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George Mason Graduate to Become the First Muslim Woman in Space:

On September 18, Iranian-American telecom entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari will become the first Muslim woman in space. She is a liberal Shiite Muslim who left Iran because "[d]espite her aptitude in mathematics and science, it would be next to impossible for her to study these subjects at an Iranian university because the . . . regime did not consider them suitable fields of study for women." This should give the mullahs in Teheran a fit.

Even more importantly, Ansari is a class of 1988 graduate of George Mason University! Hopefully, this will give us as big a boost as the basketball team's recent trip to Final Four.

UPDATE: I have changed "secular Shiite" to "liberal Shiite" to eliminate possible terminological confusion pointed out in the comments.

unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
"Anousheh Ansari will become the first Muslim woman in space. She is a secular Shiite"

Just as a definitional point, how is one a secular Muslim? I can understand the concept with Jews, as an ethnic Jew could be secular, Christian or even Muslim. But as Islam is not an ethnicity (best argument against racial profiling), it would seem the concept does not translate.
9.12.2006 1:44am
Ilya Somin:
Just as a definitional point, how is one a secular Muslim? I can understand the concept with Jews, as an ethnic Jew could be secular, Christian or even Muslim. But as Islam is not an ethnicity (best argument against racial profiling), it would seem the concept does not translate.

One can live a generally secular lifestyle, while still believing in a religion. Perhaps I should have said "liberal Shiite" to make the point clearer.
9.12.2006 1:47am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Makes much more sense. Glad to have picked the nit:)
9.12.2006 2:08am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
She's also the first Texan. Dennis Tito lives in California, Gregory Olsen is from New Jersey, and Mark Shuttleworth is from South Africa.

Yee-hah!
9.12.2006 5:26am
Philistine (mail):
Perhaps the first Texan tourist in space, but not the first Texan in space.

--Philistine
9.12.2006 9:54am
eeyn524:
A great accomplishment, but the line about women not being allowed to study math or science in Iran is plain flat factually wrong. I've got a transcript on my desk in front of me right now from an Iranian woman who's completed such degrees, and it's nothing unusual. Sorry, this claim is about like the yellow badge story.

Now, if the story was that someone openly liberal and secular had a hard time getting into the university, that is quite believable.

A lot of Iranian exiles here are quite reasonably bitter about what's happened to their country, and want to change it. Unfortunately some of them (Amir Taheri is a prime example) will say damn near anything to further their cause.
9.12.2006 12:24pm
eeyn524:
PS - I'm not claiming that Ms. Ansari personally is in the bitter-exile-making-things-up category, just that the line repeated in Somin's post is typical of the stuff being promoted by them.
9.12.2006 12:37pm
PersonFromPorlock:
eeyn524:

You've seen the transcript, but have you seen the woman? Or some other woman who in fact studied math and science in Iran? I'm not saying it doesn't happen but the evidence you've presented us with could be disinformation.
9.12.2006 3:46pm
Adrian (mail):
I have seen several Iranian woman who have completed undergrad degrees in science/engineering in Iran and are now graduate students in Canada or UK. So, it is possible.

But that does not mean that it was possible in 1980s. The islamic regime was more restrictive in its first years.
9.12.2006 4:26pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
This should give the mullahs in Teheran a fit.

I certainly hope so.

Any chance it will make their collective heads explode? :-D
9.12.2006 5:05pm
eeyn524:
PersonFromPorlock:

Like the cases Adrian mentions, these are Iranian women coming to the US for graduate work, and yes I've seen some in person (the paperwork in front of me is part of an application package). Of course Adrian has a good point that things could have been tougher in the early 80's when Ms. Ansari was of college age.
9.12.2006 5:12pm