[Mb-civic] FW: Iranians start questioning role of religion in
grgolsorkhi at earthlink.net
Tue Dec 21 08:39:36 PST 2004
------ Forwarded Message
From: Samii Shahla <shahla at thesamiis.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2004 19:57:49 -0500
Subject: Iranians start questioning role of religion in politics
Iranians Start Questioning Role Of Religion In Politics
December 20, 2004
Throughout history, it has been a frequent occurrence for countries to
switch political systems, from feudal states to kingdoms and back
again. It has been equally common for a country to change from a
republic-based hierarchy, to the equally disputed democratic system.
What is much more rare is for a nation to alter is approach to
The history of the Middle East is in large part a patchwork quilt of
religious conflicts, shifting dogmas and fracturing of religious
systems. But once a nation defines itself by its religions, the
definition often becomes set in stone and difficult to alter even from
within. Such is the case in Iran today. While many in the country still
adhere willingly to the strict Islamic rule, others are questioning the
overwhelming role of religion in politics and daily life.
In a recent visit to Iran, I had the opportunity to ask people how they
felt about the changes-and lack of changes-in the country they call
home. I flew in from Kuwait with no idea of how much and how fast the
country was changing and how opinions on the future direction of the
country have become so hotly divided. During my visit, it became very
apparent that despite the various strenuous sanctions against this
country, the market has adapted well to the limited import allowances.
Everywhere I looked I noted locally made goods, be it foodstuffs, home
appliances, or even cars-despite recent laws that allow BMW cars to be
imported with a 300 per cent import tax quota. I guess what I'm trying
to say is that if there were ever a self-efficient country Iran would
Weary public Nevertheless, the Iranian public is becoming weary.
Everywhere I went I met people who were growing increasingly tired of
the firebrand rhetoric and lack of substantive development coming from
the government. Many openly condemned the current regime. "Much has
changed since 1979," said A.M. who owns a grocery shop in northern
Tehran. "I supported this regime back then because I was promised a
better life. I was blind to the fact that my life was at the time at
its highlight. Many people would agree to this.
Iran's revolution 25 years ago was one of a kind. It really was the
first of its kind. Look at the world; everywhere you look, you'll see
people revolting and rioting the streets because they are hungry, poor
and dissatisfied with their living standards. But we had everything. We
were better off then than we are now. Look at me; I used to own a men's
clothing store, I used to walk around town advertising the best in
men's fashion by wearing the most expensive suits and ties from my own
shop. Now I'm here selling fruits and vegetables."
Through held-back tears before a man half his age, A.M. adds, "Iran's
revolution was caused not by hunger; it was caused by the peoples'
boredom and the abundance of everything." A.M. admitted that he was
indeed one of the millions that went to the streets on the day of the
revolution, Feb 11, 1979. He maintained however, that had he been given
the chance to go back in time, he would not only stay home, but would
condemn anyone he knew personally, had they shown a remote interest in
supporting the overthrowing of the Shah's dynasty.
While taking a drive through Iran's capital, I met another man who also
expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling mullahs. He stated that he's
been a taxi driver for more than 35 years, but never did he expect
living standards to hit rock bottom, as that they have in recent years.
He made clear that he is a firm believer of the Islamic doctrine, but
is furious at how it is "forced" under the rule of this government.
The 50-year-old taxi driver, M.Q. said, "Back in the day, you could go
to a park, and you'd find a drunk man and a Muslim veiled woman sharing
the same bench to admire the scenery; neither of them bothered with
what the other is doing. But look at us today! We've been reduced to
the point where our 5,000 year heritage is being questioned by clerics
who want to take away the little bit of pride that remains for us."
During the long drive, he made references to today's youth and how
they've been led astray by greed and money. His reasoning for this
relates to the poverty that has overtaken the country since the
"Girls used to have dignity, they used to be proud. Now all they want
is a rich man to spoil them, and they aren't ashamed to admit it. I
remember a neighbour of ours had had a man come and ask for his
daughter's hand around 30 years ago, if I'm not mistaken about the
year. The groom-to-be was very wealthy; so wealthy in fact, that
everyone in the neighbourhood knew that he owned hotels and restaurants
abroad. As I recall, my neighbour rejected to marry his daughter off to
him, saying that his daughter wasn't livestock, and that even when
buying cattle a man should spend more time admiring and analysing it.
This is the demise of our people. Today, that very same family is
giving away its grand daughters to foreign visitors who want 'temporary
marriages,'" added M.Q.
Nevertheless, Iran is a country torn between two ideals. During my
visit, I noted that there are those who hold a firm belief in the
Islamic traditions; then there are those who ignore it completely, if
not for the forced way with which it is implemented then because of the
substantial economic hardships this government has brought with it.
Walking in the streets, one can see the split ideals. It is really
disconcerting to see a segregated people who are so different and yet
so similar in their passion for what they believe. On the one hand
there are the Islamists, and on the other you have the liberals. Both
are plentiful to the average person strolling the streets of Tehran,
although statistics tell a different story. Of the approximate 66
million people in Iran, some 70 per cent are supposed to be under the
age of 30. This has different implications for different censuring
agencies. Some would argue that 70 per cent of the population have been
brought up under this regime and therefore are more grounded in their
Islamic beliefs, while others would counter by claiming that the 70 per
cent have witnessed the atrocities brought unto them and therefore are
more likely to make a stand to oust this regime.
What is apparent though, is that both 'parties' are becoming more and
more enraged as the other begins voicing its beliefs more stridently.
But as a famous Iranian poet once said, "it is the silent that shall
sneak past the blockade, not the violent horde that try to force their
The supporters of this regime try to silence the liberals by protesting
in the streets and making themselves heard as the voice of the
majority. And indeed, many can feel their aspirations wholeheartedly,
as this is their religion they are trying to maintain and the very
reason why some of them are still pushing through the life that has
been thrown at them. "I will not let a bunch of young kids who don't
know what's good for them take away what the Prophet gave us 2,000
years ago!" said F. H, a woman in her mid 30s, who took part in a
recent demonstration in Tehran, supporting the Islamic Republic's
Undeniably, the liberals are silenced. But in their silence they are
hopeful as they wait. S. A. a resolved liberal says, "He will return.
Everyone knows this. The Shah will return, and with his return
everything will change. This is why the fundamentalists are weary. This
is why recently they have been trying extra hard to show the world that
they are the people. But the truth cannot be hidden, the world will
see. Long live the King and his kingdom that awaits him."
------ End of Forwarded Message
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