Archive for April, 2009

Response to Enlightenment Post: Iran

My response to Enlightenment post, which was a response to my response to his response to my response to…umm yea…

Majority of the government are NOT made up of clergy. And some of the harshest critics of the government are clergy. So your conclusion here is somewhat unfounded.

if we cant even agree that Iran is a theocracy, there’s no point in having a discussion. whether shias disagree with the statement that iran represents shi’ism is besides the point…sticking to facts, it is the only shia state with a majority shia population, ruled by a shia government. so when i criticize iran’s politics it’s fair to say that i’m criticizing a shia state, just like when i criticize saudi, its fair to say that im criticizing a sunni state.

the guardian council is charged with interpreting the constitution AND vetting candidates. all legislation has to be approved by the gc…and candidates have been disqualified by the gc on the basis of their perceived religiousosity. the supreme leader, who appoints members of the gc with the help of the chief judge (whom he also chooses), has the last word on all powerful posts, is in charge of defense, media, appoints the head of the judiciary, and handles foreign affairs…criticizing government can and has been equated with apostasy in iran…how is it the case that government and clergy are not one and the same?

Can you tell me who this “one guy” is? What are his qualifications? Furthermore, can you tell me how he was appointed? By whom?

the qualifications of the supreme leader are also besides the point..obviously he’s an ayatollah. for such a self correcting system, there are an awful lot of unaddressed issues such as the lack of freedom of expression…reformists are routinely censored by their government…they’ve shut down critical media…iran has behaved like any other oppressive government. how many activists have been placed under house arrest? what about those who have been given death sentences for speaking out against government?

Look, there is no perfect system out there. We are all trying our best to be just and fair. Iran has issues, as does all other governments.

Of course there isn’t a perfect system, but people shouldn’t have to settle for the status quo because of it. im especially tired of this mentality that the muslim world isnt capable of anything better, because essentially thats saying they are undeserving of the kinds of freedoms and opportunities people in the West have. it’s like when i hear ignorant arabs justify saddam’s rule by claiming that the iraqi people could only be ruled with an iron fist. not that i’m equating saddam with iran, but i just simply refuse to believe in this idea that people have to settle for something because it’s the best they have going for them…

However, I don’t think its fair to lump the Islamic Republic with the corrupt Arab regimes. Let us be fair. The literacy, democracy, education, advancement, spiritual development, and so forth that is produced in Iran is unmatched in the Arab world.

I agree completely.

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Response to Response to “Reformation Post”

so i’m writing this in response to a blogger’s post, which was a response to my previous post on questions of Sunni leadership and authority…

(SEE: Response to “Reformation” Post)

I don’t believe Iran = Shia anymore than I believe Saudi or other Arab regimes are legitimate representatives of Sunni Islam. I’m well aware of how far back Shia Islam stretches and how widespread the communities are, but my criticism had to do with Ali’s suggestion that the problem (of ignorance and corruption that is induced by a dysfunctional religious authority) is limited to the Sunni world. Iran physically and symbolically represents Shias all over (I don’t care what California’s Shias believe) and has a majority Shia population. Its government and laws are based on the Jaffari school of thought…the relationship between clergy and government is especially prominent in Iran because they are one and the same. So it’s fair to say that this distinctly Shia part of the world is not immune from corruption that results from political and religious entanglement. It’s just a different sort.

The stagnation I mentioned is in the greater society…in terms of poverty and restrictions on personal freedoms. Regarding the makeup of the Guardian Council, the six religious jurists are chosen by the Supreme Leader and the six secular jurists are chosen by the majlis, whose members in turn are nominated by the head jurist, who in turn is selected by the…

So in the end we have a system that always circles back to one guy…within this narrow space though, there’s def a system of checks and balances that is lacking in Arab countries.

With that being said and keeping Iran aside, religious authority in the Shia world is based on a well developed process that produces a highly qualified clergy. Its spiritual leaders will generally not draw a following unless they have been vetted through this process. The reason the Sunni world has failed on these grounds is because for Shias, the system was developed overtime in response to the disappearance of the final Imam. The clergy are meant to be his representatives in the interim and not just any bearded old man can be entrusted with that responsibility. There is an active scholarship that occurs in the Shia world that is for the most part absent in the Sunni world.

So yes, props to Shias for having an organized and effective religious leadership that is actively engaged in scholarship. But as you noted in your post, Iran too has its problems and the symptoms its society suffers from don’t look altogether different from that of the Arab world minus the gaping spiritual black hole.

Power corrupts…always…

And aint nobody gonna censor your thoughts fool.

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