16 June 2009

Undermining Islam

One of the ironies about Iran is that historically it has never been an especially fanatical society by Islamic standards -- certainly never an especially puritanical one. Indeed, had it not been for the accident of geographical location which placed it squarely in the path of the 7th-century Arab military conquests that followed the death of Muhammad, there's no reason to think the place would ever have become Muslim at all.

Part of what enabled Kemâl Atatürk to build the secular Turkish state was the way that political Islam had become discredited by association with the corrupt and decrepit Ottoman regime. One might expect that something similar has happened in Iran to an even greater degree; in the Ottoman Empire religion was a mere tool of the state, whereas in the Islamic Republic of Iran it is the state which has served as the mere tool of religion! If current events in Iran do bring down the regime, there are grounds for hope that the Iranian people will be prepared to give a secular state a try.

Michael Totten has put up a couple of interesting quotes. One is from Iranian writer Reza Zarabi, who laments:

The name Iran, which used to be equated with such things as luxury, fine wine, and the arts, has become synonymous with terrorism. When the Islamic Republic government of Iran finally meets its demise, they will have many symbols and slogans as testaments of their rule, yet the most profound will be their genocide of Islam, the black stain that they have put on this faith for many generations to come.

The other quote is from Ayatollah Montazeri, a moderate cleric who is the protest movement's choice to replace Khamenei as the country's supreme leader until a new constitution can be written. Of the current regime, he says, in part:

Since this government is known as a religious government, I fear that the conduct and actions of the officials may ultimately harm the religion and undermine the people’s beliefs.

Here's hoping.

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