Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Power, Religion, and IRI Reformists

Sam Ghandchi

قدرت، مذهب، و اصلاح طلبان جمهوری اسلامی- ویرایش دوم




Note, Jan 1, 2018: For centuries , political power has been separated from religion, and what the Islamic reformists have revived, is the program of Islamist fundamentalists in 21st Century, but in a modified way; the following article was written and published 13 years ago and in this new edition only a few footnotes are added. In this article Richard Rorty's book entitled Future of Religion is also discussed. SG


For years, the IRI state reformists of Iran, hand in hand with the other factions of power in Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), have been in power in this Medieval regime, but always have pretended as if their issue is charity to the democratic and secular forces, and not power.  Basically any force that thinks its ideas are better to govern, should want to take power, and I have no grievance with the IRI state reformists in that regard.  The desire to take power by any political party, not only is not wrong, but it is the highest political goal, or else that party itself does not believe in the effectiveness of its own program.  In a democratic country like the U.S., when the Democratic Party is not in power, it tries to take power in the next elections, and not only this is not a bad action, rather it is an inseparable part of democracy.  Pretending humility and as in Persian expression, to push politics with the hand, when pulling it with the foot, if it is not because of the naïveté of the politician, surely it is to fool the people.  The issue of political power in society, is not an issue of compliments, modesty, and humility, rather it is an issue of driving a political platform in contrast to other platforms, which can end in success and prosperity or failure and destitution of the people.


If a political personality comes, and tells you that s/he is willing to politically cooperate with you, if you promise not to take a political role, that individual is either mistaking the meaning of political party and group with journalism and literary work, or s/he is trying to fool political opponents, and to take advantage of them for her/his political goals.  A political party is after taking power, whereas a journalistic enterprise is after critiquing society and government.  Of course in our political history, there has been a toodehii way of thinking , equating  journalism and political party,  and I have discussed that elsewhere (1), which is not the topic of my discussion here.  Let me return to the topic of religious-political forces.


In Iranian society before the Islamic Republic, a political force by the name of Nehzate Azadi had been active for years, and the main difference in their programs with Jebhe Meli, the main force of Iranian nationalism, was that Nehzate Azadi wanted the mixture of political power and the religion of Islam, otherwise program-wise they were pursuing a nationalist program, and this was why their members referred to themselves as nationalist-religious, a contradictory term which is not my discussion here. In the years after the founding of the Islamic Republic, we have witnessed the creation of another force which has advocated the mixing of state and religion, but is not after nationalism (2).  Part of this force, is the Jebhe Mosharekate Eslami which is formed by part of the IRI technocrats, who mainly want Islamic government without the petrified members of the clergy, meanign those similar to the GC members.  Another part of this political-religious trend, is the Sazmane Mojahedine Enghelabe Eslami, whose criteria governing, is commitment to political Islam, and not high echelons of Feghe va Osool (Sharia), and basically their understanding of Shi'a, just like Sazmane Mojahedine Khalgh, is political Islam and direct relation with God, and absence of need for Akhounds as the intermediary with God. In other words, Jebhe Mosharekat are technocrats who do not see the need for Akhounds to administer the government, and Sazmane Mojahedin Enghelabe Eslami are radials, who have a semi-Protestant religion as their ideal, which again does not need Akhounds, but they both are political Islam.  Of course, the difference between Sazmane Mojahedin Khalgh which was thrown out of power, with these two force is that they have both cooperated with the Akhounds all these 26 years, and this is why all these years they have shared power with mollas and they still do.


What I wrote above is obvious to everyone, and does not need a detailed discussion.  The issue that is my discussion here, is the reality that from Nezhzate Azadi to Jebhe Mosharekat and Mojahedin, they are share in one point that they believe in political Islam, and this is why they have built religious-political organizations.  Whereas the religious people who do not believe in political Islam, have been organized in organizations like Jebhe Meli, and have not been after political power for religion.  Many of the leaders of Jebhe Meli, are in fact religious believers, and their difference with the leaders of religious-political groups, was and is in their belief in not using religion as a political tool, and considering such action as detrimental for Islam, not that they be irreligious themselves, which I have discussed elsewhere (3).


Some people think that Islam has been away from the modern development, and they think this is the reason we are witnessing such political-religious forces in Iran of today.  The reality is that even at the time of mashrootiat and thereafter, many of the progressive religious personalities like Sheikh Mohammad Khiabani, were not pursuing the making of political-religious organizations.  Thus this reasoning today 100 years later, is far from reality.


Some others think that in the international level, contrary to the perception of the eighteenth and nineteenth Century scientists, religion not only has not faded away, but has grown too, and think of this issue to be the reason for the growth of the religious-political groups in Iran and the rest of Middle East.  The reality is that the growth of religion in the world has not meant the growth of political religion, but has been the reverse.  In fact with the growth of science, in these two centuries, legislative, executive, and judicial decisions, in all Modern countries, basically have lost their religious basis.  If someone is executed, it is because of the scientific reasoning of supporters and opponents of execution and not because of religious reasons.


In fact, religion in the West is not the religion of the past, and as Richard Rorty puts it  (4), religion has found a role like charity organizations.  In various areas of knowledge, basically religion has no significance, and scientif is the sole driver, and only in realms of ethics and metaphysics, religion is considered, which has given religion a cultural significance.  Whether  Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, or even Islam, in the modern world, have taken a cultural role, and the Church in the recent century has resembled a charity organization, and the cultural local gathering place, rather than being an organization issuing Crusades and Jihads. Even Islam in Iran, ever since the Constitutional Movement, the political role has been reduced more and more, and the mosque has become a place of social gathering and charity.  In the last century, political power and ideology, showed mixings, in the secular ideologies, such as socialism, and not in religion.  In fact, what has been political Islam in the last quarter of a century, has nothing to do with the growth of religion in the last two centuries, and the retrogression ideological flag, confronting the crisis of industrial society, and against post-industrial development, and why in Middle East it has found the color of Islamic fundamentalism, I have discussed fully elsewhere (5).


Let me return to the topic of political power, parties, and religion.  What we have witnessed in Iran in the last 26 years, is the fact we are not only facing a phenomena like Nehzate Azadi, where a number of Muslims of nationalist movement, in reaction to the Communist movement, turning their nationalist front religious, and to mix political power with religion, rather we are facing forces of Iran's technocrats and religious radicals, who in footsteps of the Islamist fundamentalists, are not negating the mixing of political power and religion, and are offering the so-called state Islamic reformists, side by side with the Islamist fundamentalists.


All the discussions about the growth of religion, are to mislead the public opinion.  The growth of religion in the last two centuries, has been the growth of Church as a charity organization, and not political religion that the advocates of political Islam, whether conservative or reformist, are prescribing for Iran.  In fact, the reason for the revengefulness against religious people in Iran, is because of the mixing of state and religion, and in the West not only has discarded that mixing of state and religion for centuries, but has not returned from that discarding, rather the privatization of religion, has meant the ending of the political mission for religion.  We are not living in the 15th century, to just be searching for a Protestant religion without clergy, to create something like the City of Heretics, Calvin's Geneva, rather our goal, is not to give political power to religion, where through the mollahs, or through the religious-political organizations (6).


Political power has been separated from religion for centuries, and what the Iranian reformists are trying to revive, is the program of the Islamist fundamentalists in 21 st Century, but in its reduced form.  As I have previously discussed (7), I cannot say that in secular state, forming of religious-political parties can be banned, but I should say that creation of such parties in 21st Century is a very retrogressive action. Continuation of religious organizations, essentially can make sense when taking the form of charities, and ethical cultural communities, of the people who share a set of beliefs, otherwise any religious-political organization, can give rise to Medieval religious conflicts and clashes, the fights one could witness all these years in Iran and the rest of Middle East, and during Khatami's government, we saw that the government did not do anything to end the prohibition against the non-religious forces in the political process, whereas all these years, the IRI reformists in their war with the conservatives, benefited from a lot of help of secular forces of Iran. In reality, the IRI state reformists, and even Nehzate Azadi, whose presidential candidate was rejected, were not willing to join the election boycott, because they agree with the conservatives of this government, in the most basic discriminations of this religious-political government, namely the mixing of religion and state, although this mixing, in practice, eliminates them as well, because the religion of rulers, is considered the "true" religion, and their religion, can be called heresy and blasphemy, the way IRI regime called Aghajari.



Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi

May 31, 2005


1. Tudehii Thinking, the Barrier of Iranian Opposition
اندیشه توده ای، سد راه اپوزیسیون، ویرایش دوم

2. An article written in Perian two years ago about the role of Islamist Reformists in Iran after 1981
3. Iran-Futurist Republic-Third Edition
ایران-جمهوری آینده نگر-ویرایش سوم 
4. The Future of Religion, by Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo, Edited by Santiago Zabala, 2005
5. Why Islamism Kills?- Second Edition
چرا اسلامگرائی میکشد؟- ویرایش دوم 
6. About Luther and Calvin
7. What is Secularism 
سکولاریسم چیست؟ 





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