One wants to be a martyr, and the other should be persuaded
Mousavi, during a Saturday June 20, 2009 speech to his faction of jihadists in southern Tehran stated , “…he was ready for martyrdom and that he would continue his path.” Now if only Ahmadinejad could be persuaded to martyr himself as well, and the movements of both men were then disempowered, if not dissolved, by whatever means….Hope springs eternal.
“The Mujtahids and Mulla are a great force in Persia and concern themselves with every department of human activity from the minutest detail of personal purification to the largest issues of politics.”
The Persianophilic scholar E.G. Browne wrote those words, above, in the 1920s about the entire Pre-Pahlavi period of Shiite theocratic rule, from Shah Ismail at the outset of the 16th, century through 1925. These Shi’ite clerics emphasized the notion of the ritual uncleanliness (najas) of Jews, in particular, but also Christians, Zoroastrians, and others, as the cornerstone of inter-confessional relationships toward non-Muslims. The impact of this najas conception was already apparent to European visitors to Persia during the reign of the first Safavid Shah, Ismail I (1502-1524). The Portuguese traveler Tome Pires observed (between 1512-1515), “Sheikh Ismail…never spares the life of any Jew,” while another European travelogue notes, “…the great hatred (Ismail I) bears against the Jews…”. During the reign of Shah Tahmasp I (d. 1576), the British merchant and traveler Anthony Jenkinson (a Christian), when finally granted an audience with the Shah,
…was required to wear ‘basmackes’ (a kind of over-shoes), because being a giaour [infidel], it was thought he would contaminate the imperial precincts…when he was dismissed from the Shah’s presence, [Jenkinson stated] ‘after me followed a man with a basanet of sand, sifting all the way that I had gone within the said palace’- as though covering something unclean.
These prevailing attitudes lead to the virtual extinction of Zoroastrianism in Iran and the brutal oppression of all the other pre-Islamic non-Muslim minorities, including prominently, Jews and Armenian Christians, and since the 19th century, followers of the “post-Islamic” Bahai movement in Iran (the headquarters of the Bahai has been re-located, with some irony, to the “Little Satan,” Israel, mainly in Haifa). The so-called “Khomeini revolution,” which deposed the secular, Western oriented regime of Mohammad Reza Shah, was in reality a mere return in full (including najas regulations etc.) to oppressive Shi’ite theocratic rule, the predominant form of Persian/Iranian governance since 1502.
One need only watch this surreal pre-election “debate” between the head of the Khameini faction, Ahmadinejad, and the champion of the Rafsanjani faction, Mousavi-“Hizballahi” (see reference below) to understand the closed circle which Iran remains. They don’t disagree on “issues” such as Holocaust denial, or brutality to prisoners of war—let alone the notion that Iran remain an oppressive, jihadist theocratic Shiite Islamic State—in the mold of their ultimate spiritual leader the late Ayatollah Khomeiini—they have trivial tactical disagreements, and are in a jealous power struggle between themselves and the competing jihadist factions they represent.
A widely circulating letter, much ballyhooed as revealing the true struggle of the “mass” of secular democratic Iranians yearning—no, striving and “jihading” to create a society which comports with the uniquely defining freedoms and rule of law in the West—contains this revealing observation widely ignored by fantasists across the political spectrum. The writer announces proudly how “Hizballahi” and “Chaadoris” are to be seen cavorting together with other elements of the Iranian population all supposedly determined to make some undefined “change” because they feel “insulted.” Oh I think it is quite clear since 1979—or even 1502—what insults those with “Hizballahi,” and “Chaadori” mindsets, and what “changes” they seek.
Unless there is a civil war between the two dominant jihadist factions which debilitates both enough for some truly secular and Western faction to emerge from the power vacuum, Iran will remain what it has been largely remained (barring the period of more secular Western leaning, albeit rather brutal rule from 1925-1979, under the Pahlavis) since 1502—an oppressive Shiite theocracy.
Iranians as a whole—let alone the Mousavi versus Ahmadinejad factionalists displaying their competing sentiments on the streets of Iran—are very far removed from honestly addressing the conundrum posed by the Iranian secularist and historian Reza Afshari, a decade ago:
“Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran has presented an almost perfect case. Who is more culturally and religiously authentic than the Ayatollah’s? Who is more credible to say what relevance Shiite culture has or does not have for the major issues of our time? The issue is not Islam as a private faith of individuals. It is about what state officials claiming Islamic authority might have to say about the state’s treatment of citizens. Islamic cultural relativism in human rights discourse addresses Islamic cultural preferences for the articulation of public policies within the contemporary state. In Iran, liberal Muslims or any other new interpreters of Islam did not come to power. When and if they do, we will have their record to examine. What we have from liberal Muslims today are only ideological claims punctuated by expressed good intentions.”