The Ministry of Guidance Invites You Not to Stay
By Hooman Majd
Like most folks, I would say that I am a pretty open person. I’m fairly informed about world events and international politics. But when it comes to the Middle East, I am also aware that I have been completely Americanized by the media. When we have been told, repeatedly, that Iran is evil and might nuke us out of existence if we let them, it’s hard to have warm, fuzzy feelings for the country.
So when I read this book jacket, I was immediately curious and fascinated. An Iranian-born, Western-raised journalist took his American wife and less-than-one year old son to live in Iran for a year. My first thought: What?!?!?! Why would any sane person want to do that? My second thought: You know he got arrested. Hello – he’s a journalist. (I didn’t think through it far enough to realize that if he had been arrested and never released that I wouldn’t be reading this book.)
Majd is a good storyteller, and this book grabbed my attention from the beginning. It really showed me a personal side to Iran that the American media conveniently skips over. Granted, Majd has some pretty high connections within the government, and none of his friends or family members would be considered anything other than upper middle class. But they still have parties, drink alcohol (when they can get it) and go on vacations.
The government did hassle Majd once or twice. He was monitored the whole time he was there and in order to be allowed entrance, he had to promise not to write about Iran. His wife, Karri, was harrassed a few times by the morality police because she wasn’t dressed according to Muslim standards – even though she made every effort to fit in while not a practicing Muslim. Upon returning home, Majd learned that he had been on Iran’s watchlist as a US spy, so it was good his family left when it did or in all likelihood he would have been arrested.
I wish, however, that he would have covered more about his life once he got home. The Iranian government can’t be happy about this book – even if Majd wasn’t superly critical of them in it. He didn’t say if he’s been back to Iran since it’s publication. Maybe that’s what he’ll write about in his next book.
Did this book make me want to visit Iran? Not in the least bit. However, it did make me a little curious about the country and it’s people, which is something I can say I never was before. Definitely worth the time with this one. Plus…how can you not read a book with such a friendly title?