Iran’s Theocracy Has Bred Secularization

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

Would an American-Backed UN Resolution Calling for a Temporary Ceasefire Undermine Israel?

Yesterday morning, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by Algeria, that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. As an alternative, the American delegation has been circulating a draft resolution calling for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” Benny Avni comments:

While the Israel Defense Force may be able to maintain its Gaza operations under that provision, the U.S.-proposed resolution also warns the military against proceeding with its plan to enter the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Israel says that a critical number of Hamas fighters are hiding inside tunnels and in civilian buildings at Rafah, surrounded by a number of the remaining 134 hostages.

In one paragraph, the text of the new American resolution says that the council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

In addition to the paragraph about Rafah, the American-proposed resolution is admonishing Israel not to create a buffer zone inside Gaza. Such a narrow zone, as wide as two miles, is seen by many Israelis as a future protection against infiltration from Gaza.

Perhaps, as Robert Satloff argues, the resolution isn’t intended to forestall an IDF operation in Rafah, but only—consistent with prior statements from the Biden administration—to demand that Israel come up with a plan to move civilians out of harms way before advancing on the city.

If that is so, the resolution wouldn’t change much if passed. But why is the U.S. proposing an alternative ceasefire resolution at all? Strategically, Washington has nothing to gain from stopping Israel, its ally, from achieving a complete victory over Hamas. Why not instead pass a resolution condemning Hamas (something the Security Council has not done), calling for the release of hostages, and demanding that Qatar and Iran stop providing the group with arms and funds? Better yet, demand that these two countries—along with Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon—arrest Hamas leaders on their territory.

Surely Russia would veto such a resolution, but still, why not go on the offensive, rather than trying to come up with another UN resolution aimed at restraining Israel?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship, United Nations