Dear batchmates, kabayan and friends :
YOU can say anything you want about our hosts, but one thing they’re not : they don’t suffer from a lack of a sense of irony, or a cosmic sense of fairness or justice.
The world news section was right in front of one of our astute workmates, during morning tea. On page 1 was a woman facing punishment for the supreme criminal act in the Islamic universe : adultery and cohabiting with a man not her spouse. Her supreme crime merited the supreme penalty : Death by stoning, by now an occasionally used but obviously still popular mode among the clerico-judicial establishment in Iran.
Before we go much further on the topic, on page 3 right behind the page just mentioned, was no less than Li-Lo, the darling of the you’re guilty only if you’re caught justice system, shedding copious tears, with rainbow-shade nails (and a cute F.U. greeting for the judge, on the middle fingernail, for good measure) and hanging on to the dejected countenance of her legal counsel, such a dramatic tableau not escaping our workmate’s notice.
Lookie here, mates. The lady here on the back page is boo-hooing cuz she’s spending ninety days in the slammer, while the lady on the front’s getting stoned to death. No sense of proportion, hey?
Indeed, the two females were on such polar ends of the criminal justice spectrum that there might have been a baby galaxy filling in the chasm betwixt and between, and there would’ve been space left over for dimensions equivalent to the Philippine Trench plus Mt. Everest, lengthwise and crosswise even.
On the one hand you have a woman who with her predicament championed the cause of women in an alternate reality where the archaic and medieval are commonplace, and where women are treated as chattel or property as tradeable and disposable, not unlike poultry and cattle.
On the other side you have an unapologetic product of Hollywood,
YouTube and the interminable news cycle that perpetually devours (and spits out) the anorexic, alcoholic and addict, to both chemical candy and the edifying glare of the camera.
It goes without saying that while Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s situation is probably the intersection of a culture unwilling to keep up with the 21st century (or even the 20th) and the forward march of gender-neutral laws and statutes, Li-Lo’s present pickle is nothing more than a celebrity-coddling, brat-humoring and prodigy-enabling showbiz regime, so that, ironically, we can’t even fault her alone for her behavior.
To be sure, her cluelessness on how to handle her issues and infatuation with pills and bubbly ; her deportment before those who have the power of her liberty and happiness ; and her piteously misguided view of public sympathy regarding her plight is worrying.
But, compared to the mysterious attention that world media has been heaping on her, and the befuddling relevance that has been assigned to her legal / criminal problems, who can tell what is and isn’t important for the watchers, listeners and surfers worldwide?
Perusing the other side of the fence :
Ms Ashtiani’s appointment with the stonethrowers is abominable on at least two points : first, that a hypocritical system of religion and laws could apprehend, prosecute, condemn behavior that, almost anywhere else in the world, would be deemed quite normal and ordinary, if not actually human and natural.
Second, that a punishment as barbaric, cruel and inhuman as stoning to death could still exist, and moreover be supported in such a state (with vast oil reserves and nuclear warheads, a non sequitur, sorry)and tolerated by the family of nations outside its borders.
It’s almost a footnote, but it’s never truer in a scenario like this, an almost surreal sword of Damocles hanging over an innocent woman by a wild-eyed religious court that time forgot ( if not for the phenomenon of state-sponsored fundamentalist fanaticism ), that more needless deaths are brought about in this world by religion and the self-righteous belief in one’s concept of God than anything else.
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But if media can degrade and trivialize our expectations of acceptable celebrity behavior and the mischief they perform, as Li-Lo proves, it can also crystallize and pool our sense of outrage, as in Ms Ashtiani’s case.
No less despicable, but oddly humane has been the most recent act on the case jointly made by the Iranian Supreme leader and the head of its judiciary, bowing to international opinion and deciding that Ms Ashtiani will no longer be executed by stoning.
Small comfort to the accused, and hundreds of other unfairly condemned women (and men) in many parts of the unenlightened world.
Thanks for reading !