I had the pleasure of attending a 2008 Perspectives Series at McLean Community Center last night that featured Marjane Satrapi, who is the artist behind the amazing Persepolis comic books. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the books are autobiographical, recounting Satrapi’s struggles growing up in Iran during the revolution. They’re striking for their humor–even in the face of such devastation–and Satrapi’s ability to find the universal in the very extraordinary circumstances of her life.
Satrapi was delightful–very intelligent, funny, and opinionated. One of the most compelling moments of the evening was when she discussed religion, saying she never gave religion much thought at all before the revolution, growing up in a secular household. She said she came to understand that religion at the personal level can be very wonderful and fulfilling, but fundamentalism wreaks horrors. And this is true regardless of whether the religion in question is Islam, Christianity, or even Buddhism. As she said in an interview with Powells:
The real war is not between the West and the East. The real war is between intelligent and stupid people. There is much more in common between George Bush and the fanatics in my country than between me and the fanatics of my country. There is much more common ground between me and normal people here in America who don’t want that. As an Iranian, I feel much closer to an American who thinks like me than to the bearded guy of my country.
In another fantastic moment, she also told us that she was not very concerned that fundamentalists in Iran might wish her harm. In fact she said the most scared she had been since the books gained popularity was during a lecture in Texas. She said one man in particular looked very angry, and she was convinced she was going to be shot by a cowboy and become an inadvertent martyr of Islam. But in the end said cowboy actually had her sign three of her books. Never judge a book by its cover, I suppose.