The presentation of the Iranian woman. A critical reflection of Azar Nafisi's novel "Reading Lolita in Tehran" (2004) and Azadeh Moaveni's "Lipstick Jihad" (2005)

Scientific Essay 2016 42 Pages

Literature - Middle East


Table of Contents

I. The background of Iranian writing ̶ a short postcolonial survey

II. Forms: Narratological Categories for the Analysis of the Genre
II.1 Islamic Spirituality and Transcendence
II.2 Identity Formation as one Central Problem of Islamic Writing
II.3 Identity as a Religious Matter: The Quest for the Meaning of Life
II.4 Failure
II.5 Powerlessness
II.6 The Quest for a Meaning of Life
II.7 Hybrid Description and Hybrid Identity under the Focus of Islam and Islamic Fundamentalism

III. Close Analysis: Reading Lolita in Tehran

IV. Outlook Reading Lolita in Tehran

V. Close Analysis: Lipstick Jihad (2005)

VI. Outlook: Lipstick Jihad

VII. Outlook

VIII. Bibliography


Azadeh Moaveni' s novel Lipstick Jihad (2005) is a typical novel of female Muslim writers disposing of a Muslim and Western background. This (double) insight into two seemingly opposing worlds enables author and reader alike to get a deeper insight into Muslim characters who are often torn between these two extremes which many Muslim authors describe as a personal dilemma in form of a jihad. Jihad here is used it its basic meaning which corresponds a personal struggle based on a Muslim background (here the Iranian diasporic situation in the USA) which is accompanied by the nostalgia for and belonging to Iran as a homeland.

The hybrid which is a result from this and which is so typical for Muslim writing of the second generation in general is also reflected in Reading Lolita in Tehran (2004) the second novel analysed here. This 'hybrid condition' is strongly reflected in the personal, cultural and religious odyssey most Muslim characters experience. This especially goes for women since they are still portrayed in their inferior role.

The common basis of both novels can therefore be seen in the influence of the Iranian setting in general and the role of the Iranian Revolution and the emerging Iranian Republic in particular which both strongly shaped this nation and her inhabitants while also throwing light on the (mostly difficult) life in Iran.

It is also this specific situation of Iran which many female authors use as a setting which disposes of a dramatic background which is used as an underlying dramatic element for the narration as such.

I. The background of Iranian writing ̶ a short postcolonial survey

Contemporary British fiction (including English speaking and writing fiction of authors stemming from a Muslim background, too) has currently been met with the fact that "history and ethnicity have been the strong themes" (Childs, 2005: 278).

In the past Great Britain, multicultural London (or the USA with New York) have been the places for writers like Kureishi, Rushdie, Ali, Faquir et al. The contemporary trend, however, shows that the place of action has been added with the mothercountry of the main character which gives a double insight into plot and character development. Suddenly former colonies like Sudan, Bangladesh, the Levant, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran are set against England or the USA. Thus in addition to multicultural diversity postcolonialism, the second dimension of British fiction is set in a different light with "issues such as decolonization, diaspora, and cultural diversity" (ibid.: 280). Along these - let me call them - familiar aspects of postcolonialism - it is religion (and here Islam) which comes into the focus simply because of its influence on private and public life of the characters presented.

Religious and cultural identity which here gain central importance as (potential) identity providers show that the new generation of Muslim writers such as Abouleillah, Faquir, Moaveni or Nafisi are slowly going away from the original concern of the first generation writers which centred around the term 'hybridity'. It is now the question of female identity within Muslim societies which suddenly comes into the focus and which sometimes reminds reader and critic alike of the Victorian novel and the role of female writers then. It is, however, not only the role of women within a society which becomes important. A logical conclusion from this is a new stressing of the political and the religious as well because most novels - like Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (1988) - "can be read as a thinly veiled, if ambivalent, attack on Islam and the Prophet" (Morton, 2008: 29) simply because of the criticism of the role of the female which is discussed here.

Both novels analysed here are therefore attempts to discuss female identity and emancipation under Islam and Sharia rule along topics such as belief or unbelief, academic freedom and censorship, male control and female emancipation or democracy and religious fundamentalism.

Focussing on binaries between Islam and secularism is therefore one of the techniques found in both novels. The resulting conflict between religious fundamentalism and personal freedom is represented by the permanent struggle of the female to live an independent private and public life. Both novels, however, go away from the historical conflict between Islam and secularism and introduce female Muslim existence as a struggle for survival in a male oriented society where women are faced with the purdah, the veil, polygamy or simply an inferior status stemming from the religious error that the Prophet Mohammed used Allah to justify his stand on women and to make them submit.

Islam here is presented as an aggressive and threatening religion where women fall victim to a God given male authority. It is in this personal and public dilemma where both authors can therefore be seen as representatives of contemporary Muslim feminism simply because they question the male Muslim basis that it is not secularism but being a Muslim which shapes human identity first. A consequence from this is that both authors, Moaveni and Nafisi alike, belong to those female Muslim novelists who are convinced that postcolonialism thinking is not only alive it rather has been exchanged or added by Islamic fundamentalism which continues what Rushdie once described as 'the stereotyping' (Rushdie 2002a), meaning the stereotyped image of Islam in the West as being a male-orientated construction which does not exploit nations but rather their people and women in particular. Rushdie here follows in the footsteps of Edward Said the -let me call it- like this Godfather of postcolonialism. It is Said who has permanently stated this stereotyped image of Islam which still exists in the West and which today has been put under control of religious fundamentalism which is considered to be 'the new imperialism' he talks about in his works. Said explicitly explained this idea in his book Orientalism (1978). It is also here where he first stressed his central literary concern which he sees in the key term 'representation'. It is exactly this concept which many female Muslim writers are concerned about in their novels along matters of hybrid existence which is attached to identity matters as such. One can therefore talk about a close academic link between Said and contemporary female Muslim writing in the sense that female Muslim novelists have added their female background. Another link between both sides can be seen in the concept and use of religion. For Said[1] religion in general (and Islam in particular) "serves as an agent of closure" (Said, 1984: 290) and logically results in a cultural and intellectual disaster connected to violence something which many female Muslim writers are also concerned about while including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Al- Quaida, the IS, the idea of an Islamic Jihad or - as in the case of Iranian writers - the Iranian revolution into their novels with the aim to push the action or to reflect the personal dilemma their female characters are in.

Said himself was not concerned with the presentation of orientalism in novels because he saw the world as a 'mixed' place meaning that Muslims themselves can accept or reject writings from female novelists. In connection with the discussions on Rushdie' s novel The Satanic Verses (1988) he pointed out that for him "everyone should be able to read the novel, interpret it, understand it, or finally reject it" ( Said, 2001: 113).

This general statement on the role of the novel within the Muslim world shows that this statement also applies for contemporary female Muslim writing which - like Rushdie - also exposes orientalism. Any criticism of postcolonialism can of course start from here since secular postcolonialism is a concept with limits while dealing with contemporary fiction embedding Islam or Islamic fundamentalism.[2]

Hitchcock (2003) hints at this too while stating that "not all postcolonial is postcolonial" ( ibid.: 307).

It is Thurfjell (2008) who transfers this to Islam in a different and more radical way stating that Islamism is "perhaps the strongest [subaltern voice] in the world today" (ibid.: 161). Taking this into account and looking at the development of the English speaking novel with a Muslim background one can say that the Islamic postcolonial voice can and will continue to challenge (along its criticism of Islamic structures) the western "hegemonic discourse [which] is always colonial in its attitude" (ibid.: 160).

This idea becomes clear when reflecting the political element most of these novels contain. This means that the political criticism many novels of female Muslim authors have stems from a critical reflection of the former cultural, economic and moral superiority of the West which has constantly devalued "indigenous cultural product" (McLeod, 2000: 140).[3]

The situation of the Iranian novel during the last forty years has been dramatically marked and influenced by the 'Iranian Revolution' which started in 1979 and which has transformed the moral and material conditions of Iranian society and its literature.

At present two literary directions can be seen. One consists of some sort of renaissance of traditional Islamic writing in form of novels, stories, poems or anthologies. It is, however, important to point out that the majority of these works illustrate a complete absence or any deep literary movement in the sense of a positive progressiveness. This - let me call it - literary paralysis especially goes for the novel since one can radically state that nothing innovative has been accomplished by 'Islamic Writing' as far as the novel as the leading literary genre in Iran is concerned.

This innovative and progressive gap has been slowly filled by writers writing from an exile position who shaped the novel anew by adding new perspectives and topics. It is especially the large and growing number of female writers who re-shaped and re-formed the female presentation which has traditionally been restricted to women being shown as fairies, angels or foolish and even insane creatures.

Being semi-human women often could be used (both in narrative and reality) as sexual objects. This paternalistic, chauvinistic and anti-female perspective was well centred and did not correspond the real image of women. The negative presentation of the female still seems typical for Iranian society and Iranian literature and is mainly due to the fact that storytelling and story writing had an educational basis and form. This educational attitude supported the anti-female attitude and thus emotions, love, passion or even sex were (and often are) portrayed upside down, i.e. anti-female.

In Iran foreign literature and exile writers and their writing have been rejected and denounced by Muslim censorship as anti-value. Women mostly have been shown as subjects to chastity, purity, shame, modesty, hijab and virtue.

This anti-female attitude was and is attacked by non-Islamic writers who put women into the centre of their writing which is opposed to strict Islamic writing which misuses women as elements of narration being restricted to wives, mothers, martyrs or propagandists for spiritual instructions of other women. This classical presentation of the female defines women by marriage and the true realm of motherhood as the ultimate form of existence. Women here are described as incomplete and dependent. Thus basically speaking classical Iranian literature basically reflects and supports the inequality of the sexes which is a no go for most writers writing from an exile position.

It is astonishing to point out that - despite all these problems - over the past decades Iran's best selling fiction has been dominated by women who turned out to be innovative despite the fact that cultural and religious restrictions (almost) made innovations impossible. In fact during the last 15 years more than 400 novels were written by female authors.

This new development has already left its marks within Iranian society and national and international critics have also followed this development with an increasing interest.

The critic Majid Eslami of the magazine Haft (Seven) e.g. states that 'Women writers have not only become the avant-garde of Persian literature but also changed society's view of them as writers'. It goes without saying that this statement could not have been said five years ago.

If one goes back into the history of Iranian literature and the role of female writers and the literary presentation of female characters it can be stated that from the l903s to the 1960s only a dozen women wrote, a shockingly low number which also hints at the inferior status of women within Iranian society and the low number of female academics. Many female writers who wanted to publish used pseudonyms a common practice of female writers in English literature of the 18th and 19th century. An improvement could be seen in the 1970s but this slow development was drastically interrupted by the 'Iranian Revolution' of 1979.

It was almost impossible to write and publish and this gap could only be filled by exile writers a common practice as far as Indian and Pakistani female writing is concerned.

The first important novel only appeared in 1998. Drunkard Morning was written by Fataneh Haj Seyed Javadi and its success could be seen as a dooropener for other female writers to write and publish.

Today most female authors within Iran come from well-educated families.The most important ones here to mention are Fariba Vafi with My Bird (2002) or Zoya Pirzad and her novel We Get Used to It (2006). They are supported by exile writers as well.

As far as the future of Iranian writing is concerned one can state two developments.

One consists in an increasing number of female authors within Iran. This group brings in new and radical perspectives of the female and it will challenge Iranian male authorities as well as Muslim thinking while discussing female matters anew.

The number of exile writers will definitely support this trend while mixing Islamic and Western backgrounds for their presentation of women.

II. Forms: Narratological Categories for the Analysis of the Genre

Muslim writing in the last 25 years has been marked by what is called ‘cross-fertilization’ (Nünning/Nünning, 2004; Nünning, 2008). This came about when religion (Islam) did not only stay on the level of an inner-literary phenomenon, it also influenced the construction of religion, too. The consequence of this was that religion could be linked with the narrative as well, i.e. Islam and Islamic fundamentalism could be used to describe the generic development of Islam in contemporary British literature (Rigney, 2008: 347).

Islam and Islamic fundamentalism as expressions of a common Muslim past, its remembrance or actual presentation can, therefore, be approached by certain categories that help discuss the generic development of Islam in contemporary British literature. All categories chosen here represent possible elements by which the English novel uses or constructs Islam. They can thus be used to analyze a given set of characters, their constellation and the different points of view resulting from this. They also help reveal the function of religion in a given text and have a strong impact on “the way in which the emotional response of the reader is steered” (Nünning, 2008: 59). The function of their employment is to order the narrative under the religious. In this way, the narratological categories used here do not claim to represent a definitive selection, yet they are central elements of an open list of categories reflecting the incorporation of Islam in contemporary English literature.

II.1 Islamic Spirituality and Transcendence

The late 19th and early 20th centuries have constantly been marked by political, cultural and literary spheres. The reasons for the loss of religion were manifold (Industrial Revolution, socialism, communism etc.). Spiritual and religious references lost their former importance in society and literature and left modern man alone with an increasing feeling of isolation. Religion, once a cornerstone of English literature, was marginalized and pushed into an existential crisis.

The trend from the early 1960s until today has been influenced by a development that has been described by sociologists, historians and theologians as the “Great Awaking” (Bach, 2001: 10), a term that must be understood in the sense of a social resacrilisation. This return of religion into society at first consisted in a new positioning of faith in mixed forms such as psychological, spiritual or New Age offers.

It was finally religious fundamentalism that partly resulted from this religious vacuum zone, because it profited best from man’s irritation in times of global changes and it also profited from an increasing loss of identity. Apart from this, traditional religions were not able to balance the tensions resulting from transcendence and immanence anymore. This could only be done by fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalism offered a rigid and strict system, which included logical ideological and cultural offers along with an absolute truth – a perfect background for any character analysis. The incorporation of Islam into literature during the last 20 or 30 years replaced what Berger (1992) rightly described as the “religious supermarket of modern pluralism” (ibid.: 147). The results were a deconstruction of Christianity of a western kind and the final shift of the place of action from the periphery to the center. Besides this geographical change, it was the (temporary or final) movement of the main characters to the Muslim side. This enabled a new and completely different access to Islam, because the main characters were still described in two worlds: “The position of the immigrant is defined by an in-between state which constantly calls for a balancing of the parameters of two or more cultural contexts.” (Löschnigg/Löschnigg, 2009: 135)

The balancing of one’s own religion within different cultural surroundings produced no “smooth linear chronologies and homogenous localities” (ibid.: 135) but placed the spiritual in a new sphere of man’s existence, which can generally be regarded as alternative, logical and coherent (see Sajoo, 2008; Berger, 2010; Linde-Laursen, 2010). One product of this use of the spiritual and religious within character analysis was a convincing authenticity and a picture of modern man, whose individuality (in reality and in fiction, alike) is marked by a central concern of the religious or the search for the truth (Galster, 2002: 288–289). The range of this quest is characterized by the attempt to balance life in different social, cultural and religious spheres. The fact that this process can be painful is logical, because it is first connected with loss and then, perhaps, with gain.

The incorporation of Muslim characters into contemporary British literature completes modern characterization and social studies as well, because the reader is confronted with individuals who can function as embodiments of modern life itself.[4] The processes involved here are often painful, and the question of modern Muslim identity ranges from emancipation, the dissolution of traditional family structures, the search for identity, and the risk of a newly gained freedom, which (after 9/11) also includes the possibility of radical Islam or terrorism.

The variety of topics connected with Muslim identity within contemporary literature also hints at the relationship of literature and religion as such. It has become clear that religion and literature have experienced a period of vulnerability where their traditional and undoubted position as representatives of the division of the “logocentric traditions and the Creative arts” (Walton, 2011: 2) is questioned. This might at first glance turn out to be a dilemma, yet it includes the chance for interdisciplinary work “where new possibilities can take shape” (ibid.: 2; also see Eliot, 1960: 353).

The weakness of most traditional religions and the renaissance of fundamental movements within them offered the chance to pose the “question of morality” (Eagleton, 2005: 140; also see Cottingham, 2005) anew. One consequence from this was the fact that the classical religious question had been replaced by a moral one. The connection of morality to the question of identity enabled Muslim authors to revalue traditional religious questions, such as ‘Where do I come from?,’ ‘Where do I go to?,’ ‘What is the meaning of life?,’ yet in most cases these questions must still be seen against the background of Muslims being victims of imperialism, colonialism and globalization.[5] Another consequence of this was a new assessment of the classical division between the worldly and the secular, because Islam and Islamic fundamentalism proclaim this dualism. The result was a general presentation of “otherness” (Huggan, 2001: 20), where authors and readers permanentely operate at the borderline between “literary expression and theological investment” (Hsiu–Chin Chou, 2011: 188). Yet here more than anywhere else, an honest access to modern man’s existence is possible, simply because all matters of identity constantly have to be answered anew, thus provoking a dynamic process.

II.2 Identity Formation as one Central Problem of Islamic Writing

“Religiöser Fundamentalismus ist nach unserer Definition eine bestimmte Art und Weise, Identitäten zu konstruieren und gesellschaftlich zu handeln. Das kann auf individueller, kollektiver oder institutioneller Ebene geschehen.” (Schäfer, 2008: 22)

A critical look at this quotation by Schäfer (2008) shows that any narration of Muslim identity seems to be – at first sight – a counter concept to what Galster (2002) considers as central for hybrid narration, namely the concept of “fluiden Identitätskonzepten” (ibid.: 163). Here one essential question of modern literature is touched. The talk is about something that Carpi (1997) calls “Krise des Subjekts” (ibid.: 176), which is connected with the temporary status of power constellations and the inevitable involvement of people (Ha, 2010: 44; also see Schlier, 1993; Lange/Wiemann, 2008; Löschnigg/Löschnigg, 2009).

Any questioning of modern man’s existence is closely attached to man’s search for the personal I. This task is dynamic, never comes to an end and cannot be separated from its social surrounding, sex, race or religion.[6] Within this framework, it becomes obvious that identity formation is one basis of social life, because it includes the self-image of the individual and of groups by others. Fundamentalists dissolve any fixed identity and propagate the struggle for religious identity. They do this because our modern time does not know any homogenous biographies. These fall apart and dispose of a dynamic character. This trend is supported by a drifting apart of national, economical, ethnic or religious unities. Fundamentalisms exactly set in here. “Sie dekretieren geschlossene Identitäten und betreiben Identitätskampf“ (Schäfer, 2008: 222). They show that in global cities migration and multiculturalism have created transnational spheres and hybrid constellations that go beyond ethnic or cultural frontiers. Next to this they place Islam. Islam is seen as a stabilizing element for a different kind of identity formation. In literature, the interest of the (western) reader sets in, because he or she sees Islam as hostile and dangerous. The result is still an interest of the reader, because:

“Migrant literature, she [Elleke Boehmer] points out, tends to win readers, because on the one hand it bears all the attractions of the exotic, the magical, and the other, while on the other hand it is still easily accessible.” (Schmidt-Haberkamp, 2000: 302)

Any (re)construction of Muslim identity in contemporary English literature and the different types of the present novel (autobiography, social, historical or experimental novel) is an indication of the fact that art and literature of non-white Britains destabilize traditional concepts concerning British (and European) culture, especially if they are commercially successful. What follows from this is the fact that Islamic fundamentalism (like all kinds of fundamentalisms) possesses a destructive character, simply because it is a reaction to social discrimination. What results from this, as well, is that people who are social outsiders due to their race or religion cannot identify with a different and dominant society. They isolate themselves and use their religion as some sort of shield of, and criticism against, postcolonialism and its consequences (Young, 2000: 241). This attempt is made clear by parameters connected with identity formation.[7] Terms like metamorphosis, search for a meaning of life, failure or helplessness are placed close to identity formation, and the results from this are “tensions between identities of origin, identities of residence, and identities of aspiration” (Appadurai, 2006: 37). The analysis of these terms, therefore, helps widen the concept of Muslim identity in literature and must also be understood as a connecting element in both novels analyzed here. Since these parameters will be used in the following as connecting categories, they have to be explained before any interpretation can start. Along with a wider reflection of the term identity formation, the connection between the novels will be more logical. Besides, this step provides some sort of survey of the development this topic has taken over the last 30 years. The result is a complex presentation of identity formation and a survey as to how the contemporary English-speaking novel has incorporated Islam into matters of Muslim identity. The relationship between identity, religion and the present, which is of special interest here, has lately been pointed out, especially in connection with the close link between religion and the modern world.[8] This link is marked by the constellation of man’s identity and the moral ontology of our time. Identity is hereby understood as a part of man’s existence. It is based on the physical condition of the individual, his origin or his abilities and the actions deriving from them. Identity is defined by certain judgements that cannot be separated from man’s self and his actions. Human existence and human identity can be found in systems providing values. What results from this is the fact that identity and identity formation are attached to structures responsible for values. The basic question of identity and identity formation is linked to the classical questions already mentioned, like ‘Who am I?’, and its connection with the question ‘What do I want to be?’. The result is a tension between the personal I, its surrounding framework and a permanent desire to find meaning in life:


[1] Said - like Nafisi and Moaveni- stresses the belief in the freedom of expression. He therefore was on the side of Rushdie when the fatwa was declared by the Iranian Imam Khomeini. Today he certainly would be on the side of female Muslim writers and their struggle for personal freedom.

[2] Also see Chinua Achebe on Conrad's masterpiece Heart of Darkness (1899) or Malak's discussion on The Satanic Verses (1988). Also see Shakespeare, Foucault and Fanon and their influence on Said.

[3] This criticism is strongly incorporated in Reading Lolita in Tehran where Nafisi makes use of two central novelists of the 19th century reflecting these matters. The talk is about Jane Austen (directly mentioned) and Kipling (indirectly used) who both dealt with the impact of mainstream culture on colonialism and imperialism. The term 'Empire 'and its reflection in contemporary postcolonial debates hints at the actuality of these matters Many critics see1 a close relationship between imperialism and sexuality. Although McLeod (2000) transfers this to the African background in Conrad's Heart of Darkness he mentions aspects of exploitation which can easily be transferred to India since the British Empire used the same power constructions everywhere. The main force of colonial rule is the desire to exploit. This is done as a consonant with a general psychology in the West which seeks to repress troublesome aspects of existence such as sexuality and the bodies of others. For Europeans coming to the colonies female bodies are often described in terms of the promise and fear of the colonial land both of which were psychologically speaking troublesome and in contrast to Victorian and middle class ridden concepts of women.

[4] Jacobs (1996) describes the world in which Islam interferes as follows:

“In a contemporary world, constituted out of complex processes of deterritorilisation and reterritorilisation, movement and cohabitation, it may well be what Kristera (1992: 2) calls the ‘cult of origins’ needs to give way to a sense of place which is built around fracture, vectors of connection and histories of disconnection” (ibid.: 163).

[5] On this, also see King, 1999; Fitzgerald, 2007; D’Aguiar, 2000; Huggan, 2001; Asad, 2003; Carette/King, 2005.

[6] The discussion about the term identity is on the whole a central concern of social and cultural studies. Is is here where sociological, psychological, political, ethnic and religious theories overlap with their specific emphasis (Zarnow, 2010: 7). As far as This analysis is concerned, the topic of identity is primarily looked upon from the literary point of view. It mainly centers on the relationship of the individual and his or her social role in society. The integration of religion stresses the close relationship of identity formation and sense making in the contemporary English novel. It thus appears as a reflection of the literary diagnosis of modern times, which too often exercise inclusion and exclusion. The question of identity formation thus obtains a key position (Rosenthal/Bogner, 2009: 9) and has become a central concern for contemporary literary work (Taylor, 2010: 2–3; also see Lawler 2008).

[7] The word identity is of Latin origin. It derives from the term idem (the same, equal). In terms of human beings, it describes certain adjectives attached to a specific individual. Research work distinguishes between different options to work with this term. As for literature, the importance of social studies has to be pointed out. Frey/Haußer (1987) regard identity as a process of self-reflection (ibid.: 21), whereas Krappmann (1993) stresses the connection between identity and language (ibid.: 13). Mead (1986) focuses on identity while hinting at the importance of the mind’s development and the personal I in connection to an individual’s social surroundings (ibid.: 177). Modern concepts pick up these social notions of identity and stress the social level as the most powerful element in identity formation. What becomes clear here is the danger migration and globalization processes can have for any human being in the 21st century (see Tibi, 2000; Veith, 2001; Simon, 2004; Hein, 2006; Sen, 2007a; Zirfas, 2007).

[8] In this context, the considerations of Taylor are of central interest. Taylor (1995a/b, 1996, 2002, 2007) constantly stresses the dependence of modern man’s identity and religion, using different social studies. From this interdependence he draws the framework that the personal I needs (Taylor, 1995b: 173; 196: 7). He notices that modern man’s identity turns flat because of the absence of moral values. He talks about a central aspect within the novels presented, because Islam and Islamic fundamentalism are regarded as permanent or temporary alternatives to the Western framework in which the main characters have to live. Here another dilemma of modern man becomes obvious. His moral background provided by family, state or religion are in a flow, they become dynamic in the sense that they loose their (former) positive influence. Religion and fundamentalism seem to be the last sources for any orientation in the process of identity formation. In short, Taylor (1996) points out the following aspects: - Identity can only be found in a background marked by morality.
- This background is characterized by structures that offer orientation.
- These offers can be accepted.
- This is done in a decision making process marked by self-interpretation. This self-interpretation or self-definition takes place in surroundings in which the human being has to cope with “transzendentale Bedingungen” (ibid.: 63). Taylor calls this background moralische “Landkarte” (ibid.: 28; 59). At the fringes of this map, one can find the longing for a sense in life, failure, powerlessness and identity formation. It is also here where man and religious offers meet. The result of this meeting is either a weakening or a strengthening of man’s identity. For the status of weakness, the terms ‘illusion’ and ‘blindness’ are used. If one transfers these terms to the novels analyzed here, it is striking to see that they correspond more to male Muslim characters than to the female ones. One reason for this seems to be that they try to find their identity in a permanent quarrel with Islam. The final results from this are either a strengthening of the character or the decision for an illusionary way (fundamentalism). In the final analysis, however, modern man’s identity is characterized by dialogue. Thus, individuality can only be reached with others. Bredella (2010b) here differentiates between the liberal I (the personal I decides how it wants to live) and a communal concept of the personal I (the cultural framework decides how the personal I is constituted (ibid.: 15). The consequence from Taylor’s ideas on the term identity is shown by the desire of radical Moslems for acceptance, shelter and their struggle for a collective identity, which is a permanent element of their own identity (ibid.: 138). This notion, which also has a psychological background, is marked by a clear going away from the political notion of an intercultural life of people coming from different religious or cultural backgrounds. It is the Noble prize winner Orhan Pamuk, who takes Taylor’s ideas up: “Was die Literatur in erster Linie erzählen und erforschen sollte, das ist der Mehrheit grundsätzliches Problem, nämlich Minderwertigkeitsgefühle, die Furcht ausgeschlossen und unbedeutend zu sein, verletzter Nationalstolz,Empfindlichkeiten verschiedenster Arten von Groll und grundsätzlichen Argwohn, nicht enden wollende Erniedrigungsphantasien und damit einhergehend nationalistische Prahlerei und Überheblichkeit.” (Pamuk, 9.12.2006)


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Title: The presentation of the Iranian woman. A  critical reflection of Azar Nafisi's novel "Reading  Lolita in Tehran" (2004) and Azadeh Moaveni's "Lipstick Jihad" (2005)