Sunday, February 20, 2011

Measure of Democracy: Egypt and Iran (II)

More than two decades of anti-imperialist ideological development rejecting a “Westoxicated” monarchy (see my post “Westoxication”) as the pivotal source of the Iranian problems, internally prepared the alignment of the Iranian intellectuals with the most backward ideological elements of the clergy.

During the protests that led to the Iranian 1979 insurrection, Iranian intellectuals ran head over heels to support Khomeini.  They did not believe Khomeini and his supporters could maintain a lasting control.  The protests which began with the educated class leading it, quickly degenerated into a framework with Islamic political domination to the point that it intimidated secular women.  When they participated there was continuous cajoling from the contingents of chador clad women pressuring the secular women to cover themselves.  Secular men instead of organizing for the rights of the secular women to participate independently gave into this pressure.  They used their own dominant position to bend the women to this reactionary framework helping to create a dominant Islamic clout.  Similar internal development in the Egyptian revolt is fundamentally weaker.  Islamic cultural presence in the Egyptian demonstrations is quite evident but there are no evidence of political domination by the Islamists or the willingness on the parts of the secular segments of the society to forego their independence.
With the downfall of the Shah the momentary solidarity of the revolt degenerated into violent ideological contentions.  Instead of national reconciliation violent revenge against the Shah’s supporters was promoted.  Instead of inclusion of all political tendencies in the transitional government, Khomeini strived for political domination of his brand of Islam.  There was no institution to keep these developments in check.  The situation in Egypt is wholly different.  There are lots of economic, political and social grievances which are expressing themselves more openly but the dominant political trend is toward reconciliation.  This reconciliation process will be challenged with those pent up grievances and its outcome is not determined but so far nothing is pointing to an “Islamic Republic” blueprint.  The pivotal problem of these Islamic societies is the position of women.  Any political development which ignores or tries to postpone this issue will undermine the progress in all fronts.  I believe this is the primary lesson about the internal development of the Iranian revolution of 1979.

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