New front against Islamic Iran: questioning people’s adherence to faith

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Jumada' al-Akhirah 15, 1442 2021-01-28

Daily News Analysis

by Zafar Bangash

Funeral prayers for General Qassem Solaimani and his companions

Since the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran 42 years ago (January-February 1979), the country has been subjected to a wide array of attacks.

It has withstood all these attacks primarily because of its muttaqi leadership, support of the masses and the adherence of both to Islam and its pristine principles.

Having failed in all the attacks—assassinations, wars, sabotage and vicious sanctions—the enemies of the Islamic Republic have now opened a new front: to project the idea that people in Iran are moving away from religion.

What’s the proof for this allegation?

A survey conducted by an organization calling itself Gamaan (The Group for Measuring and Analyzing Attitudes in Iran) was released in August 2020 (www.gamaan.org).

The lead researchers were Ammar Maleki, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at Tilburg University, and Pooyan Tamimi Arab, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

The study was financially supported by and carried out in cooperation with Dr. Ladan Boroumand, cofounder of and senior fellow at the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Who finances the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran and who was Boroumand? We will shed light on both.

The upshot of the “survey” is that Iranians have lost interest in religion with some even abandoning it altogether because the government is imposing it from the top!

What’s the proof for such a bold assertion?

“It becomes an existential question. The state wants you to be something that you don’t want to be,” said Pooyan Tamimi Arab, one of the organizers of the Iran survey, speaking in an interview.

“Political disappointment steadily turned into religious disappointment… Iranians have turned away from institutional religion on an unprecedented scale.”

The survey was conducted among 50,000 individuals, the majority being Iranians. Others surveyed were respondents in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Quite aside from the question of how the survey was conducted, who were surveyed in Iran and in which cities, the claim that “Iranians have turned away from institutional religion on an unprecedented scale” is simply not borne out by the survey itself.

For instance, 78.3% of people believe in God; 37.3% believe in life after death and 30.1% believe in heaven and hell.

These figures can hardly lead to the conclusion that Iranians are moving away from religion, even if it is termed “institutional religion”.

In another chart (Figure 3) of the survey, people’s attitudes toward religion are tabulated.

When asked if they changed from being religious to non-religious, faith/belief did not change, or even became religious after being non-religious, the following figures are provided.

(Age:50+): Religious to non-religious: 41.1%; No change: 47.5%; Non-religious to religious: 5.4%

(Age: 30-49) Religious to non-religious: 46.0%; No change: 40.8%; Non-religious to religious: 6.9%

(Age: 20-29) Religious to non-religious: 51.8%; No change: 38.9%; Non-religious to religious: 4.7%

The urban/rural divide is as follows:

Urban: Religious to non-religious: 48.3%; No change: 41.6%; Non-religious to religious: 4.9%

Rural: Religious to non-religious: 41.1%; No change: 41.0%; Non-religious to religious: 10.9%

If we combine the figures for people whose faith/religious belief did not change with those that moved from being non-religious to becoming more religious, the following picture emerges:

Age (50+): Religious to non-religious: 41.1%; No change/Non-religious to religious combined: 52.9%

Age (30-49): Religious to non-religious: 46.0%; No change/Non-religious to religious combined: 47.7%

Age (20-29): Religious to non-religious: 51.8%; No change/Non-religious to religious combined: 43.6%

Urban: Religious to non-religious: 48.3%; No change/Non-religious to religious combined: 46.5%

Rural: Religious to non-religious: 41.1%; No change/Non-religious to religious combined: 51.9%

The above figures hardly support the researchers’ claim that people in Iran are moving away from religion.

Let us look at who Boroumand was, what the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran does, and who finances it?

Boroumand was a close associate of the last Iranian prime minister Shahpour Bakhtiar at the time of the Islamic revolution.

Both were members of the National Front, a secular outfit with little support in the country, especially in the days leading up to and after the Islamic revolution in Iran.

When Bakhtiar fled Iran and went to Paris, he stayed at the apartment of Boroumand.

They also established the National Movement of the Iranian Resistance (NAMIR) in August 1980 to overthrow the Islamic government in Iran.

Both Bakhtiar and Boroumand were killed in Paris. Their assailants were never caught.

Boroumand’s daughter, Dr Ladan Boroumand established the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran, not in Paris but in the US.

According to its own website, “In the last 5 years, the Center has received approximately 72% of its support from private North American and European foundations, 21% of its support from European and North American public funding, and individual donors provided 7% of ABC funding.”

While the website does not name the private and public North American and European foundations, it is not difficult to guess who has provided 93% of its funding.

The US has such ‘champions’ supporting 'democracy' in other countries as the Foundation for the defence of Democracies (FDD).

Its donors include well-known Islamophobes and anti-Iran, pro-Israel figures.

Is it too far-fetched to assume that the Boroumand Center is also the recipient of largesse from FDD, the well-known Iran-hating outfit?

How much credence can one give to a ‘survey’ that is funded by such a dubious organization? It is hardly neutral, having been established by people whose avowed aim is to overthrow the Islamic system of governance in Iran.

The question, however, is why would Iranians abandon religion when it is the source of their strength?

Tens of millions of people from all walks of life participated in the funeral processions of General Qassem Solaimani, one of the most beloved figures of the Islamic Republic who was martyred in a missile attack fired by a US drone on January 3, 2020.

That alone should dispel any notion that the people of Iran have or are moving away from religion.

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