June 27, 2008


In Iran’s Holy City, Dissent Over Mixing Islam and Politics: The regime faces criticism from an unexpected source (Anuj Chopra, June 27, 2008, US News)

Such dissent fomenting in Qom, a center of Shiite scholarship, shows that the current Iranian government leadership faces rumblings of opposition not just from secular-minded intellectuals in affluent areas of northern Tehran but from elements in Iran's clerical class, too. This cleric—once a staunch supporter of the 1979 Islamic Revolution—is disillusioned with the "frightening direction" the revolution has veered toward, making way for what some have labeled a "turbaned dictatorship."

The revolution, which toppled U.S.-backed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, brought to power Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and transformed Iran into a theocracy. Clerics wear both the hats of government and the turbans of religion. The principle of velayat e faqih [rule of Islamic jurisprudence], which places the clergy above all other institutions, holds that society should be governed by a supreme leader, a cleric best qualified to enforce Islamic law, until the appearance of the Shiite messiah. It is this doctrine that makes Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader and all others subordinate to him.

While Iranian liberals have yearned for a constitutional separation of religion and state, Qom, too, was never completely at ease with Khomeini's idea of velayat e faqih. With its many decrepit buildings bearing scribbled slogans and stenciled portraits of an unsmiling Khomeini, Qom is home to hundreds of seminaries. It might appear to be the nerve center of global Islamic fundamentalism. Yet views here are not homogeneous. Some revered clerics, in private conversations, repudiate the idea of involving religion so deeply in politics and governance. And they blame the politicization of Islam for Iran's pressing woes—human-rights abuses, international isolation, and an economy that is crippled despite being blessed with the world's fourth-largest oil reserves

Jewish, Christian and Shi'a theologians are, of course, the most likely source of criticism that a government is acting heretically in trying to perfect the world.
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Posted by Orrin Judd at June 27, 2008 3:13 PM
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