Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tehran 2009- Tianeman Square 1989- Budapest 1956?

What will happen at Iranian mosques on Friday? Friday is the day of public worship for Islam. It will test the "secularity hypothesis" which maintains that oppressive, intolerant religion has abused the Iranian people for the last thirty years. The secularist story goes on: Now, using public dissatisfaction with the election, these abuse victims will revolt against their religious oppressors by staying away from the mosques on Friday and push for a secular society along the lines of the French.

Don't count on it. If my instincts are right, all sides will show up at mosque to declare their Islamic legitimacy. The big question is whether or not it will be civil. Or will there be bloodshed?

If Iranians are like most theists, their sense of justice flows from their understanding of God. (Culture flows from cult; politics flows from ethics which flows from religion.) Hopefully, they will find in their tradition the resources of self and civic criticism potent enough to imbue them with courage to insist on higher standards of liberty, self-government and justice. These will come from mosque not Marx.

Many Westerners imagine that Iranians, fed up with Ahmadinehad, are, therefore, fed up with Islam and want to compete on American Idol, write for the New York Times, vote for Obama or otherwise escape their homeland and renounce the religion of their youth. In other words, they can't wait to be secularists just like the opinionmakers in the "prestige media".

But if American journalists are out of touch with most Americans on issues like abortion, religion, adultery, and same-sex marriage, then imagine how out of touch they are with the lives of 70 million men and women exponentially removed geographically, culturally and religiously from them.

Really, who the heck is protesting in Iran and what is their vision(s) of the future? Maybe they are just fed up with the past. The PIME Catholic writes that "According to Iranian and foreign analysts the people who have come out into the streets are a heterogeneous group. Indistinguishably, many hold up the pictures of Khomeini, Khamenei, Khatami and Mousavi. Some of them are supporters of the loser, who was a hardliner when Khomeini was in power; others are reformists who want to see greater opening to the West."

We just commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Tianeman Square massacre. Now we are witnessing another threat to a regime the West is hoping to see fall. What should the U.S. offer in support, moral or otherwise?
Eisenhower in the Prague uprising of 1956 failed to support the revolutionaries.
Bush failed to support them in China in 1989.
Obama is certainly talking softly, even apologetically.

The results?
Hungary was released from the Soviet Union thirty years after Eisenhower.

China remains controlled by the Communist party although it has undergone a corrupt capitalist economic boom supported by Bush I.

Iran lies in the balance.

But don't bet against the old Ayatollah Khomeini's innovative brand of Islamic Republic. Iranians for a generation have boasted of that as their contribution to the Islam-civil society debate. Khomeini was forward not backward looking in their eyes. He walked a line between the secularist Baathists in Syria and Iraq and the Sunni Wahhabis of Saudia Arabia. Even candidate Mousavi pledged to maintain an Islamic Republic by any means necessary. Change may be on the horizon but I'll be shocked if it's "secularist."

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