Parts Unknown: Iran

  1. Lessons learned about Iran

The first unexpected thing that stands out about Iran is its diverse cuisine. The episode reveals that rice and bread are the two staple foods in the country.  As Bourdain reveals, the Iranian diet also comprises many other animal products and spices. It is surprising to discover that Iran contains some important historical artifacts and structures that date back to the period of the Persian Empire. Ruins in some parts of the country are of the ancient cities that were in present-day Iran. Persia was a significant player in the Silk Road trade route that ran from China. Another unexpected discovery is Iran’s decision not to align itself with the west or the East. Iran chooses to adopt the identity of an Islamic nation. The country has thus created a cultural identity that neither the West nor the East has influenced significantly.

  1. Lessons learned about Iranian people

Bourdain shows that Iranians are generally receptive and warm towards visitors. Though the Iranians are aware that Bourdain is an American and a non-Muslim, they welcome him warmly into their homes and prepare delicious food for their guests. Another thing learned is that Iranians value family life and bonds. Most of the meals are held within a family setting, where the whole family gathers to share in the meal. Further, the episode shows that Iranians like to engage in various leisure activities such as bowling, playing tennis and going to parks and meeting other people. Moreover, Bourdain reveals that Iranian women are assertive, and which has ensured that they enjoy more freedoms as compared to women in other Islamic countries. Iranian women can engage in various professions including accounting. The women can also drive and vote in the elections. Additionally, the episode shows that Iranians are deeply religious and often visit mosques as a part of their religious practices.

  1. Deeper perspectives learned about Islam

The episode has influenced my view of Islam in various ways. Islam emerges as a religion that is peaceful and which encourages peaceful coexistence with other people. Bourdain enjoys his time in Iran. Most of the people interact with him openly in spite of his identity as an American. The episode further shows that Islam may sometimes impose strict regulations on the behaviors of the people. Women are strictly required to wear a hijab. Police officers are involved in enforcing laws on how women dress. Women may be arrested for failing to dress appropriately. The revelation that only non-alcoholic drinks are allowed in Iran shows that Islam is strict on issues regarding drug and substance abuse. Additionally, Bourdain indicates that Islam tries to maintain a separation between the genders during religious ceremonies. In most of the religious ceremonies shown, men meet in the absence of women.

  1. The effectiveness of learning about Islam from the Backdoor

Learning about Islam “from the back door” creates awareness in the non-Muslim about the lives of ordinary Muslims. The media may often present an inaccurate image of the lives of ordinary Muslims through focusing more on dramatic news scenes involving terrorism. Observing the lives of ordinary Iranian citizens is a better way of enabling non-Muslims to understand the values that Islamic faith advances. Bourdain’s interactions with the Iranians are an effective way of showing that Islam can coexist peacefully with other religious groups. On the other hand, learning “from the back door” creates the challenge that the people may adopt behaviors that they would not usually practice in the absence of a camera. Some of the people that Bourdain film may change their behavior to present a better image of the lives of Ordinary Muslims. Another approach that Bourdain can adopt is the use of hidden cameras. Hidden cameras will ensure that the people being filmed are not aware that their behavior is being monitored. It would enable the collection of more accurate data on the practices of Muslims.

  1. Resonance and contrast of the episode with classroom themes

At the start of the episode, Bourdain uses the voice of a child to describe the changes that Iran has undergone. Through the narration, the episode shows that the discovery of oil and the financial interests of different parties were a significant factor for the changes in Iran such as the Iranian revolution. The episode also provides a deeper understanding of the consequences of the Iranian revolution. Bourdain describes that the Iranian revolution led to Iranian society becoming more conservative than before, a situation that persists to the present day. The episode also provides more information on how terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida emerge. Bourdain’s interactions with the Iranians reveal that the citizens hold the opinion that US sanctions against the Iranian economy are unfair as they negatively affect ordinary people, leading to food shortages and unemployment. The grievances that the ordinary Iranians have against the US policies should be considered in analyzing how terrorist groups arise.

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