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The Iranian Theocracy doomed?

Reader comment on item: Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran?

Submitted by Michel C. Zala (Switzerland), Nov 30, 2010 at 13:01

I am much more pessimistic with regard to Iran and would love to learn more about any evidence and indices Dr. Pipes collected in order to support the notion that a secular trend in Iran will overcome this deeply entrenched regime.

My arguments for a corresponding debate are as follows:

While regimes with purely political oppression proved to implode eventually, due to their fundamental inferiority of their ideology and system, as seen with the collapse of the Sovjets for instance, I fear that the apparatus built by the mullahs in Tehran is much more deeply penetrated throughout the fabric of the Iranian society.

With mosques, madrassas and religious institutions in every village, the radical indoctrination of the youth starts early on and never ends. The economical stagnation after the institution of this theocracy led to utter lack of any outlets we know in the western world, from cinemas to theatres, youth centers to any form of entertainment or even sports. With universities focused upon religion, even the academia can not become the usual hotspot for dissent, debate and opposition, as seen, wherever revolution was needed to eliminate oppression.

To explain the millions of people gathering at those hateful anti -West mass demonstrations in Tehran, it seems to me too simplistic to argue that the people have been transported in and only follow party-line and pressure. We in the West have had our share of similar events, albeit on a smaller scale, wherever we found demographies of low income, high unemployment and under average education levels. I'd dare to venture that the hooligans in England, Germany are symptoms with similar root causes.

To put it into my own rather simplistic hypothesis: Wherever people have no outlets, no jobs, no entertainment, no money, no perspective, they become prone to (religious) fanaticism and radicalism. Religion has in Iran become the only remaining outlet for frustration, aggression and socialising.

Tragically Islam (agressive, violent, archaic, exclusive, expansionistic, angry, rooted upon a deeply entrenched inferiority complex vs the West and anti-West sentiments, which can be derived deep down in history to the crusades) is in itself the perfect religion for any such demography, which for instance would explain the high percentage of US prison inmates, predominantly black, which makes up already a disproportionate percentage in the prison population, converting to Islam. My hypotesis would further be supported by the higher amount of black Muslims within the non-imprisoned US population. To avoid any misunderstanding, this has nothing to do with skin color, but everything with standard of living and deeply rooted sentiments of oppression and discrimination. Many black Americans still lag behind and/or suffer from perceived or actual racial traumata. It does therefore not surprise that radical homegrown Islam in the USA is mainly carried by exactly this minority. For years funded, controlled and taught by scholars of middle eastern origin, more and more black Americans are currently rising to teachers, mullahs and imams. The threat of the next decade will no longer be arabic, but homegrown terrorism.

The very same could be said of Britain, France and other European countries. (Radical) Islam is on the rise in Marseille, Liverpool, Birmingham - wherever one finds a demography with similar attributes. Low income, high unemployment, ghettos of immigrants and above all low level of education.

The theocracy in Iran created a deadly vicious circle.

As seen throughout history, almost immediately the nation fell into a state of cultural and economical disarray. The intelligentsia fled, the academia eroded, business, entrepreneurship crashed, high unemployment, therefore low income, poverty, anger, frustration, then renewed and amplified inferiority complex versus the West - the perfect breeding ground for religious fanaticism, lashing out against all things western and even muslim neighbors doing somewhat better. Religion became the only remaining outlet for all these strong sentiments. Since it became increasingly difficult to keep up with the West, it became easier to simply villify all Western influences, from law to freedom to liberty and culture. Literally the foundations of all western achievements. The wider the gap became, the more aggressive, radical and oftentimes surreal behaviour of the regime escalated.

With mosques and madrassas in every village, the message of hatred is being penetrated deeply throughout the Iranian society, which is why I strongly believe that a vast amount of the 3 Mio people, sreaming death to all infidels prior to the recent middle east peace talks, actually meant it.

The political apparatus of this regime is at least as solidly anchored and tightly organized as the one we experienced during the high times of the sovjet regime, but as opposed to the sovjets, accompanied, amplified and supported by a religion. In that context I see a distinction between religion and ideology. History has clearly demonstrated that the power of religion is much more hideous, as political ideology is prone to be debated and can become victim to changing economical, strategic, cultural and socio-demographic frame parameters. Religion on the other hand - especially Islam, which never knew any form of reformation or enlightenment, a static, rigid, archaic set of rules of conduct - is incredibly hard to reign in, once it is deeply entrenched.

The combination of forces of both Ideology and Religion however, clearly in place in Iran, is almost impossible to remove, which is why I see the Iranian Regime much more deeply entrenched, than for instance the Soviets with their communist ideology, oftentimes opposed by their own religion.

The combination of an efficient political apparatus in support of Islamist ideology plus Religion with its own machine, reach, penetration and continuous indoctrination has the Iranian society in a tight, strong grip. I do not believe that this regime can be toppled from within, but only by massive pressure, not limited to military action and invasion.

History however seems to repeat itself here. The West is tired of war, utilizes appeasement, while Iran is in the process of building up a military potential on the level of any one Western nation. Like the Nazis it plays for time, until it can present a fait accompli. The very same form of subversion prior to actual war is being practiced by exporting terror, supporting the Taliban, Hezbollah and Islamist movements from Pakistan to Indonesia, all the while working frantically towards nuclear weaponry and concurrently building up the conventional forces, thus destabilizing an entire region, which is critical to the West and their economies.

It is in fact this Iranian Regime which utilizes a true hearts and minds approach, as opposed for instance to a North Korean or Cuban regime, solely based upon political oppression which allows for ideological opposition (even, if at present underground), where an efficiently organized political apparatus is accompanied, dominated, supported and amplified by a terribly efficient religious system.

Any form of movement towards freedom, democracy or minimal reform as a step towards it, does not stand a chance. The last elections proved this in a brutal manner, as rarely anybody in Iran nowadays even speaks of the upheaval most western observers celebrated one year ago as the upcoming doom of the Iranian Theocracy.

Turkey

While I agree that there is at present a strong Islamistic movement and I second all corresponding statements presented in this article, I find myself nevetheless much more optimistic than Dr. Pipes.

With millions of Turks living in Europe, freely interacting and corresponding with family and relatives at home and to a vast extent well adapted, integrated and oftentimes even assimilated (Germany) not only the geographical location of the country allows for a strong influx of western influence, funds, technology and principles.Islamic Orthodoxy seems to be far less penetrated throughout this society. The standard of living is also much higher. Istanbul, as opposed to Tehran, looks and feels like a vibrant western capital.

Yes, Erdogan seems to be the man at present, as only 2 years ago Barack Obama was celebrated like a Messiah in the US. Support for the EU is fading, no doubt, but I understand those feelings as a reaction to being rebuffed for years now, due to political reasons. It is in a way the logical reaction of an offended, proud people.

However, this nation has clearly seen and understood the superiority of a basically secular, democratic, capitalistic system, which is why I do believe this current reactionary trend to be a passing moment. There is a healthy political debate going on in Turkey. They do have a political, outspoken Opposition. The do have real elections and they do even have strong ties to Israel, even, if at present not publizised. When push comes to shove, Turkey will always go for prosperity rather than misguided ideology.

I dare to venture that there is indeed a competition between Iran and Turkey, however, the turks will be smart enough to recognize how Islamism has damaged Iran and not to making the very same mistakes. While anti-western sentiments are undoubtedly on the rise, I see those trends as mainly political and the tide will turn, as it already turned in the USA. I do not see the same base in Turkey, from which Islamists can recruit. Their society is too open and too networked with Europe. So far, I have yet to hear about a terrorist of turkish origin, supporting Al Kaeda.

For aforementioned reasons, I happen to disagree with Dr. Pipes' conclusions. I see Turkey eventually as part of the EU, even a possible model state for a muslim nation with western structures. Erdogan will become a footnote in history, while Khomeini will be hailed in Iran for decades to come.

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