chapter  10
13 Pages

The Iranian Shi'ite Variant of Religiopolitical Revivalism: The Mullah Revolution in Iran

WithBassam Tibi

The choice of Egypt and Iran as case studies was made in order to contrast two different variants of Islam and two differing sociohistorical backgrounds to the politicization of Islam. Valid as the already indicated religiopolitical differences between Sunna and Shi'a may be, they are not in themselves sufficient to explain the specific difference between Egypt and Iran. In both countries, a repoliticization of the sacred is evident. The Khomeini revolution is the first time in the history of Iran that a religiously legitimated regime, a "mullahcracy," has come about with the aid, and indeed under the leadership, of the Shi'ite clergy. Research may lead us to reject the modernization experiment of the shah without making us join the chorus of those demonizing the shah and levelling monotonous complaints against his regime. The Iranian modernization experiment needs to be understood in structural terms; Autocratic rule by a shah is itself an element of the given structural conditions.