A few short weeks ago, some in the Muslim world were bold enough to suggest that America’s problems in Iraq represented the beginning of the end for its hegemonic power. That may yet prove to be true; but George W. Bush’s belligerent warmongering against Iran suggests that celebrations may be premature. Although America has become caught in a quagmire inIraq, its ability to twist events to its advantage is by no means undiminished; it is, for example, no coincidence that Bush’s political moves against Iran come at a time of increasing anti-Shi’i sectarianism among Sunni Muslims, as a result of perceptions of events in Iraq. Among both rulers and commentators in Arab countries, and even within Islamic movements, there has been increasing talk of a clash between Sunni and Shi’i power in the region, a mood that is undoubtedly being promoted in order to justify Arab regimes’ support for US action againstIran, and to discourage Arab peoples from supporting Iran.
From the very genesis of the Islamic Revolution, its enemies used sectarianism to try to alienate other Muslims from it. Such was the clear achievement of the Revolution, the stature of Imam Khomeini, and the example of the Islamic State, that this policy had limited success, even as anti-Shi’i ideas were deliberately spread by the Saudis and others claiming to be promoting Islam. Nonetheless, over time the propaganda against Iran has had an effect, aided also, we should acknowledge, by errors and failures on the part of Iran. All too often, for example, Iranian officials alienated sympathisers elsewhere in the Ummah by failing to rise above their own Shi’i-centric understanding of the Revolution. The nationalistic outlook of many Iranian diplomats and foreign policy functionaries was also alienating, as well as being totally inconsistent with the broad, inclusive Islamic ethos represented by Imam Khomeni and the Revolutionary leaders that followed him. Such errors were perhaps inevitable; despite being the realization of universal Islamic principles and values, the Revolution was still the product of a particular historic process in a particular place at a particular time, and so bound to be shaped by the effects of those circumstances. The same is true of the struggles in Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and everywhere else in the Muslim world, of course; and none of the Muslims and movements engaged in those struggles are any less a part of the Islamic movement for that.
It is that the leaders and people of Iran have confirmed, after decades of propaganda to the contrary, that the principles and values of Islam can be used as the foundation of a modern state in a modern society, and that an Islamic state can prosper as such.
Iran stands as an example of an Islamic country that rejects Western hegemony and is charting its own path in the modern world, proving that Islam can be modern and progressive. Doing so, it is developing the most dynamic political and social institutions in the Muslim world today
Let us recall the achievement of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It is not only that the Iranian people succeeded in overthrowing a strong and established western-supported ruler, regarded as a pillar of stability in the region. It is not only that they have succeeded in maintaining their independence from Western imperialism for nearly three decades, despite all the efforts of the Western powers to defeat or suborn the Revolutionary Islamic State. In fact, their greatest achievement is not defined in contrast to the West at all. It is that the leaders and people of Iran have confirmed, after decades of propaganda to the contrary, that the principles and values of Islam can be used as the foundation of a modern state in a modern society, and that an Islamic state can prosper as such. For decades since the colonial period, Muslims had been told that modern societies had to be western societies; that Islam had been outstripped by scientific and technological progress and the modernization of societies, and could no longer provide the basis for social orders. Always there were Muslims who rejected such arguments, but increasingly Muslims, particularly educated ones (which came to mean Western-educated ones) implicitly or effectively accepted them. Until the Islamic Revolution in Iran: all its errors and failures are stepping stones on the path of history. All the propaganda against it notwithstanding, Iran stands as an example of an Islamic country that rejects Western hegemony and is charting its own path in the modern world, proving that Islam can be modern and progressive. Doing so, it is developing the most dynamic political and social institutions in the Muslim world today.
Western intellectuals have long since declared the failure of “political Islam”, more in hope than expectation. Islamic Iran stands before us as a beacon proving them wrong and providing an example for Islamic movements everywhere to emulate, insha’Allah.