Iran’s Theocracy Has Bred Secularization

March 14 2023

During the Iranian revolution of 1979, the deep-seated religious feeling of an overwhelmingly traditional and pious population was a major factor in Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s success in establishing an Islamic state. But paradoxically, the effect of totalitarian theocratic rule has been a growing hostility toward religion—the consequences of which are apparent in the ongoing anti-hijab protests. Shay Khatiri argues that these results should be a lesson to anyone who believes that religious coercion can help restore traditional morality and social cohesion:

The reaction against Islam has also turned Iranians away from what American conservatives call family values. The fertility rate is 1.7, below replacement. Fewer people are getting married each day. Instead of traditional religion, the growing nihilism among younger Iranians has made pagan ideals popular. Just for a couple of examples, orgiastic sex parties are popular, and the public attitude toward out-of-wedlock birth is in transition from openness to celebration, both expressions of “the Western openness” of Iranian minds.

In sum, trends American conservatives worry about as signs of a declining civilization are being embraced by increasingly secular Iran as a demonstration of their “open-mindedness” against “rotten” religious mentality. The logic is as follows: whatever Islam stands for is bad, and so the opposite must be good. The integration of Islam and government has meant that Iranians associate the religion with totalitarianism. They don’t just see Islam in its political form as problematic, but rather Islam in itself.

[It is true that] many of America’s contemporary problems are partially the result of the decline in religious practice. The hope for religious revival is a noble one, but using the heavy hand of the state is the best way to accelerate, not reverse, current trends toward secularism. In Iran, religion became the ideology of a failing and oppressive state. Therefore, Iranians want to punish the mosque because it is a symbol of tyranny.

The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks articulated why politics and religion cannot be integrated: in politics, compromise is a necessity, while in religion it’s a sin. The integration of politics and religion in Iran has led to absolutism in government and compromises in the mosque, making the former tyrannical and the latter corrupt and hypocritical, ultimately making both unpopular and unjust.

Read more at Providence

More about: Freedom of Religion, Iran, Jonathan Sacks, Religion and politics, Secularization

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan