The Western community, specifically the Americans have for a long time had various misconceptions towards Iran. These misperceptions have greatly affected the relationship between America and Iran and thus have had significant impacts on policy formulation processes among leaders of these countries. Critics have observed that Americans find it difficult to acknowledge the positive Iranian behavior or challenge their longstanding patterned expectations about a threatening Iran. It is such misconception that propelled Hooman Majd, one of Iranian's great scholars to write the book, "The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran." Majd is seeking to present both the American and Iranian perspectives, while highlighting the key areas of misconceptions. He notes that the Western people perceive Iran as an uncivilized nation that is in support of terrorism, development of nuclear weapons and with a repressive regime that is very authoritative in nature. In defense of Iran, Majd tells the world that Iran is a nation like any other civilized nation as citizens lead normal lives just like the other nations. For instance, they have cars, dress normally and go to work etc. Understanding the History of Iran is crucial to analyzing modern concepts. In order to understand Iranians today, one needs to understand what it meant to shout “Allah-Hu-Akbar” back in 1979. Allah-Hu-Akbar” is an Islamic word which is translates to the English equivalent of God is Great. This word has been used severally in Hollywood films, especially those that depict terrorism. Majd defends that the Iranians shouted this in 1979 when the revolution came as a fundamentalism of Iranian people.The Expression has become known as a sort of Muslim fundamentalist battle cry, uttered in every Hollywood movie featuring terrorists as the famous last words the of 9/11 hijackers. But the “God is Great!” that Iranians shouted in 1979 predated the concepts we have if fundamentalism” (The Paradox of Modern Iran, 5) HoomanMajd also goes and explain about the revolution that happened in 1979 and what concepts did Iranians wanted for the revolution.
Iran remains a stronghold Islamic country. Ahmadinejad's victory in the 2005 presidential elections is attributed to his understanding of the Iranian needs from the past revolution experienced in the country in 1963. He knew that’s Iranians wanted independence from the East and the West, and that the revolution was for Iran and by all Iranians. Majd introduced an interesting concept of him being 100% American and 100% Iranian. He spent his life in New York city, where worked daily. His stay enabled him create relationships with other people whom he shared with his experiences and ideas through daily interactions.
It is while there that he learnt of the people's perception in regards to President Ahmadinejad. The political intelligence of Ahmadinejad has been his ability to transform the enormous Iran into a faithful voting bloc. This leader appeals to nationalism. Majd writes that his style is that of, "the bad suits, the cheap windbreaker, the shoddy shoes, and the unstylish haircut is a signal to the working class that he is still one of them." He openly expressed his love for Islam, despite frequent publications in America that he hated America. Contrary to this perception, Majd notes that this man was not an enemy of America. All he wanted were opportunities.
He says that the western people may often come from ordinary backgrounds but when they come to power or come to office, they abandon their ordinary style and live a different style, they live in private homes where there is security surrounding it, they dress up differently etc… while when Iranian leaders in the Islamic republic comes to power, they live as though still in the past with minor changes such as dwelling in his old house where his neighbors know him and visit him, driving his old car and not buying one where most western leaders do when they come to power. He states that, while American and some European politicians may often come from ordinary backgrounds, their lifestyle usually change dramatically when they are in office, and by the time they have reached the pinnacle of power, they are long removed from their more humble roots. Iranian leaders in the Islamic republic, however, clerical or lay, continue to live their lives almost exactly as they always have, living in modest houses in their own neighborhoods surrounded by their social peers, driving nondescripts cars, and maintain their social networks ( Majd 17).
Hooman referes to the 1963 revolution, considered by Tucker as the white revolution. The White revolution was a revolution in Iran, which led by Shah Mohammad Reza. The Shah at that time wanted Iran to be more of westernization, giving Iranians more freedom such as, giving women the right to vote, getting rid of landlords and supporting the peasant and working classes. Another man was called Ayatollah Khomeini, a Muslim that did not support what the Shah was calling for at that time.
The Muslims in Iran and Ayatollah were against him due to these reasons hence after a while, he was kicked out by the Shah to Iraq where he continued communicating with his followers in Iran to overthrow the Shah. It is stated in Tucker “Khomeini, although still in exile in Iraq, continued to issue denunciations of the Iranian government, to make personal attacks on the shah, and to rally his supporters. In a series of lectures delivered to students in Najaf between 1969 and 1970.”(Political Opposition 255) The Shah was overthrown and Ayatollah was crowned as their leader and president.
In conclusion, Iran highly upholds its national pride, culture and honor especially in regards to what other nations perceive of it. It also perceives the West as selfish through establishing democracy and freedom of choice in the west while denying other countries similar freedoms.