This paper will describe how religion has been used in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to advanced political agendas in Iran.
Iran and Iraq have a majority of Shittes which are mistakenly viewed as the most militant and fanatical believers in their faith. Most Muslim countries are Sunnis and most al-Qaeda are Sunni. The Islamic revolution turned the emphasis back to Islam. Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini studied with the famous Islamic scholar Yazdi Ha’iri. Once Ha’iri left Arak for the city of Qom in 1923, Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini Khomeini followed. In March 31, 1961, Ayatollah Boroujerdi died and Khomeini was in a place to take up the mantle of Supreme Leader. After publication of his literatures on Islamic doctrines and science, numerous Shi’ite Iranians began to see Khomeini as an individual to be copied. Supreme Leader Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini used the emotional power of Shia lore to help him gain power in Iran. Iran is an Islamic republic that is ruled by clerics. Shittes wanted Ali to be the successor to the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis wanted a new leader with wisdom, piety, leadership ability, and competence. Shittes have an established clergy and stress the importance of Prophets family who are allowed black turbans. Shittes are the overwhelmingly the majority of the population. Iran was the only country that Shittes have the majority of population. Before 1979, Shitte clergy wanted an Islamic version of the separation of church and state. (Hauss, C., Haussman, M. , 2013, pg 371)
Supreme Leader Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini imposed restrictions on Iran more than a century of openness for them in the workplace and society. Restrictions were imposed on women in Iran after 1979. Before the revolution, women could wear trendy clothes, but after Islamic Revolution, they had to wear a head scarf, veil, and manteau. If their ankles showed from running up stairs, they were arrested. The Constitutional Revolution of 1905 to 1911 succeeded at first in firming up the legal status of Islam, then strengthening the state, instituting economic reforms and codifying the legal system. (Hauss, C., Haussman, M. , 2013,pg 376)
Under the white revolution in 1963, the SAVAK (Organization of Intelligence and National Security ) was enforcing both modernization and the Shah’s power. The clerics had reduced influence in daily life, women rights were extended and training and equipment for the military were provided. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989) was a Cleric of Qom and built his reputation and charisma largely because he was a religious leader above politics and was exceptional at Islam knowledge. Ayatollah Khomeini gave more political power to Shitte followers. In June 1963, Khomeini prepared a speech signifying that if the Shah did not alter Iran’s political direction, the public would be glad to see him leave Iran. The Shah had encouraged relations with the United States, and to be what Khomeini reflected “soft” on Israel. This prompted Khomeini to speak his certainty that Jews would take over Iran and that the U.S. wanted all Iranians to be slightly more than slaves to America’s Western standards. When Khomeini was released from prison in 1964, the Shah and his followers tried to convince him to stay out of political life. The Khomeini administration dramatically transformed religious and political landscapes, making Shia Islam an inseparable element from the country’s political structure. The new concept of Vvelayat-e faqih or rule of the Islamic jurist is in Supreme Leader Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini’s book called “Hokumat-e Islami” which argued that the government should be run by sharia law and restore Islamic ideology. He made Islamic fundamentalism a political force. Ruhollah Khomeini advanced a theory of what a state created on Islamic values and ran by the clergy would be like, called Velayat-e faqeeh. He developed his theory at a home-grown Islamic school, and made available to other Iranians. He also created videotapes of his addresses, which were trafficked into and sold in Iranian bazaars. Through these approaches, Khomeini became the acknowledged leader of the Iranian disapproval of the Shah government. Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini was placed under house arrest, but created a large mob gathering. Khomeini was released due to Prime Minister Mansour needing public acceptance. Land reform did the Shah the most harm. The peasants were unequipped to run the farms, and had to take out huge loans they couldn’t repay. In 1975, Ruhollah Khomeini released a triumphant statement in support of the activists against the Shah. He acknowledged that “freedom and liberation from the bonds of imperialism” was forthcoming. The Shah failed to see that his power and reforms were an illusion so he became distant from the population. More protests happened in 1978 at Ruhollah Khomeini’s resistance, and were once more laid down brutishly by Iranian government forces. Ruhollah Khomeini was opposed by Iraqi soldiers and specified a choice: either abandon all political action in Iraq, or live in exile. While Americans were doing business with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Iranians were insulted by American sexual openness and drinking. They used the OPEC money to buy billions of dollars of weapons. The new Iranian government and the Carter Administration of the U.S. arrived a standoff I which was under the pressure of sanctions and oil embargoes imposed by the U.S. on Iran called the Iranian Hostage Crisis. . Many who objected against Ruhollah Khomeini government were executed, and Khomeini had his policies and beliefs educated in public schools. Ruhollah Khomeini believed his ideas needed to be exported which started the Iran-Iraq War. (Hauss, C., Haussman, M. , 2013, pg 377-380) (Bruno, G., 2008)(Biography, 2013)
When the Iran-Iraq War ended in a stalemate, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei replaced Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khemeini as supreme leader, and Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani became the new President, and the balance of power shifted to the more moderate Rafsanjani who lead the Islamic Revolution in the 1980s. He wanted to reform the economy that was hurt by costs of war with Iraq and boycott USA and America’s allies. Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani had widespread support, because he was backed by the vast majority of conservative clerics. In 1989, he won the presidential election with 95% of the vote. In a country that does not have religious freedom, democracy will not work. Khomeini is also well known for releasing a fatwa calling for the death of Indian-British writer Salman Rushdie for his book called The Satanic Verses in 1989. (Hauss, C., Haussman, M. , 2013, pg 380-382)
Ayatollah Ali Khatami was elected in 1997 after Rafsanjani finished his second term. Khatami fought against censorship. Ayatollah Ali Khatami supported more rights for women, membership of religious and ethnic minority groups and stressed strengthening civil society. The clerics refused to allow moderates and reformists to run in the 2004 Majills election so there was a conservative landslide. Ahmadinejad is the first outsider and conservative leader than the Supreme Leader and is outside the clergy. Iran began to become more conservative and resistant to the West and to reform at home. The Iranians have stepped up criticisms of Israel and their nuclear program (Hauss, C., Haussman, M. , 2013, pg 382-384)(biography, 2013)
The Supreme leader is the top of the Iran’s political and religious hierarchy and is the de-facto leader of the executive branch. The Supreme Leader oversees the military, appoints military and judicial leaders, supervises the constitution, and has general state policy. The Supreme leader appoints commanders for the Revolutionary Guards. The Assembly of Experts is an 86 member body of senior Clergymen who selects the Supreme Leader. The Majlis is the 250 member parliament of 30 Iranian providences. The Council of Guardians has 26 members who review election candidates for consistency with Islamic Law. The Supreme Court judiciary is appointed by the Supreme Leader while the Special Clerical Court is a clerical court for trying Clergy of crimes. (Bruno, G., 2008).
This paper described how religion has been used in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to advanced political agendas in Iran.
Hauss, C., Haussman, M. (2013). Chapter 11 – Iran
pg. 83-96. Comparative Politics – Domestic Responses to Global Challenges, 8th Edition
Thomson Wadsworth, United States of America
Bruno, G. (2008, June 19) Religion and Politics in Iran
Retrieved October 22, 2013 from CFR website
Anonymous (2013) Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini biography
Retrieved October 22, 2013 from Biography website