whereas that [the practices of the West] aim to abuse and
As evidence for this argument, the ayatollah told the Iranian students to
consider the way women are used in Western advertising. "They have
exploited women as a tool to sell various products," he said.
"In effect, they have been treating women like a commodity, like another
of their products. If you were to look at the magazines, which are published in
the West, you would see that they advertise a commodity for sale next to the
naked picture of a woman. Can you imagine a bigger insult to women? They [the
West] must be answerable [not Islam]," he said.
"Giving the hijab amounts to honoring the person who wears it. A woman's
hijab is a symbol of respect for her."
According to the March 2007 State Department report on human rights practices
in Iran, a woman can be whipped in Iran for not wearing the hijab. "The
penal code provides that if a woman appears in public without the appropriate
Islamic covering (hijab), she can be sentenced to lashings and/or fined,"
said the report.
Under Iran's Islamic code, a man may marry four regular wives and innumerable
temporary wives. "Prostitution is illegal, but sigheh, or temporary
marriage, is legal," said the State Department report.
"The country's Islamic law permits a man to have up to four wives and an
unlimited number of temporary partnerships, based on a Shi'a custom in which a
woman may become the wife of a Muslim male after a simple religious ceremony
and a civil contract outlining the union's conditions. Temporary marriages may
last for any length of time and are used sometimes by prostitutes. Such wives
are not granted rights associated with traditional marriage."
Also a woman's testimony is not considered equal to a man's in Ayatollah
Khamenei's Iran. Nor is a crime committed against a woman considered as
egregious as a crime committed against a man. Nor can a woman leave the country
without a permission slip from her husband.
"The testimony of two women equates with that of one man," says the
State Department report. "The blood money paid to the family of a female
crime victim is half the sum paid for a man. A married woman must obtain the
written consent of her husband before traveling outside the country."
As Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei has direct command over Iran's
armed force and indirect control over its internal security forces, the State