November 7, 2003

La Prensa Persa

Editors Note: The biweekly column of La Prensa Persa (The Persian Press), is an opportunity for members of the middle-eastern communities to communicate and talk about the many issues facing them, immigration law, civil and constitutional rights to name a few, which not only impact that community but also impact the Hispanic community.

Two Faces, Two fates

By Kathy Hadizadeh

Miss World, Miss Earth, Miss Beauty, they all sound so mysterious. The mystery lies in the beauty behind each of these words. We get curious to know who lies beyond those titles. The nominated seemingly perfect lady that has the best figure, face and the intellectual talents of all the young, talented girls across the world?

Yet, even such a known concept can lead to unexpected results in today’s world. One nation might honor the Miss World with such a pride as if it is the whole nation that is being crowned! One nation might even condemn participating in such a competition. Part of the challenge for such Miss X position lies in the physical attraction and beauty. In some cultures for a girl relying on her beauty to attract attention is forbidden.

Vida Samadhi, the Afghan born Miss Earth has been living in the United States for the past 8 years. Competition in contest brought outrage and anger among Afghans. Even though the Taliban with their extreme views have lost power in Afghanistan, but the fundamental beliefs of people still would not let them be joyful with the notion of Miss World. Statements made in media by Afghan officials indicate that they do not see Vida a true Afghan lady. Evidently, Afghan people dislike the criteria for Miss World Contest competition. The Afghan Minister of Women’s Affairs Habiba Sorabi criticized Vida in IslamOnline.net: “This is absolutely a sharp contrast to the traditions held by the Afghan people.”

The story goes to the extreme as Afghanistan’s Supreme Court has condemned beauty contests as un-Islamic. They announced: “Appearing naked in beauty contests is against Afghan tradition, human honor and dignity. Based on the holy religion of Islam any one who attends such contests no matter what religion or country they belong to is condemned to hell.”

The Afghan people cannot relate to Vida as a true representative of Afghanistan and it makes sense. In a country where women used to wear burqas to cover them from head to toe when appearing in the public, a young lady posing in a swim suit in the public cannot serve as a true representative. On the other hand, Vida studies in an American University and many women in Afghanistan are deprived of the basic right of literacy. So, by all means, Miss Afghanistan cannot gain any popularity among her homeland people.

It brings even this question: “Is it fair to call her Miss Afghan?” She cannot participate in the contest as Miss United States because she is Afghan born and she cannot participate as Miss Afghan as she is so far away from their beliefs. Now, if she sees herself talented and capable enough to participate in such a contest, what should she do?

Nazanin Afshin Jam has been crowned Miss World Canada 2003 and will travel to China in December to compete for the Miss World title. Nazanin is a 24-year-old Vancouver resident, who was born in Iran and immigrated to Canada several years ago. She is a graduate of the University of British Columbia with a degree in Political Science and International Relations, and has studied in France and England. She currently studies Broadcast Journalism while balancing a successful career as a model, actress and Global Youth Facilitator.

Nazanin says her favorite job was working with youth in raising awareness of global issues and humanitarian crises, such as landmines, the poverty-disease cycle and children affected by war. She hopes to become the next Christianne Amanpour, working as a foreign correspondent, but first, plans on writing and producing documentaries focusing on third world development issues.

Nazanin is participating as Miss Canada. But the fact the she in Iranian by birth has attracted the attention of Iranian people to her heavily. People are proud of her. There are e-mails going back and forth to spread the good news. People see her as another icon to be proud of their Iranian nationality. She has been interviewed by Iranian media and has made the headlines of news in outside Iran media.(Obviously the inside Iran media does not reflect such news !) In her interviews, speaking Farsi she clearly states that she represents Canada, but in her heart she feels being an Iranian. Even though as part of the contest, she has appeared in the swimsuit, there seems to be no fuss about it. Even no body has ever mentioned it. The focus is on her education, on her care for the third world countries and how she wants to get involved in depicting their actualities to the world.

Iran and Afghanistan are two adjacent countries with two very similar languages .In both countries there have been two extremely religious governments in power for some time. But there seems to be a fundamental difference between people beliefs despite geographical proximity.

Kathy Hadizadeh can be reached at: khadiza1@irf.com

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