Iran’s Morality Police Raids Coffee Shops, Spoils Everyone’s Hookah-Smoking Fun

The growing trend for Iranian women to wear Western fashions prompted Iran's reactionary "morality police" to raid 87 coffee shops on Saturday. Tehran police official Alireza Mehrabi explained that the coffee shops "were shut for not following Islamic values, providing hookah to women, and lacking proper licenses," and the Atlantic Wire's Connor Simpson notes that Iran's fun patrol strikeforces have targeted coffee shops and internet cafes because they're especially popular with young people, who are, as it happens, more likely to discard the traditional hijab in favor of Western modes of dress.

Simpson also cites an earlier report in the Washington Post that details how police in Iran have recently been more proactive in shutting down concerts and events like the international food fair, where 80 booths were shuttered "because the women working at them were either breaking hijab rules or wearing too much makeup." Much of Western fashion clashes with Iranian law, which stipulates that women must remain covered at all times. Iran's younger population — which is huge — has been struggling to find a balance between the traditional values of previous generations and more cosmopolitan fashions, because there's a whole world out there, dammit, that they want to be a part of.

Proponents of easing the restrictive dress code have found an unlikely rhetorical ally in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who thinks that police ought to, you know, chill the fuck out with all coffee shop raids. He recently admonished law enforcement officials, insisting that "instead of closing cinemas and restaurants, must give people the right to choose. If people are given choices, they will definitely choose Iranian culture and beliefs." It's encouraging to think that Ahmadinejad would truly be open to that level of free wardrobe choice, but one wonders whether his liberal lip service would be tempered if/when people didn't choose Iran's traditional belief structure.

Iran's Morality Police Don't Sound Very Fun [Atlantic Wire]