Thursday, March 27, 2008
The Islamic Republic: A Structural Time-Bomb (part I)
"Ya marg, ya Mossadeq!" - It was shouted on the streets by Iranian protesters, spray painted on the walls, and seared into the minds of their children. The colonial yoke was to be shed and national independence restored, as the secular opposition thundered its way toward establishing Mossadeq's long-held belief that the Shah should reign but not rule.
Although Mossadeq's agenda was stymied by self-interested foreign actors at the time, the dramatic conclusion of the movement that originated with Mohammad Mossadeq would come 26 years later; but this time, the opposition would not be secular.
As demonstrations in the late 70s crescendoed and finally resulted in revolution, Islam became the fulcrum of opposition to the monarch, and the Ayatollah Khomeini eventually emerged as the victor by guile. His ascendancy to power would ultimately have regressive consequences for a nation with progressive hopes.
The most regressive act of his tenure was the establishment of the velayet-e faghih (rule by the jurisprudent) and the institutions that buttress it. It was a treacherous act that contradicted the objectives of the original revolution and led the first post-revolutionary Prime Minister, Mehdi Bazargan (appointed by the Ayatollah Khomeini) to lash out at his political father:
"With the help of numerous details and arguments, we have examined the velayat-e faghih from every side, both in its rational-political aspects, and from the angle of the Qur'an, Islamic tradition, and Islamic law (sharia), and we must judge it as 100 percent destructive. From a political point of view, the velayat-e faghih is despotism and means a regression back to the state we had hoped to overcome with the Islamic Revolution. From a religious point of view it is polytheism (shirk) and a totalitarian personality cult (far'uniyat)."
Mehdi was right; the nation had traded in a secular shah for a religious shah. And as time passed and war with Iraq raged, the new shah had to appoint a qualified successor; someone who had the same religious credentials as the esteemed Ayatollah, as well as the political savvy that the position demanded. He found those qualifications in a man known as Ayatollah Montazeri. But as political differences between the two manifested, his successorship was revoked. And upon Khomeini's death, the Council of Experts (majlis-e khobragan) appointed a theologically vacuous, but politically acceptable man by the name of Sayid Ali Khamene'i.
Motazeri howled at the development, saying:
"The ruling jurisprudent (vali-ye faqih) must be the theologically most highly qualified...Mr. Khamene'i, too, had insisted beforheand [that is, before his election in 1989] on the highest qualification of the source of emulation [marja'-e taqlid]. But I say to him: You are not a marja'-e taqlid and you bear no resemblance to one...The office of the source of emulation was a moral force and an independent intellectual authority. Do not attempt to infringe upon its independence, and do not change the center of seminaries in Qom into a ministry of government officials. That is a danger to the future of the Shi'a...Even if everyone praises you, their praise cannot make you someone who has reached the same theological level as Imam Khomeini."
The consequences of Khamene'i's appointment were yet to be apparent, but the words of the eminent Ayatollah Montazeri portended a sentiment that would be more elaborately, and less compromisingly, reflected in the views and writings of the apolitical clerical establishment. These vanguards of Shi'a theology would deliver stinging criticisms and potent pontifications about the decadence of Islamic governance. And they could not be ignored.
Their pontifications (discussed in part II), along with the present political realities - inside an overbearing historical context - would lead a proactive reformist, Dr. Mahmoud sadri, to aptly deem the Islamic Republic of Iran's form of government as a "structural time-bomb" awaiting its imminent implosion...
To Be Continued.....