15 SEPTEMBER 2015
|MUCH ADO ABOUT A SCARF (AND BLOND HAIR)!
Unprecedented public adversity between Iran and Saudi Arabia is by now public knowledge. The two U.N. founding member states, both proclaiming the merciful magnificent Islam as their
official faith, seem not to agree on anything these days. Clearly, many issues of conflict could sound like legitimate national interests: Iran-U.S. nuclear deal; extent of influence in
the oil-rich Gulf region; competition in nearly countries like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, winning over varied factions of an already fragmented Palestinian Authority; even
theological arguments about faith sectarianism could be kept within manageable contexts.
Escalating sensitivities, however, have led to disproportionate, almost farcical proportions, as proponents of each side, mainly through their supportive media, started picking who was
doing better or worse in tiny negligible acts.
For example, there were contentious reports over a visit by European Union Foreign Affairs High Representative, Federica Mogherini, to both Tehran and Riyadh. Although the thoughtful,
elegant Italian lady tried her best to accommodate national religious tradition in both Iran and Saudi Arabia, with correct hospitality by officials in both countries which have a
traditional habit of welcoming guests, a sudden political media campaign ensued. "What sort of scarf did she wear where?!" certain media decried, with illustrated photos
showing that while she wore a "hijob" (which was actually inaccurate -- she covered her head and neck with a scarf), when meeting President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, she
"disregarded Saudi customs," only covering her shoulders, and "did not realize that she was visiting the land of the two Holy Sanctuaries" and, (what horror!!) sat next to Saudi
Arabia's Foreign Minister in an official meeting "with her full appearance, elegance and blond hair"!! Lest anyone might deduce suppressed admiration (or envy) for the gracious lady,
it was pointed out that it was disregard of habits and customs reflecting "great insult to Saudi Arabia," where people -- and diplomats -- know "that its women wear a hijab, and
indeed cover their faces."!
In an additionally ridiculous display, it was angrily pointed out that Saudi Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir appeared with the European woman having shaved his beard, while the Iranian
Zarif slyly held on to it!