The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran

The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran

Hooman Majd / Jul 20, 2019

The Ayatollah Begs to Differ The Paradox of Modern Iran A Los Angeles Times and Economist Best Book of the YearWith a New PrefaceThe grandson of an eminent ayatollah and the son of an Iranian diplomat journalist Hooman Majd is uniquely qualified to explai

  • Title: The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran
  • Author: Hooman Majd
  • ISBN: 9780767928014
  • Page: 165
  • Format: Paperback
  • A Los Angeles Times and Economist Best Book of the YearWith a New PrefaceThe grandson of an eminent ayatollah and the son of an Iranian diplomat, journalist Hooman Majd is uniquely qualified to explain contemporary Iran s complex and misunderstood culture to Western readers.The Ayatollah Begs to Differ provides an intimate look at a paradoxical country that is both deeplyA Los Angeles Times and Economist Best Book of the YearWith a New PrefaceThe grandson of an eminent ayatollah and the son of an Iranian diplomat, journalist Hooman Majd is uniquely qualified to explain contemporary Iran s complex and misunderstood culture to Western readers.The Ayatollah Begs to Differ provides an intimate look at a paradoxical country that is both deeply religious and highly cosmopolitan, authoritarian yet informed by a history of democratic and reformist traditions Majd offers an insightful tour of Iranian culture, introducing fascinating characters from all walks of life, including zealous government officials, tough female cab drivers, and open minded, reformist ayatollahs It s an Iran that will surprise readers and challenge Western stereotypes.In his new preface, Majd discusses the Iranian mood during and after the June 2009 presidential election which set off the largest street protests since the revolution that brought the ayatollahs to power.

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    • ✓ The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran || ↠ PDF Read by ↠ Hooman Majd
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    About "Hooman Majd"

      • Hooman Majd

        Born in Tehran but educated in the West, Hooman Majd is the author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ an Economist and Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2008 and The Ayatollahs Democracy An Iranian Challenge, as well as his most recent book, The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay He lives in New York City.Hooman Majd has also written for GQ, Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Financial Times, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Politico, The New York Observer, Interview, The Daily Beast, and Salon, among others He has also published short fiction in literary journals such as Guernica, The American Scholar, and Bald Ego.Majd has also served as an advisor and translator for President Mohammad Khatami and translator for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on their trips to the United States and the United Nations, and has written about those experiences.Majd s maternal grandfather was the Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Assar 1885 1975 , who was born to an Iraqi mother and an Iranian father The Ayatollah, along with other contemporary ulema, overcame traditional opposition to serve as a professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran His own father, whose origins were in the village of Ardakan, Iran, became representative of a middle class that was pro democratic and pro modernization.Raised in a family involved in the diplomatic service, Majd lived from infancy abroad, mostly in the US and in England but attending American schools in varied places, such as Tunis and New Delhi He boarded at St Paul s School in London, England and attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C He stayed in the US after the 1979 revolution and finished his college education in the US.


    1. This is my third book on Iranian culture in the past year or so, and I'm fascinated. Tehran is on my list of places to visit.Before I rip apart this book, let me first say I recommend it because it is an interesting, thoughtful analysis of the Iranian psyche. Majd's writing style is maddeningly frustrating. I almost threw the book against the wall a half-dozen times during the first 100 pages. The man cannot write a simple sentence. An entire paragraph in this book may have one period, obviously [...]

    2. (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)Like millions of other Americans, I am in the active process these days of increasing my knowledge base regarding the Middle East and Southeast Asia, from its former level of "zero" to a new level of "more than zero." But this of course immediately presents a problem to armchair scholars -- namely, with a sub [...]

    3. I liked this book, if more for the three major points he made about Iranians than the writing or the form. In fact, the form was a bit annoying. He moved back and forth between his journalistic narrative of his own visits, and history of modern Iran. But to the major points. First, he talk about an interesting idea, that of "ta'arouf," or hospitality. This is a rough translation, because its more like polite chit-chat that one encounters with every transaction with another human being outside yo [...]

    4. So I am on this Iran kick right now and this was written in the past year and I had heard the author being interviewed on NPR and he sounded pretty moderate, pro-Iranian and very educated and so I put a hold on this book at our local library and I guess it was pretty popular, because I had to wait several months for it.Unlike all the other books that I have read about Iran, this one was not a sweet story about growing up in Iran, spending most of one's years abroad and then returning as a strang [...]

    5. I really liked this book. Really, really liked it. The author's style is pretty hit or miss, either you'll love it or think its horrible. I thought it was very witty and funny, mostly because the sense of humor is similar to my own (and ironically, very Iranian).For me, this was almost like reading an autobiography of myself from the perspective of a more witty, less religious, better connected person. A lot of the references were pretty funny, because I had experienced them myself and had many [...]

    6. Hooman Majd says that when he travels to Iran his Persian side emerges, but when he comes back home to New York City, his fully Westernized modern man comes back. This perspective is unique and helpful as Majd attempts to explain that when the revolutionaries yelled, "Death to America" that they didn't literally want us in the U.S. all to die.I had the serendipity of reading this book in tandem withDeer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant, and the comparison between fundamentalist Christians with [...]

    7. This is a far superior book to my first Majd (The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran) and offers genuine insight to the Iranian psyche - high and low, religious and secular, political and apolitical. It's not without weaknesses though: To say Mr. Majd can be long-winded is an understatement but it's a style you get used to and it's oddly in keeping with a supposed aspect of the Iranian character Majd keeps returning to. The real annoyance is how repetitive t [...]

    8. A fascinating (although at times short sighted and rather white-washed) look into Iranian culture under the current regime. As Iran is one of the most important topics of the day, it was vital for me to read as much as possible on the topic. Although the book provided a first hand look behind the scenes of the Iranian government, Majd is too close to power and too comfortable with his privileged position to actually critique the government or discuss the nastier aspects of fundamentalist rule As [...]

    9. Very interesting approach to Iran's politics, religion and culture. Explains Iran's similarities and differences from the Western culture and Iranian's affinity for Islam. It dispels many notions Americans have associated with the "Axis of Evil" and describes a modern, proud, more democratic country. Majd's experiences as a Iranian-American are narrated in the book in a way that helps us understand the complexity of a great country.

    10. This book achieves what it sets out to do: provide the westerner (this reader is barely one) with an idea of what Iran is and what Iranians feel about Iran.Refreshingly honest and funny, it's very well done. Learned a lot. Will recommend to anyone who's interested in the subject matter.

    11. Cover Gushing Worthiness: I’m not quite fond of the cover for the paperback edition which is also the edition I own. I don’t think it captures the essence of Iran quite well because Iran is a country with more than just women dressed in Black Chadors. This cover captures Iran much more vividly, with its eye of Ayatollah Khomeini; a household name and prominent religious and political figure in Iran’s contemporary history and the people moving about. So in conclusion, the hardcover edition [...]

    12. This is a book for those who want to learn far more about Iran and Islam. Hooman Majd is a very skilled writer. A very clever man, travelling with high ranking officials from Iran in America, translating for Iranian speakers at the UN. He really does know his subject. But he is not afraid to expose the other side of Islam in Iran. What goes on behind the walls of the home, alcohol, marriage for an hour for the convenience of sex, opium smoking. But there is positive side of Islam. I became quite [...]

    13. I liked the book because it was a nice contrast from so many of the anti-Iranian books out there, but it's a bit of an apologia for the regime. The author is able to get access to some of the top clerics, but he seems a bit too close to them to be objective? Anyway, it's a useful antidote to so many cartoonish depictions of the crazy evil clerics of Iran.

    14. An okay introduction to the Iranian psyche and the way in which it affects politics, political rhetoric, and the population’s tolerance for a conservative theocracy. The topic is fascinating, and Majd makes a compelling case that Westerners routinely misinterpret the nature and nuance of Iranian issues due to their lack of cultural fluency. For example, Westerners react strongly to the hijab and other enforced women’s clothing standards as a powerful (*the most* powerful?) embodiment of theo [...]

    15. Excerpts:"I thought of Fuad, my Jewish-Iranian friend from Los Angeles who had explained to me his perspective on Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial with no small measure of admiration for what he saw as the finest example of Persian ta'arouf one-upmanship. Ahmadinejad, Fuad reasoned, had in effect said to the Europeansat he couldn't believe that Europeans had been or could be such monsters (and this at a time when Iran was being portrayed as monstrous). "You're not monsters," Ahmadinejad was saying [...]

    16. Hooman Majd, born in Tehran but educated in the West has written a book that is simultaneously from an insider perspective as well as from an outsider perspective. His father was an Iranian diplomat, but Hooman Majd is now a US citizen. He traveled through Iran and across the US with various Iranian political figures and met with the likes of current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as well as former presidents like Mohammad Khatami. Because of Majd's family's history (his grandfather was a [...]

    17. Ta'arouf and haq. If for no other reason (and there are a lot of other reasons,) Americans like me, should read this book (it's good) to learn the depth of these two thought systems in Persian culture. Ta'arouf is the practice of extreme self-deprecation in very polite society, as in an exchange that might sound like this: "Please, you first." "No, after you, I am not deserving as you,""No, you are great, I am a dog" It's used to advantage in politics and business.To really understand the nuance [...]

    18. Third book on Iran in a year perhapster Empire of the Mind and Iran Awakening. Most enjoyable. An endearing book - more about Iranians - than perhaps about Iran. Examines Persian traits like taarouf, their sense of pride and privacy, their conflicts with the society and their interface with the world at large. While, one might argue that the book offers a window to the upper class (maybe even ruling class), Tehran culture but is an honest portrayal of a nation - quite unfairly bracketed as evil [...]

    19. Hooman Majd is an Iranian who now considers himself a westerner. The book is part travelogue and part memoir. His insight into Iran is unique, but at times dull, and in this kind of book goes unchallenged. In its best moments, the book captures well the current youth movement of this country that has set itself up to be in a constant state of revolution. It's a great look into this country's culture, I just wish it were boiled down a bit more.

    20. Reading it now, but so far it seems like a great way to show the world what Iranians are really like. Such diversity, culture, history, and beautiful and fun people can not be defined by the word "terrorist" nor the phrase "axis of evil". Maybe if people care to read this book there won't be a "war" with Iran.So far, I love it.

    21. Lots of mullahs, ayatollahs, some opium, more mullahs, religious observances, upper class cocktail parties, former presidents, bureaucracies, well-connected author. It's all pretty boring. Couldn't get up the energy to finish it. Learned a couple things but didn't really change the impression of Iran that I had already.

    22. (FROM MY BLOG) Here in the West, we have conflicting images of Iran. We've heard the medieval Persian poets (in translation), singing of food, wine and romance, while simulataneously praising and questioning their God. We've seen the scowling faces of the ayatollahs, denouncing America and its allies, and all their works. And, if we remember our history, we have vague recollections of the Persian Empire in its various forms; of the stout-hearted defense of the Greek city states against Persian i [...]

    23. A fascinating introduction to the cultural and political complexities of Iran. In particular, I appreciated including perspectives from a cross-section of society. Meeting only Iranians who have emigrated one can easily develop a skewed perspective on the subject and Majd does a great job in showing why that perspective is incomplete.From the editorial point of view, the writing style suffers from incredibly long sentences and I found myself frustrated at times trying to find the main clause in [...]

    24. One of several light-hearted journalistic jaunts through Iran by writers returning to the mother country in the 2000s after decades in the West, this guy has peculiarly good access thanks to his family connections to ex-president Khatami, and while this one is a little thin on content and narrative, it is particularly strong on how Iranian cultural habits such as 'tarouf' (absurd over-politeness) have fed into the major political and diplomatic issues of the day.

    25. Insights into Iranian culture and history are easily digestible through Majd's personal vignettes (mostly dalliances with upper class iranian people, some quite well known such as former president Khatami), woven together in a casual witty style. While written when Ahmadinejad was in power this text still holds relevance and was good tone reading for a trip to Iran.

    26. This book can hardly be called a book. It's a string of disconnected anecdotes, few of which resemble anything near a portrait of modern Iran.

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