I had a customer in the other day for a test-drive; Mohammed from Iraq, a twenty-something year-old chap hell-bent on test-driving as many different cars as possible without committing to buying any.
I decided to ask how the situation is in Iraq and whether he still had relatives in Baghdad. He explained that although the insurgents are still carrying out atrocities on a daily basis, the security forces appear to be gaining control.
Mohammed was dressed in a style best described as Western-Chic. Immaculately groomed, he would not have looked out of place in any of the trendy hot-spots of London, Milan, Paris or New York.
I admit to jumping to conclusions by asking him if he was a Sunni Muslim.
'NOoooo', came the anguished reply.
'I am a Shi'a Muslim, praise be to Allah'
Oh..OK, sorry I just thought you were...by...um...you know...the way you're dressed and all..
'No no, and by the way, the Sunni aren't very nice people, you know...'
'...they don't respect women like we do and they don't live by the rules of the Koran'.
I think you are hoping I don't know enough about the subject, Mohammed. I know that Sunni women are allowed to integrate in all levels of society, are educated to the highest levels and are free to dress as they like. That smacks of equality as far as I'm concerned. The opposite rules apply to the Shi'a.
The Sunni don't live by the barbaric ancient Sharia Laws that shackle the Shi'a to the distant past either, so how can you tell me the Shi'a respect their women?
Respecting women means freeing them from slavery, allowing them free-will to marry (or not marry) whoever they choose.
Respecting women means making education and work opportunities available to them all, as it is for men.
Respecting women means not stoning them to death but helping them if they chose to leave their enforced arranged marriages to seek love elsewhere.
Respecting women means allowing them the freedom to dress as they like, just like their men-folk.
Respecting women means allowing them to drive cars, just as you like driving them and can't get enough of test-drives.
Respecting women means ending the evil practices of female circumcision and child-brides...
...and, Mohammed, who are you trying to fool?
Needless to say, Mohammed left the showroom without buying the car he had no intention of buying in the first place and... with no intention to return.
If young Shi'a men like Mohammed continue to tolerate things as they are and turn a blind-eye, nothing will ever change.
Praise be to Atheism