Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On Streets of Tehran, Family Values, Not Rancorous Rhetoric While Iran's Government Aids Terrorists, the People Welcome Americans, Wear Few Veils, and Tell Mosques to 'Turn It Down'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On Streets of Tehran, Family Values, Not Rancorous Rhetoric While Iran's Government Aids Terrorists, the People Welcome Americans, Wear Few Veils, and Tell Mosques to 'Turn It Down'

Article excerpt

Public displays of affection are rare in the Islamic world, but in Iran I came across them again and again.

Never mind the tough propaganda painted on billboards across the Islamic republic, which depicts turbaned ayatollahs leading Muslim shock troops in a holy war against Iran's many enemies; forget the dark image of bearded warriors ready to shed their blood for martyrdom.

Look instead to the sidewalks of Tehran, where many times I caught young fathers cuddling their small children, kissing them affectionately; loving them. These are men who, with their Iranian passports, would be stopped at most airports in the West, interrogated at length, and considered potential terrorists. But open affection for their children contradicts the notion that every Iranian is a suicide bomber ready to die for Allah - and underscores the contrast between myth and reality in the West and Iran. "You have the holy job to explain the reality of Iran to your people," an American-educated government official told me. "You must tell them: Yes, they have beards, and they believe in Islam - but they are not terrorists. "They are humans and have families and farms - just a different culture," he continued. Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the ousting of the pro-Western Shah, Iran has been fiercely anti-American, anti-Israeli, and its leaders have made the export of their militant brand of Shia Islam an article of faith. History of terror Iran ranks high on the US State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism, and US officials see Iran's hand in a long string of lethal, anti-West attacks that began with taking 52 Americans hostage in Tehran in 1979. Iran-backed Islamic groups in Lebanon took US and other Westerners hostage in the late 1980s; Iran is believed to have been involved in numerous suicide-bomb attacks against Western targets that span two decades; and Iranian dissidents have been gunned down in Europe. But the violence - and the mutual suspicions that have festered between the West and Iran - have led to deep misunderstandings, Iranians say. …

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