Professor Emily Heiden
02 February 2013
Persepolis vs. Infidel: Faithful Sinner or Religious Prophet
Late 70’s early 80’s signaled an important revolution in Middle Eastern and African countries; The Islamic Revolution. This revolution is where demonstrations against the Shah commenced that developed a campaign of civil resistance that was partly secular and partly religious. These demonstrations almost always ended in violence, finally resulting to the Shah leaving Iran for exile on January 16, 1979 as the last Persian monarch and amidst the power vacuum, and two weeks later Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Tehran to be greeted by several million Iranians who longed his arrival. However through all this disorder, two women live to tell their stories: Aayan Hirsi Ali author of Infidel and Marjane Satrapi of Persepolis. This comparative analysis essay will look at the different perspectives of the main parts in each book such as the veil, the children’s mockery and misunderstanding of religion and the father figure the girls always wanted. A careful examination offers that while the books’ respective perspectives and people are radically different, they both create an aura of the subjugation of women and misunderstanding of religion.
In Infidel by Aayan Hirsi Ali, we begin to see what is most important to some women and why they do what they do. Hirsi Ali introduces the veil by explaining why her mother wore one, because she had no protection on the street, men bothered her constantly, “She began wearing a veil…a long black cloth that left only a slit for their eyes. The veil protected her from those leering men, and from the feeling of vileness it gave her to be looked at that way. Her veil was an emblem others belief to be loved of God, you had to be modest” (Hirsi Ali 26-27). So now, it is the understanding that this is important to a lot of women to feel protected from men on the streets. As a kid, Aayan goes back and forth on what she wants to do in regards to religion. She has a lot of influences from different places, but she has a change of heart when she meets Sister Aziza, her teacher. Sister Aziza “cloaked herself in full hidjab. Thick black cloth fell from the top of her head to the tips of her gloves and the very limit of her toes. It was spectacular” (143) Aayan admired her because of her honesty and her different way of teaching the lessons. All the teachers she had before have always forced the religion with no meaning and they were forced to believe just because it was “the right thing”. However, Sister Aziza was different in the eyes of Aayan, “She didn’t mind if we didn’t wear white trousers under our skirts to hide our legs. She didn’t mind if we didn’t pray five times a day. She told us God didn’t want us to do anything--- not even pray without the inner intention. He wanted true, deep submission: this is the meaning of Islam” (145).
Although in Infidel, Aayan also wore a veil, it was much different for Satrapi in Persepolis. Satrapi in 1980 is forced to wear the veil, as a result of the Islamic Revolution demonstrations in 1979. People have varying opinions about it and “Everywhere in the streets there were demonstrations for and against the veil” (Satrapi 5). Marji is seperated from her friends because they went to a “French non-religious school…where boys and girls were together” (4) and suddenly in 1980, the shah shuts down all bilingual schools and then they are segregated. But soon, Marji has feelings where she says “I really didn’t know what to think about the veil, deep down I was very religious but as family we were very modern and avant-garde.” (6). The internal struggle keeps her from wearing the veil and this is very different form Infidel in that Aayan is not allowed to really make her own decisions but now one can see that the veiled option is left in the hands of a 10 year old. But no matter what the situation may be, there is always something that...