Iran and the future of political Islam

Reul Marc Gerecht had an interesting op-ed in the New York Times today.  Gerecht is a former CIA Iran specialist and affiliated with some fairly conservative think tanks.  I’m not sure I agree with everything that Gerecht says, but he raises an important question: What does this revolution mean for the future of political Islam?

Yet in the current demonstrations we are witnessing not just the end of the first stage of the Iranian democratic experiment, but the collapse of the structural underpinnings of the entire Islamic approach to modern political self-rule. Islam’s categorical imperative for both traditional and fundamentalist Muslims —“commanding right and forbidding wrong” — is being transformed.


Westerners would do well to understand the magnitude of what is transpiring in the Islamic Republic. Iran’s revolution shook the Islamic world. It was the first attempt by militant Muslims to prove that “Islam has all the answers” — or at least enough of them to run a modern state and make its citizenry more moral children of God. But the experiment has failed. The so-called June 12th revolution is the Iranian answer to the recurring hope in Islamic history that the world can be reborn closer to the Prophet Muhammad’s virtuous community. Millions of Iranians said in the presidential election, and more powerfully on the streets since, that they want out of Ayatollah Khomeini’s dream, which has become a nightmare.

The conventional wisdom–at least in my education–is that Iran’s Islamic Revolution was the catalyst for Islamists around the world.  So if that proves itself a failure (because it lacks popular support) will it deflate Islamists everywhere?


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