WHY DID SHIISM BECOME THE FLAG OF UNITY IN THE 1979 IRANIAN REVOLUTION?
One may wonder that in Modern Times, both in Mashrootiat and in the 1320-32 periods, religion was *not* the rallying point of the Iranian movement, and then why over half a century later in 1979, religion found such a role as the flag of unity in the Iranian Revolution? Below I try to answer this question.
The common cultural, linguistic (choice of a national language), and territorial background have been necessary but not sufficient to form the nation-states. Modern nation-states have *all* been formed on the basis of the formation of a NATIONAL MARKET. The element of religion has always been a subset of the cultural factor in the formation of nation-states and seldom has it been emphasized during the formation of most modern nation-states; because it mostly provokes pre-modern friction and dissension, rather than modern cohesion, which is needed for the formation of a national market.
Actually in the formation of some nation-states, the
emphasis of the religious element has worked against the integration of
nation-states. The Safavis
of Iran who instituted Shiism in
Thus they impeded the formation of Iranian nation-state, by
choosing Shi’a as the focal point of their state, and
they even caused their own downfall in the hands of their Afghani Sunni
dissidents. [Of course it is not so
black and white, because if they had not united
The discrediting of Liberal alternative by the left in
In other words they were still hoping for a true Constitutional Monarchy. But the Shah had no intention of allowing any sharing of power with them till the last days when finally Bakhtiar was allowed to take over, when in fact it was too late and the movement had gone for overthrow of monarchy.
did not recognize that officially Pahlavi Dynasty was
always a constitutional monarchy and this is the best one could get the
monarchy to be in
Also on the other hand, near the time of Iranian revolution, the last breakdowns of the worldwide leftist movement deprived the left from being a serious alternative as well.
I should add that long before the fall of the Soviet Empire,
many common-people of
So, on the eve of Iranian Revolution, the Communism no
longer had any attraction for the common-people of
Thus missing of a flag of unity in the alternatives of
Modern Times, meant the search for a flag of unity in
But the Shah had identified his corrupt and criminal regime with the Ancient Persian traditions for so long. So any Pan-Iranist alternative would have a hard time to legitimize itself, as an opposition to the Shah's regime, a regime which already had called itself the heir of all Persian glory. This is why Pezeshkpour, the legal Pan-Iranist opposition in Majlis, and Dariush Foruhar, the out-of-the-system Pan-Iranist, did not find any significant following in the 1979 Revolution.
In contrast, Shiism, especially after Shah's Enghelab-e Sefid, had become clean from affiliations with the monarchy. Ayatollah Khoemini's strong disassociation and confrontation with the Shah in the 15-Khorad of 1332 had set definitely shown Shi’a alternative as an alternative for overthrowing the Shah's regime, when even the last attempts of people like Sanjabi failed to get Shah to give any concessions for establishing a liberal state in 1977 and 1978.
True, that clergy like Ayatollah Shariatmadari had also flirted with the Shah, but that was exactly why they did not become the main leaders of the Islamic opposition, although they had a higher rank among the Islamic clergy than Ayatollah Khomeini.
Ayatollah Khoemini's strong call for overthrow of monarchy put him and Shiism at the top of the 1979 Revolution at the time that the main Modern Times's alternatives to monarchy, liberalism and socialism, had failed to be attractive and Persianism had been identified more with the Shah's regime than being viewed as an alternative against the Shah.
In short, this is how Shiism became a rallying point in the 1979 Revolution. But it never meant that Iranian nation would define itself by a religion. The more time has passed, the more Islamic Republic is responding to the national aspirations of the Iranian people and itself is becoming a national government rather than a religious government.
The Iranian government has no other choice if it wants to
represent the Iranian people. As I
* The above article was first
posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup