Iran and the Battle Against Theocracy

I don’t know if I have anything to say about the situation in Iran that hasn’t already been said. And normally, that’s enough to keep my mouth shut. But this time, despite my near-paralyzing fear of being trite, I feel that I need to say something:

I support the protesters in Iran.

And not just for the obvious reasons. Not just because the recent election was almost certainly rigged; not just because legitimate dissent is being violently suppressed; not just because the Iranian government is shooting its own citizens in the streets.

I support the protesters in Iran because they are striking a blow against theocracy.

When Ahmadinejad’s “election” was pronounced as valid and Allah-favored by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — the leader of the Iranian theocracy — the protestors took to the streets anyway.

And when Supreme Leader Khamenei warned the protestors that their demonstrations were illegal and that further demonstrations would be firmly shut down and harshly punished… the protestors took to the streets anyway.

In Iran, this is a big honking deal. This isn’t just garden- variety anti- authoritarianism. This is defiance of the very notion of theocracy. Faced with a choice between a hope for a legitimately elected government, and a religious/ political leader telling them what to do and calling it the word of Allah… they’re going with the hope for a legitimately elected government. The very idea that a religious leader has political authority over them is being rejected, in the most blunt manner imaginable.

This is not an original idea with me. It has been said before, better than I’m saying it. But it’s important, and it bears saying again, by multiple voices: Plenty of people in Iran do not support the brutal, despotic, nutball, Holocaust- denying, theocratic government. Plenty of people in Iran are even pretty okay with America and Americans — even more so, now that Americans on Twitter and Facebook have been so instrumental in getting the word out about what’s happening there. (Remember this when you remember the right-wing tirades about the axis of evil, or John McCain’s clever little “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” ditty. These are the people they were talking about.)

I doubt that many of the protesters in Iran are atheists. Most of them seem to be moderate Muslims. And I obviously don’t agree with them about that. But that is completely irrelevant. They are fighting theocracy on the front lines, in ways that I strongly doubt I would have the courage to do. I am supporting them against the Islamic theocracy of their government, and I want to help them in any way that I can.

To find out what you can do to help, you can follow Mousavi’s page on Facebook. No, really. His favorite movie is Groundhog Day, and he’s looking for an untraceable cel phone in Mafia Wars.

Iran and the Battle Against Theocracy
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9 thoughts on “Iran and the Battle Against Theocracy

  1. 1

    I’m not sure that they’re protesting theocracy. After all, the opposition candidate doesn’t represent a big change from the supposed winner. And both are approved of by the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader. If I understand correctly, nobody even runs in Iran without such approval. Given that state of affairs I’m inclined to think that they’re simply protesting the rigged nature of the election, not necessarily the policies of Ahmadinejad.

  2. 3

    Hi Greta
    Great comments, I deeply like your comments about spirituality and faith. I am a practitioner of Zen and work with prisoners, I am starting to keep a file on your comments, keep on keepin’ on sister, oh by the way being a passionate older adult man, your comments and links on sexuality and fun are great. I often want to write something about some of us, whose machinery is not working so well (cancer, etc.)but still have soft lips, tonques that love to search, and hands and fingers that can do the job and some of us even have little machines that help us along the way….it an’t big but it last a long time….got is? Well thank for your blog….peace ko shin

  3. 4

    One of the things that I find most interesting about the protesters is that they are using green to represent themselves. Green is traditionally the color associated with Islam, yet they are going against the supposed voice of Allah in Iran.
    I haven’t managed to develop that thought any further, but it somehow seems significant.

  4. 5

    I am old enough to remember the shocking courage with which Iranians took to the streets against the Shah. Like most leftist westerners, I shared their loathing of hereditary despots and failed to recognize the threat of the theocratic variety.
    Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are monsters. I hope they won’t be replaced by another set.
    I’m troubled by the green displays (and the fact that the Iranian system permitted such an obvious use of religious symbols by an ‘opposition’ candidate), by the pre-fixing of elections by religious screening of candidates, and by Moussavi’s association with previous theocrats.
    Still and all, I hope they can bring this batch of bastards down.

  5. 7

    I think the recurrent quibbles (see the first comment by scott above) that Moussavi is also a Islamic Revolutionary Council-approved candidate rather entirely miss the point: Moussavi campaigned on a platform of reform, and his campaign prominently featured his wife as an active independent campaigner – just one indicator of his comparatively progressive agenda. The people’s protests make it abundantly clear that they want the sort of progress Moussavi represents, and I think it is quite beside the point to focus on whether or not Moussavi would actually turn out to be as progressive in office as his rhetoric was on the campaign trail.
    Moreover, the people’s rejection of the regressive politics and failed policies of Ahmadinejad – which is represented by the fact that he clearly lost the actual vote by a wide margin, whatever phony election results were published by the Iranian powers-that-be – is probably less important than the people’s willingness to stand up to the thuggery of the Ayatollah Khameini’s post-election crackdown. The Iranian people’s ongoing protests indicate not just support of Moussavi and rejection of Ahmadinejad, but opposition to their entire illegitimate, tyrannical, totalitarian theocratic government. I think it is not just implausible, but simply false to assert that this protest is solely about the transparently rigged election – because the words and actions of so many Iranians indicate otherwise.
    One need not support Mir Hussein Moussavi in particular to support the Iranian people’s fight against theocracy. So stop quibbling, and stand up and be counted in support of the Iranian people already.

  6. 8

    It is not a ‘quibble’ to worry about the bona fides of supposed reformers. Has G Felis forgotten Khomeini, the late, great ‘pro-democracy-human-rights-supporting-ally-of-progressives?’
    Or our own great ‘reformers’ like Huey Long, Hoover and Reagan?
    Azar Majedi has a post on Dawkins’ site [] which balances the concerns of us ‘quibblers’ with the hope for a real revolution in Iran.

  7. 9

    As I understand it, Islam doesn’t recognise a single religious leader who must be obeyed. There are only scholars of Islamic law and tradition, each with a greater or lesser degree of seniority and respect. So from a religious perspective, for a Shia Muslim to defy Khamenei is not nearly as bad as, say, a Catholic defying the Pope. In fact, while he sits at the top of Iran’s political hierarchy, Khamenei is not particularly senior among the religious scholars. (And Ahmedinejad is not a cleric at all, he is an engineer by training and former soldier.) So I don’t think the protesters are breaking any tenets of Islam, or even necessarily opposing the concept of theocracy, when they resist Khamenei and Ahmedinejad.
    I think the conflict in Iran is best understood as the hardline religious, against the reformist religious and the secular. The reformist Muslims may be just as devout as the hardliners, they just have a different interpretation of the religion.
    BTW I am a British atheist and not an expert on Islam or Iran, this is just based on what I have read. The BBC has some useful material, for instance:
    Having said all that, the protesters in Iran are brave and admirable, and I hope they win.

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