chapter  10
Ahmad Kasravi’s critiques of Europism and Orientalism
Pages 11

Ahmad Kasravi (1890-1946) was a prominent Iranian journalist, linguist, historian, lawyer, and religious reformer who was assassinated by the Devotees of Islam on March 11, 1946. As a protean political figure and prolific essayist, he embodied diverse and conflicting intellectual tendencies that fully developed in the decades after his assassination. He promoted religious homogeneity and an Islam-based polity but was critical of Shi’ism and clerical hierocracy in Iran. He was an advocate of language reform but was highly critical of Persian canonical texts. He served as a defense lawyer for the founders of the communist Tudeh Party but was a fervent antagonist of materialism and communism. As a former seminarian, Kasravi was alarmed by the Iranian adoration of Europe, a phenomenon that he called Europism (Urugayigari). Building upon an earlier critical tradition in Persian, he viewed the Iranian mimicry of modern European norms as an “illness,” as a “trap” (dam) that instead of promoting civilization and humanism would contribute to war and to social devastation. He considered the idea of “European superiority” as a deceptive device for the promotion of colonialism and capitalism. With the exception of scientific innovations, he explained that Iranians could improve their own modes of life and legal and administrative structures without needing to import unsuitable European norms – norms that had promoted individual greed, social inequality, and world war. He meticulously explored the mixed legacy of Orientalism, both as a purveyor of critical scholarship and as a body of knowledge in the service of European colonialism and imperialism. While appreciating the text-editing skills of Iranian literati who were influenced by Orientalists, he was highly critical of their lack of intellectual independence in the forming of the Persian literary canon.