Ask @KavehMousavi:

A Muslim woman recently asserted via The Guardian that her wearing of the hijab was an essential part of her identity and a feminist choice and my male leftie friends are in complete agreement. How do you view the hijab and how do women in Iran feel about it?

Feminism is supporting women's choices, so of course if a woman chooses to wear hijab, her choice should be respected. However, to claim that the concept of hijab itself is a feminist concept is simply ludicrous: hijab inherently posits that women's body is something shameful, and that women have a responsibility to "shield" themselves from the male gaze and sexual attraction. If a woman chooses to wear hijab, she has chosen to embrace an oppressive symbol.
Iranian in my social circle either abhor hijab or at least want it to become voluntary. The IPOS polling agency took a poll which said 49% of Iranians disagree with mandatory hijab. I was disappointed that we do not have a majority on this issue.

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I know this is probably an obviously, ignorantly broad question... However, I'm admittedly ignorant and do not want to stay that way. What books would you recommend to someone wanting to better understand the Middle East?

If you want to learn about Iran, the best book I can recommend is "Iran Between Two Revolutions" by Ervand Abrahamian.
About Saudi Arabia, one very enlightening book is " Regime Stability in Saudi Arabia: The Challenge of Succession" by Stig Stenslie. It's a bit old (considering new King has arrived and some of the princes are dead), but it explains the structure of power in Saudi Arabia very well.
Hopefully these two books are a good start :P

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Me again. Actually, I mean I know that you post mostly about religious and political issues, but I would so love to hear about the normal lives of young people in Iran who want relationships, be happy and party and how they deal with that. Could you do one post on "being young in Iran" or something?

This might be good to start: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/marginoferr/2014/12/21/sexual-liberation-work-in-progress/
I should write more articles like this. The reason that politics gets more coverage in my blog is that I feel a lot more confident about it - I'm sure I'm right. On more personal levels, I have to be much more careful.

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Really stupid question. Considering that sex outside of marriage/homosexuality is illegal in Iran, how do people deal with that? Are there still girlfriend/boyfriend relationships that you know of, or do people keep that super-secret/not even tell friends? Is there a gay community? How do they deal?

In Tehran and big cities there's a lot of boyfriends/girlfriends, the relationship is much more taboo in some other regions. Sex happens - a lot, but it's complicated. We're not a bunch of virgins (except those who are trapped in very bad regions) but the feeling of guilt and repression doesn't go away easily.
There's no gay community. They are much more oppressed than the rest of us, and I think most LGBT people will end up very unhappy - worse than the rest of us. Iran has progressed in many areas, but homophobia is not one of them, sadly.

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In the Uk and US, virtually all leftists/liberals are willing to tear apart Christianity and Christian theocracy. Among liberals and leftists in the UK and US, specifically the 30 and under folks, what percentage do you feel are willing to criticize Islamic theocracy like the do the Christian kind?

Evan Maxwell
I have no idea, honestly. But there's too many of them, there should be less, that I'm sure of. :P

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Hey, I got some new stuff that I love from your albums of 2014, any more recomendations? I knew most of it bit I didn't know and particularly enjoyed Ne Obliviscaris and Agalloch. Any more in that vein?. Also loving your blog and FB posts,all thought provoking. Thanks!

One album I really wanted to put in the list but sadly missed its spot was Lorelei's "Lore of Lies", a horror-themed metal album, and especially "The Singularity (Phase I - Neohumanity)" by Scar Symmetry, which I left out because I didn't want the entire list to be metal.
Thanks! :)

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The link to the book where Khomeini endorses paedophilia no longer works. Could you please post a photograph of your copy? There is controversy over that book and I just need to be sure. Is the book even available in English? Is this legit: http://www.leader.ir/tree/print.php?catid=13&nodeid=n6910?

The link is legit, this contains the passage in question in Arabic. I couldn't find the book in English.

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Thank you. I have no problem with my family; the torture are these doubts. I feel really tortured to the point I'm constantly thinking about whether there's a god or not. Also I have to overcome this intellectual laziness and read/research/reflect more. But sometimes is just a matter or faith...

Doubt might look like a torture, but it's ultimately the sign of a living mind.

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(2/2) I tried being an atheist but I'm simply not... I need Allah in my life but I feel like an hypocrite because I cherry pick the things I like and leave out the things I don't like. I'm also against veiling; I think it's pointless tbh. So what do I do with this cognitive dissonance?

Remember that what you describe is not bad. It's your right to pave your own path for your life. It's your right to pursue truth, and sometimes the price of these things is doubt, sometimes even doubting yourself. But doubt is healthy, even if it is unpleasant at times. Look at this as an opportunity, not a crisis. At the end of this road, you might be a believer or a nonbeliever, but you will be better for embarking on this journey.
I personally infer based on what you wrote - and feel free to contradict me - that you feel an emotional attachment to the idea of Allah and Islam, and you are aware of the emotional nature of this attachment, and this has caused you to question it. So, my friendly suggestion to you is this: continue questioning. I do not - and cannot - tell you what you answer will be, but what I can tell you is this: Question thoroughly. Examine everything. Look for all the answers. Do not be satisfied with easy answers. Do not be satisfied with people who are more interested in converting you to their side rather than engaging you in debate out of a passion for the truth.
Explore. Read. Read sophisticated theological books about your questions, but also read the non-Muslim rebuttals to that. Read them with a sharp eye for the truth, and see which one you will find more convincing. Read about atheism. Read atheist books and think "Do I think their arguments are true or false"?
But your journey doesn't need to be simply a journey about the truth. You have valid needs, and those needs are satisfied by your faith. See and explore if there are secular ways to meet those needs you talk about. Read about deism. Read about pantheism. Explore your options. There are infinite ways people can live in this world. Go to some humanist congregation and see if they fit the bill or not. I'm not telling you that you will definitely find a replacement for Allah, but you wouldn't know unless you look, no?
You are free. No one can tell you what to believe in. No one can tell you what to drive satisfaction from. But remember, you have OPTIONS. You have POSSIBILITIES. Seek them out. Don't be content with the options you have, the paths you will see ahead of yourself now. Seek new ones. Seek happiness. It's your right.

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