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Jun 26, 2002, 3:31:03 AM6/26/02
Good article (an update on Roy Mottahedeh's MANTLE OF THE PROPHET on
networks and inner workings of Qom). But, alas, his conclusion is only good
for his aunt/be dard-e ammash mikhoreh (as we say in Persian)!


The New York Review of Books
June 27, 2002


Who Rules Iran?

By Christopher de Bellaigue


The Shia seminary town of Qom, seventy-five miles south of
Tehran, is bleak and set in semi-desert, with a dried-up
river going through it. It has few orchards; it is not
renowned for any fruit or pickle. Most of the vegetables
you find here have traveled long distances. The townspeople
produce a sickly caramel, sometimes embedded with shards of
pistachio, called sohan. To escape the soporific effects of
the heat the seminarians work in subterranean libraries. In
the case of bachelor scholars, widows and impoverished
women attend to their physical needs. Some people have
likened Qom to Oxford or Cambridge, for the seminarians
wear black gowns and inhabit cells inside brick-built
colleges that look in on themselves. There, the resemblance
ends. Never in English history were the universities as
mighty as the seminaries of Qom are today.

Qom rose to prominence as a modern seminary town after
Britain seized what is now Iraq from the Ottomans at the
end of World War I. When the clerics of Najaf, an important
Shia shrine town in southern Iraq, incited revolt against
the British, they were expelled; some of these clerics
ended up in Qom, which a prominent ayatollah was reviving
as a center of religious learning. Qom's development was
still not assured; from 1925, the Shah of Iran, Reza
Pahlavi, regarded Islam in general and clerics in
particular as hindrances to his efforts to modernize Iran.
He introduced military service for some clerics and banned
all but the senior clergy from wearing the traditional gown
and turban. He came to Qom to horsewhip a senior ayatollah
who had criticized the Queen's immodest mode of dress.

Clerical resentment of the monarchy increased under Reza's
son, Mohammad Reza, but the theologians of Qom were divided
on whether Islam required that they actively oppose tyranny
or concentrate on their primary duty: studying Islamic law
and transmitting it to believers. In the 1960s, the
activists came under the influence of Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini; and in 1979, after the Shah fled and Khomeini
returned from exile to set up the modern world's only
clerical state, Tehran was its capital but Qom was its

Since then, Qom has been booming. The clerical population
has risen from around 25,000 to more than 45,000, and the
nonclerical population has more than tripled, to about
700,000. It is very hard to calculate the vast sums of
money that flow, in the forms of alms and Islamic taxes, to
Qom's ten senior ayatollahs-called "Objects of Emulation"
because their fellow clerics have pronounced them qualified
to act as models whose behavior and rulings laymen and
lesser clerics can follow. (Every believer is free to
choose the "Object of Emulation" he or she admires most,
whether they are inside or outside Iran.) These donations,
along with state help for favored institutions, have pushed
up the number of seminary schools in Qom to fifty-odd, and
the number of research institutes and libraries to around
250. These institutions produce hundreds of books and
journals every year, and they use the Internet to
disseminate and publicize their findings on subjects like
Islamic law and history, philosophy and political economy.
The municipal council is buying and destroying buildings
that stand in the path of a grand boulevard that has been
projected to lead from the shrine of the sister of one of
Shiism's twelve imams to a grand modern mosque five
kilometers away.[1]

After the revolution, a highway was laid between Qom and
Tehran, making it easy for politicians and bureaucrats to
go back and forth; if you have a reckless driver, the trip
from south Tehran will take you barely an hour. This
spring, Syria's foreign minister, on a visit to Iran, made
an unpublicized nocturnal trip to Qom; he wanted clerical
support for his request, prompted by the US and Lebanon,
that Iran downgrade its relations with Hezbollah. (He got
an ambiguous answer.) The intelligence ministry is said to
have consulted clerics in Qom on the wisdom of exploring
better relations with the US. (Here, too, the response was
vague; Bush, who included Iran in the "axis of evil," has
alarmed many clerics, but some have warned against giving
the impression that Iran is buckling under pressure.) If
the US brings down Saddam Hussein, the thousands of Iraqi
clerics currently in exile in Qom will have a strong
influence on their country's future.

The word "Qom" has come to stand for the nationwide
clerical establishment, since other seminary towns are
subservient to it; and the influence of Qom is particularly
evident at the center of power in Tehran. Iran's Supreme
Leader, its president, parliament speaker, and top judge
are clerics. So are both the head and half the members of
the twelve-man Council of Guardians, the powerful
monitoring group whose clerical members are appointed by
the Supreme Leader; it acts, in effect, as the upper house
of parliament and can annul legislative acts. A significant
minority of the thirty-eight members of the Expediency
Council, appointed by the Supreme Leader to resolve
disputes between parliament and the Council of Guardians,
are clerics. The Assembly of Experts, which chooses,
appraises, and can, in theory, dismiss the Supreme Leader,
is made up of eighty-six clerics who have been elected by
universal suffrage- but only after candidates first have
been vetted by the Council of Guardians. Although most
provincial governors are not clerics, in each province the
assent of the Supreme Leader's representative, invariably a
cleric, is required for most of the important decisions he
makes. The same is true of the heads of universities.

Lower down, clerical dominance is less institutionalized,
but nonetheless striking. The thousands of seminarians who
leave Qom after completing the six years of study that
generally qualify them to wear the clerical gown and turban
have a head start in the race for jobs in the bureaucracy.
Their children tend to be granted places at the best
schools. If they are suspected of breaking the law, they
are tried by other clerics, usually behind closed doors. In
some parts of the government and bureaucracy, such as the
judiciary, an old-boy network favors appointments from
particular seminaries. The senior echelons of the
intelligence ministry and judiciary contain many graduates
from Qom's Haqani seminary.

Although the revolution has made the clerical calling more
powerful and more privileged, not all clerics have been
happy about this. Far from bringing about the end of the
old debate over clerical involvement in politics,
Khomeini's revolution intensified it. At the revolution's
outset, most of the half-dozen "Objects of Emulation" who
were living in Iran and Iraq either opposed the principle
of clerical rule or remained silent about it. Qom's
subsequent resistance to attempts to impose on it a uniform
reading of political Islam has much to do with the
pluralistic tradition of the seminary. Seminarians are free
to join the study circles of the "master" they most admire.
He can teach pretty much what he wants, provided he does
not disseminate contentious views outside the seminary.

For the past decade, the prestige of the clerics among most
Iranians has been falling. This is clearly illustrated by
the decline in clerical representation in parliament. In
the first parliament after the revolution, clerics made up
51 percent of the total number of deputies. They now make
up 12 percent. In the early 1980s, clerics were generally
treated with elaborate courtesy. Nowadays, clerics are
sometimes insulted by schoolchildren and taxi drivers and
they quite often put on normal clothes when venturing
outside Qom. Some are willing to give up the official
privileges that, they believe, cause the public to resent
them. I talked in Qom to clerics who said there was now
increasing sympathy for Abdolkarim Soroush, a brilliant lay
theologian and philosopher who argues that religion must
sever its links with worldly power if it is to retain its
authority. Far from improving the status of the clergy,
these clerics say, involvement in government has debased

A small but important part of George Bush's "axis of evil"
speech seemed aimed at these clerics. In Tehran, people
thought it was crass of the US president to lump Iran
together with Saddam Hussein's Iraq; they remember when
America sided with Saddam during the Iran-Iraq War of the
1980s. Some quite unconvincingly professed astonishment at
Bush's suggestion that Iran sponsors terrorism and is
trying to produce weapons of mass destruction. In Qom,
however, reactions were more concerned with the US
president's observation that "an un-elected few repress the
Iranian people's hope for freedom." Although Bush was
referring to Iran's malfunctioning democracy in general,
his comments recalled to many people the continuing
influence of the Ayatollah Khomeini and particularly the
political sectarianism that Khomeini used to entrench
clerical rule: "the guardianship of the jurist."

As early as the late 1960s, Khomeini was putting forward a
novel interpretation of Shia doctrine, defending a
rudimentary version of the kind of religious government he
eventually installed. Using deductive reasoning and a
tendentious interpretation of the sayings attributed to the
Prophet and the twelve imams, Khomeini argued that
religious government should not be allowed to lapse simply
because there were no imams to provide it.[2]Instead, he
said, Shiism's leading clerics, the senior scholars of
Islamic law, should assume judicial and executive
authority, pending the return of the twelfth imam.

The "guardianship of the jurist" proposed by Khomeini can
be understood as an expansion of the "guardianship" that
Islam proposes in the case of orphaned minors, with the
whole Islamic community in the role of orphan and the
ruling jurist in the role of the adoptive parent. On his
return from exile, following the Shah's flight in 1979,
Khomeini said he was invoking "the guardianship that I have
from the holy lawgiver [the Prophet]" to appoint an interim
government. He announced that opposition to this government
would be "blasphemy."

Khomeini, many people believe, may have abhorred electoral
democracy; but he was forced to compromise with nonclerical
Islamists who had been influenced by modern democratic
notions. According to Daniel Brumberg, the author of a
meticulous examination of Khomeini's legacy,[3] the 1979
constitution, which turned Iran from a monarchy into an
"Islamic republic," was "an ideological mishmash
...probably unmatched in the history of constitutionalism."
It provided for the direct election of a president and a
parliament, and separated the legislative, judicial, and
executive branches. But it made all officials answerable to
the appointed Supreme Leader and made no clear provision
for the settlement of disputes between the elected lower
house of parliament and the appointed upper house, the
Council of Guardians. The constitution was marred by what
Brumberg describes as a "chaotic division of powers"
between different institutions and organs of government,
and it was silent on how these competing institutions
should coexist. According to some articles of the
constitution, sovereignty belonged to God; but the
principle of holding elections suggested a recognition of
popular sovereignty as well.

Khomeini dominated the patchwork government of Iran until
his death in 1989. He alone had the theological expertise,
political flair, and popularity that he himself had laid
down as criteria for Islamic leadership. Sometimes
contemptuous of Western-style elections, he could claim
that he had a popular mandate, illustrated by the vast
numbers of people who greeted and visited him after he
returned from exile. This reminds Baqer Moin, his excellent
biographer, of a pledge of allegiance.[4] Khomeini's appeal
was exploited by his entourage. They attributed to him a
pseudo-divinity that, in turn, endowed his pronouncements
with binding authority, allowing him to interfere in public
life wherever he wanted. Khomeini was able slowly to
discredit a very senior dissident ayatollah, Kazem
Shariatmadari, even though Shariatmadari's theological
standing was equal to his own. A word from Khomeini obliged
the Council of Guardians to lift their veto on any law he
favored. His "decree" led to the execution, without due
process, of thousands of political prisoners.

It was clear that the aura of authority surrounding the
guardianship of the jurist would diminish with his passing.
Already, in 1988, the creation of the Expediency Council
had relieved future Supreme Leaders of the burden of
adjudicating disputes between parliament and the Council of
Guardians. (On May 26, for example, the Expediency Council
ended a long process of mediation between parliament and
the Council of Guardians on a foreign investment bill,
which has now become law.) A few weeks before Khomeini
died, a special assembly convened at his behest removed the
constitutional stipulation that the Supreme Leader had to
be a theologian of the highest rank, i.e., an Object of
Emulation. From now on, hundreds of lesser clerics were
theoretically eligible to be the Supreme Leader, provided
they had the necessary piety, courage, and "good managerial
skills." The requirement of popular recognition and
approval-the pledge of allegiance, as it were-was dropped
as a criterion. Having been the preserve of a revered
divine whom millions believed to be an intermediary between
themselves and God, the guardianship of the jurist could
now be conferred on a middle-ranking theologian who had
much less popular support.

The changes were designed to prepare the way for the
appointment of Ali Khamenei, the president, as Khomeini's
successor. Barely two months before he died, Khomeini had
dismissed Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the well-known
and much-respected cleric whom he had earlier designated as
his successor. Apparently Khomeini felt that Montazeri was
too independent in his thinking and too pluralistic in his
outlook. Many in Qom were dismayed by Ali Khamenei's
appointment. Although he was known to be an experienced
politician and to have shared many of Khomeini's views, he
was only in the upper-middle rank of clerics and had been
hastily named an ayatollah. Many Iranians were troubled by
the idea that a man they had elected to the mundane office
of the presidency, knowing they could oust him, had become
the unchallengeable vice-regent of God.

The death of Khomeini would have been a good time to trim
the Supreme Leader's powers and require that he be elected.
But Khomeini's eleventh-hour constitutional amendments
pointed the other way; the revised constitution increased
the Supreme Leader's formal powers, and described his
authority, with an explicitness absent from the original,
as "absolute." Furthermore, Khomeini, in some of his last
statements, implied that the Supreme Leader could make any
decision he considered to be in "the interests of Islam and
the country." In the eyes of some, this gave him the
authority to create divine injunctions.


Ayatollah Montazeri's house in Qom is a few hundred yards
from the city's shrine, but he hasn't visited the shrine
for years. He is not allowed to see people, except his
family, and cannot leave home except in an emergency. His
allies talk to him on the telephone; they can also ring the
front doorbell and chat with him over the intercom. Through
these contacts, Montazeri keeps abreast of current
theological debates as well as rulings that have been
issued by other senior clerics and the political situation
in Tehran. He issues his own rulings on religious matters,
and replies to theological questions posed by his
followers, whether through the Internet or through
cassettes that are distributed by his sons. Last year, he
posted a long memoir on the Internet. It was immediately
denounced by the conservative establishment, and around a
dozen of his supporters were arrested for helping him
prepare it.

Montazeri is a ruddy-faced man with the accent of his
native Najafabad. His modesty is such that, if you get into
casual conversation with him, you might mistake him for an
itinerant preacher. In fact, Montazeri is an Object of
Emulation who is acknowledged to be brilliant, even by
those who disapprove of him; as a young seminarian, he was
well known for his ability to recall, word for word,
lectures that he had heard weeks before. He talks bluntly,
lives plainly, and equates Islam with social justice. Not
for him is the political plotting for which some other
clerics are known. Before his social life was restricted,
he would happily share his bread and cheese with, say, a
farmer who had come from Najafabad to complain about a
venal official. Once the farmer had gone, Montazeri would
send off an angry letter to the official's superior.

This, at least, is the portrait drawn by his supporters. It
is meant to counter the derogatory claims of some of his
peers, particularly the Book of Pain, which was written by
Ahmad Khomeini, the Ayatollah Khomeini's now deceased son,
after Montazeri's dismissal by his father.[5] According to
Ahmad, Montazeri's stubbornness and naiveté were his
downfall. At the height of the Iran-Iraq War, he argued for
reconciliation with internal enemies, and this was said to
have benefited counterrevolutionary groups like the
Peoples' Mujahideen, called "the Hypocrites" by the
followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini. "My intention in this
letter," wrote Ahmad, "is not-God forbid!-to suggest that
you accepted the ideas and ideology of Hypocrites and
Liberals." Of course, Ahmad wanted to suggest just that.

By the standards of revolutionary Iran, Montazeri is
considered a democrat. That wasn't always the case. In the
days following the revolution, he argued that Shia Islam
should be named the state religion, despite Iran's large
Sunni minority. He had an important part in making the
principle of the guardianship of the jurist part of the
constitution-which he demanded be "far removed from every
Western principle," and he did not defend Ayatollah
Shariatmadari when Khomeini humiliated him for criticizing
the institution of the guardianship of the jurist. Before
his dismissal, his supporters intimidated people with the
slogan "Opposition to Montazeri is opposition to God." One
of them, Mehdi Hashemi, upset officials by maintaining his
own connections with the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Afghan
Mujahideen. In 1986, Hashemi disclosed secret efforts by
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was running Iran's war effort
against Iraq, to buy arms from Iran's sworn enemy, the US,
through the good offices of a second enemy, Israel.
Rafsanjani got his revenge, and Hashemi was executed.

For all that, one can find a strain of pluralism and
compassion running through Montazeri's career. He sent
private letters to Khomeini in 1988, protesting the summary
execution of thousands of imprisoned supporters of the
People's Mujahideen. His criticism of Rafsanjani for
prolonging the war seems to have arisen from genuine anger
at the appalling loss of life. As Khomeini's dauphin, he
tried to pierce the wall that Khomeini's possessive
entourage had erected around him. According to
Gholam-Hossein Nadi, a fellow cleric and longstanding ally,
"other people would go before Khomeini and flatter him."
Montazeri, on the other hand, "told the truth and passed on
the complaints of the people."

Private complaint could perhaps be tolerated, but Montazeri
went public after the end of the war with Iraq, criticizing
the regime's "mismanagement" and "the denial of people's
rights." There is, he said, "a great distance between what
we have promised and what we have achieved." He accepted
his dismissal with grace, perhaps relief, but it came as a
shock to people who associated him with revolutionary
ideals. During the early and mid-1990s, Rafsanjani, who had
succeeded Khamenei as president, carried out economic
reforms apparently designed to benefit people who were
already privileged. At the same time, the politically
influential people around Khamenei were putting slavish
emphasis on the Supreme Leader's "absolute" authority.

In 1997, Mohammad Khatami, a cleric advocating increased
democracy, was elected president by a large majority. Word
got around that the Supreme Leader, who was said to have
lent veiled support to Khatami's conservative rival during
the campaign, was imposing his influence on the composition
of the new government. At the same time, some clerics were
suggesting that Khamenei be declared an Object of
Emulation. Invoking his authority as author of the 1979
constitution, Montazeri, in a speech that created a
sensation, asserted that the Supreme Leader's duty was not
"to interfere in everything," but "to oversee the country."
He attacked Iran's "monarchical set-up." He openly
suggested that Khamenei was unqualified to be an Object of
Emulation, and unqualified to be Supreme Leader as well.[6]

The speech confirmed Montazeri's status as the senior
theological advocate of democracy within the Islamic
republic. At the same time, it ruined him politically; his
private college in Qom was closed, his office ransacked,
and he was put under house arrest. With one exception,
Montazeri's fellow Objects of Emulation were too timid to
defend him. His enforced isolation ended hopes that he and
Khatami might join forces; the elected president could
hardly come out in support of the man who had been attacked
and dismissed from public life by the Supreme Leader.

The cause of reform suffered as a result. Montazeri's
disgrace made it impossible for reformers in Tehran to call
on him for support in their struggle with the Council of
Guardians, which routinely humiliates them by disqualifying
Khatami supporters from seeking office, and by vetoing all
legislation that would increase democracy or protect
rights. Montazeri would have made a useful ally in the
continuous confrontations between Khatami's supporters and
the judges, who have jailed scores of reformists, including
editors, writers, economists, and mayors, among others;
virtually all of the top judges are anti-reform clerics and
all of them Montazeri's theological inferiors. If Montazeri
had been free to argue with Khamenei in 2000, he might have
tried to dissuade him from ordering the closing of more
than a dozen reform-minded publications, and from
suppressing parliamentary discussion of plans to make the
press freer.

In April of this year, Ali-Reza Amini, a conservative
cleric in Qom, told me dryly that some of the reformers who
argue today for a referendum on limiting the Supreme
Leader's powers were, in Khomeini's time, convinced of the
Supreme Leader's absolute authority. Amini's comment
reminded me of a nagging question that occurs to me as I
observe some of Iran's reformers. Are they driven by a
desire to reduce the power of the Supreme Leader, or are
they mainly concerned to limit the power of Ali Khamenei?


For several weeks after Bush's speech, Iran was overcome by
an irrational fear of imminent US attack. People talked of
little else. There was renewed debate about the merits of
reopening relations with the US. (This has now ended, amid
claims by reformers that secret contacts with US officials
had been initiated by influential members of the regime,
without the government's knowledge.) In the face of the
external threat, a temporary understanding was reached
between reformers and conservatives. Fewer newspapers were
closed. Some jailed reformers-including all but one of
Montazeri's imprisoned allies -were set free. It was said
that the head of the clergy court had promised Montazeri
that he would regain his freedom if only he would stop
issuing controversial statements.

The immediate fear has passed. Montazeri is still under
house arrest. (He may have upset conservatives with a
statement that was published in newspapers on April 22, in
which he implicitly dissociated himself from Khamenei's
insistence that Israel be eliminated and endorsed the
coexistence of Palestinian and Israeli states.)
Reform-minded newspapers are now being closed down again.
Despite a constitutional clause that guarantees
parliamentary immunity, a senior deputy in parliament who
had been demanding more press freedom, among other reforms,
has been sentenced to a six months in prison. Playing
chicken with the judge, he has refused to appeal his

Bush's shadow remains. Unease over his intentions, and the
politicians' calculations of gain that may result from
provoking or mollifying him, will complicate next year's
parliamentary elections-which the Council of Guardians
might easily spoil by disqualifying scores of sitting
members. Uncertainty about US policy will complicate the
search, already beginning, for a suitable reform candidate
to replace Khatami, who must step down after his second
term ends, in three years. It may lend urgency to the
underlying national debate about the power of unelected
clerics who have defied the expressed will of the voters.

When I was in Qom this spring, a friend there observed that
it is hard to find a conservative cleric who hasn't changed
his views on the legitimacy of the guardianship of the
jurist. To one degree or another they all now felt the
office should change so as to reflect a society that is
seeking a less paternalistic sort of government. According
to Sadeq Haqiqat, a reform-minded cleric, "as democratic
thoughts gain ground, it's impossible" for the religious
authorities to resist efforts to modify the principle of
the guardianship of the jurist. "It must evolve." Even
conservatives like Ali-Reza Amini agree it can change. He
seems exasperated, furthermore, by the obstructionism of
the Council of Guardians; "its political coloring," he
says, "has weakened the guardianship of the jurist."

Four years ago, a friend of Haqiqat's, Mohsen Kadivar,
published a book in Iran, Government of the Guardian, that
opened new perspectives in the debate over theologically
based power.[7] Kadivar examined the ten sayings attributed
to the Prophet and to the imams that are commonly presented
as documentary evidence for the necessity of clerical rule.
According to Kadivar, a well-regarded scholar, eight of
these sayings may not be authentic. Even the two sayings he
considers "authoritative" cannot, he argues, be used to
justify the clerics' assumption of political power. Rather,
they confer on jurists the responsibility to "propagate,
publicize, and teach Islamic rulings.... There is no
authoritative evidence for the absolute guardianship of the
appointed jurist."

It said something for the openness of Iranian society that
Kadivar's book could be published. Many Iranians agree that
the guardianship must change. And yet it does not. "In
order to change," Ali-Reza Amini says, "there needs to be
consensus, and there is no consensus." As much as
conflicting ideas, the problem comes down to people who
loathe one another; their personal hatred precludes the
emergence of workable compromises. The recent war in
Afghanistan provided an example of the current internal
political conflict. The fall of the Taliban was openly
celebrated throughout Iran. Khatami's government cooperated
with the US-led coalition, providing it with intelligence
and also providing considerable help to the Northern
Alliance; it is now enthusiastically trying to help in
Afghanistan's reconstruction. Its efforts, however, were
undermined by a small number of hard-line conservatives who
apparently helped al-Qaeda and tried to undermine Hamid
Karzai's government in Kabul.

In this poisonous atmosphere, it is hard to imagine that
the reformers can persuade the conservatives voluntarily to
give up power. A popular explosion remains a distant
prospect; most people do not want another revolution, and
the police and revolutionary guard are disciplined and
loyal. Unless the reformers can muster allies in the
conservative establishment, or find new ways to bring
public pressure on it, Iran seems fated to an unyielding
form of Islamic rule.

-May 29, 2002


[1] The twelve imams were all male descendants of the
Prophet, through Ali, the Prophet's nephew and son-in-law.
Shias believe that the imams were entrusted the leadership
of the Islamic community, and that the twelfth of them, who
disappeared in 874, would later miraculously return to
establish an era of divine justice and truth.

[2] Khomeini's lectures while in exile in Najaf were
transcribed by his students, and brought out in book form
in 1971. A version of these lectures, entitled Velayat-e
Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist), is available in Tehran,
published by the Institute for the Codification and
Publication of the Works of Imam Khomeini.

[3] Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran
(University of Chicago Press, 2001).

[4] Baqer Moin, Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah (I.B.
Tauris, 1999).

[5] Ahmad Khomeini, Ranj-nameh (Book of Pain; Tehran,

[6] The text of Montazeri's speech was published in a
special issue of a magazine, Arzeshha (Values), dated
February 1998, that attempted to damage Montazeri's

[7] Mohsen Kadivar, Hukumat-e Velayi (Government of the
Guardian; Nashrani, 1998).


Jun 26, 2002, 4:54:03 AM6/26/02
Freethought110 wrote:

>Good article (an update on Roy Mottahedeh's MANTLE OF THE PROPHET on
>networks and inner workings of Qom). But, alas, his conclusion is only good
>for his aunt/be dard-e ammash mikhoreh (as we say in Persian)!

Freethought jAn,

The Qom Oxford comparisons made me
think of this mullah/near east studies
professor at Princeton:


Several near east studies programs in US
universities seem to have "Qom Chairs".
These could be good sitting places for
those senior echelons from Qom to occupy
after some brushing up on Islamic thought
with the help of venerable British institutions.
Maybe this will leave fewer of them to man the
intelligence ministry and the judiciary back in



Jun 26, 2002, 6:05:49 AM6/26/02

"Sarteep" <sar...@aol.com> wrote in message

Sarteep jan,

Believe it or not, Hossein Modarressi is the real life "Ali Hashemi" figure
of Roy Mottahedeh's book. Apparently he's gone off the record telling some
of my American academic friends that the "velayate faqih" is bunk! He's a
traditionalist. That said, I agree with what you say.



Jun 27, 2002, 4:17:09 AM6/27/02
Freethought110 wrote:

Interesting, I didn't know that.

Traditionalist, conservative, moderate, or
whatever other category a mullah falls in,
there is general agreement among them
on the foundations of their legal system
with its assignments of who in society
is to make laws and critical decisions.

Mullahs from all the above categories, as
well as most of the melli-mazhabis are
united in their stand against a pluralist
secular democracy. They have demonstrated
this in their alliances to quash all secular
democratic forces in Iran. If a mullah
pronounces the vf position as bunk, he
isn't necessarily debunking the foundations
of theocratic rule.

When foreign observers who spend a short
time in Qom advocate that reformers muster
allies in the conservative establishment, they
show their ignorance of the fact that intrinsic
alliances have always existed. The Qom
observers apparently don't understand the
concept of "believers" as insiders.

Hence Rafsanjani's permanent smirk . . .



Jun 27, 2002, 6:21:26 PM6/27/02
Dear Freethought,

Interesting article. Thank you for posting it. The article mentions:

<At the revolution's outset, most of the half-dozen "Objects of
Emulation" who were living in Iran and Iraq either opposed the
principle of clerical rule or remained silent about it.>

Khomeini managed to implement his schemes in spite of these. He dealt
with Shariatmadari for openly criticizing the institution of the
guardianship of the jurist <even though Shariatmadari's theological

standing was equal to his own>.

He dismissed Montazeri for criticizing the regime's mismanagementjust 2
months before he (Khomeini) died. Montazeri may have prevented
Khamenei being declared an "Object of Emulation" in 1997 and for that
he has been under house arrest ever since.

Montazeri did not defend Shariatmadari when Khomeini humiliated him.

All but one of Montazeri's fellow "Objects of Emulation" were too timid
to defend him when he was placed under house arrest.

How many of the present ten "Objects of Emulation" occupy senior
positions in the regime?

<But, alas, his conclusion is only good for his aunt>

This conclusion? :-

<In this poisonous atmosphere, it is hard to imagine that
the reformers can persuade the conservatives voluntarily to
give up power. A popular explosion remains a distant
prospect; most people do not want another revolution, and
the police and revolutionary guard are disciplined and
loyal. Unless the reformers can muster allies in the
conservative establishment, or find new ways to bring
public pressure on it, Iran seems fated to an unyielding
form of Islamic rule.>

You do not think that this is a reasonable conclusion?


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