Iranians are by far the most secular Muslim nation. I’ve worked in many Muslim countries, and that’s an indisputable fact. The difference is even starker when you compare the attitude towards religion of Iranians to that of Muslim immigrants into Europe and the US, especially Pakistanis and Arabs.
During the discussions I’ve had in Iran many Iranians have subtly alluded that almost 40 years of living under the brutal regime pushed even more people towards clandestine secularism.
It’s like communism in the USSR. There is a core of true believers, but the majority of the population simply accepts this staggering hypocrisy and tries to get by. Even the public faces of the regime are not immune to that:
Azadeh Namdari, a popular television personality in the Islamic republic, has been a vocal advocate of women sticking to the dress code. She regularly posts photographs of herself, dressed in a full chador and hijab and has previously said that women who do not cover themselves are “exposed.”
But Namdari is now the target of accusations of hypocrisy after leaked images appeared online, showing her unveiled in public and drinking beer while on holiday in Switzerland. Alcohol is proscribed in Islam and alcoholic drinks are banned in Iran.
Which brings us to another point - treatment of women, the best yardstick to gauge “religiousness” in a Muslim country. As can be seen from the example above, even the “hardline” Iranian women ditch the hijab as soon as the plane starts taxiing on the runway.
In the Iranian expatriate community in the West there is no Mo Ansar, no Linda Sarsour, no CAGE or similar pro-sharia activists who managed to convince clueless leftists and postmodernists that “the hijab is an integral part of a Muslim woman’s identity that actually empowers them”. Pretty much everyone knows it’s bullshit.
That’s why the “religiousness” in Iran has to be imposed top-down by detachments of the religious police and the Revolutionary Guards, under pain of death or lengthy prison sentences. It’s not bottom-up as in many self-isolated Muslim communities in the West.
But paradoxically, even under such brutal subjugation the women are freer than in all Gulf dictatorships combined. 90% of engineers are women for example, and women work as nurses or waitresses, dealing with men and women alike.
You can normally communicate with an Iranian woman in a professional or public setting - they’re usually very self assured, intelligent and attractive.
I’m not sure you can do the same with a Pakistani woman in Bradford.
Compare this picture from Tehran with a picture of those burqa clad Muslim women in the UK.