July 26th, 2016

Revisiting the Iranian revolution: Khomeini the con man

Most people today have some idea who the Ayatollah Khomeini was: the scowling guy with the beard who created and/or exploited the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and brought Islamic theocracy to Iran. But I’m not at all sure how much most Americans know beyond that—even those of us who were alive back then, and certainly most younger people who were not yet alive. We tend to think, as we often do of history, that certain things were apparent, that certain things were obvious, that smarter people (us, for example!) could have prevented or foreseen what was neither prevented nor foreseen back then, and that we know and understand what we do not know and do not understand.

So as a little memory refresher, I offer a repeat of this post that I wrote in 2011:

Here are some selected quotes from the Ayatollah Khomeini, whose utterances before his return to Iran in 1979 were quite different from his utterances after his return.

Just as an example, in November of 1978 he said, “Personal desire, age, and my health do not allow me to personally have a role in running the country after the fall of the current system.” Then on his return to Iran about a year later: “I will strike with my fists at the mouths of this government. From now on it is I who will name the government.”

Here’s another later quote:

Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us?…Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors!

Straight from the horse’s mouth: Islam, not a religion of peace.

Here’s another that chills the blood, and is meant to:

There is no room for play in Islam … It is deadly serious about everything.

The following is not a quote from Khomeini, but I include it because it so perfectly illustrates the Orwellian madness/stupidity/deception/amorality (take your pick, or take them all) of so many on the left in their confrontation with totalitarian tyranny of the non-Western variety. It was spoken on the occasion of Khomeini’s death in 1989:

The freedom-lovers of the world mourn the sad demise of Imam Khomeini.

The speaker was Ernesto Cardenal, “Nicaraguan combatant, scholar, poet, and liberation theologian.” “Liberation theologian” could be a description of how Khomeini regarded himself, as well, so it’s not so very surprising that Cardenal would see him as a kindred spirit. Cardenal is a Catholic priest, a man of the left who affiliated himself back in the 70s and 80s with the Sandinistas in his native Nicaragua:

On 19 July 1979, immediately after the Fall of Managua, [Cardenal] was named Minister of Culture by the new Sandinista regime. He occupied this office until 1987, when his ministry was closed owing to economic reasons. When Pope John Paul II visited Nicaragua in 1983, he openly scolded Cardenal, who knelt before him, on the Managua airport runway, for resisting his order to resign from the government. The Pope admonished Cardenal: Usted tiene que arreglar sus asuntos con la Iglesia (“You must make good your dealings with the Church”).

One of the doctrines Khomeini was noted for was his idea that Islam should be closely intertwined with politics. This philosophy represented a break with most of his immediate predecessors. Khomeini fully lived out his own beliefs, beginning with his triumphant return to Iran in 1979. The deadly serious repercussions of that decidedly unplayful philosophy are still being felt by the Iranian people today.

That’s the end of the post I wrote in back then. But I also want to add these quotes from Totten’s interview with Abbas Milani (director of Iranian studies at Stanford) in the same year, 2011:

Abbas Milani: And lurking around the corner was Khomeini who cleverly understood what the Americans wanted. The Americans wanted a more responsive democratic government, and Khomeini promised it to them. I have found evidence of his contacting Americans.

MJT: Who in the US did he contact?

Abbas Milani: The American Embassy in Paris. He also sent a letter to Carter. His allies in Tehran were also in contact with the American Embassy. They were saying Khomeini was not as bad as the Shah was making him out to be. All of them were helped by Iranian intellectuals who have a great responsibility in all this.

MJT: What did you think about Khomeini at the time?

Abbas Milani: I was an opponent of the Shah. I spent a year in prison. For six months I was in Evin Prison. The future leaders of the Islamic Republic were my cellmates.

MJT: You knew these guys?

Abbas Milani: I knew all of them. I spent six months with them. I knew they were bad news. I knew that what they were going to deliver was not democracy.

But most people had never read any of Khomeini’s writings because they were banned. The Shah, instead of making them mandatory reading, banned them. In the 1960s and 70s Khomeini had already talked about almost everything he did. Even in 1944 he talked about how evil democracy and modernity are, how evil the rule of law is. He talked about the establishment of Velayat-e faqih, the rule of Islamic jurists. These books could have been an absolutely clear indication of where his regime would go, but they were banned. Even those who were willing, like me, to actually read this stuff, we dismissed it because we were under the Age of Enlightenment illusion that religion is the opiate of the masses and that there is an inverse correlation between reason and science on the one hand and religion on the other. We believed that Iran was too advanced for these ideas.

I often wonder whether we can learn from history at all.

57 Responses to “Revisiting the Iranian revolution: Khomeini the con man”

  1. junior Says:

    One of these days, I really ought to read the Koran (or at least more than the tiny snippet I have). Unfortunately, I’ve heard that there are a lot of bad translations out there, and haven’t yet taken the time to find out what might be considered a relatively “faithful” one.

    And as mentioned above, I have read a small snippet of it. It was part of the story of Joseph in Egypt, and read like a bad Marty Stu fan-fic.

  2. Tim P Says:

    “I often wonder whether we can learn from history at all”
    We have not so far. What makes you think anything is going to change.

    ” Even those who were willing, like me, to actually read this stuff, we dismissed it because we were under the Age of Enlightenment illusion that religion is the opiate of the masses and that there is an inverse correlation between reason and science on the one hand and religion on the other. We believed that Iran was too advanced for these ideas.”

    Sound familiar?

  3. Jacinto1 Says:

    Years ago, (maybe in the mid 80’s) I saw an interview with Georgie Anne Geyer (I used to read her columns regularly back when I used to get my news from newspapers). She talked about the time around the mid-70’s when she was in Paris and was invited to interview Khomeini, who at that time was in exile in France. She said that as soon as she entered the room, she felt sense of premonition and dread.

  4. Big Maq Says:

    “I often wonder whether we can learn from history at all.” – Neo

    Wiemar – the false hope that some leaders provide, and the ease with which political leaders and voters cave, despite how atrocious and anathema to their principles their chosen candidate is.

  5. Sharon W Says:

    Oriana Fallaci knew exactly who Khomeini was (from Wikipedia):

    “Fallaci in Tehran (1979). To interview the Ayatollah Khomeini, she was allegedly forced to wear the chador. During the interview, she removed it and attacked the obligation of women to wear it.”

    I read everything she wrote after 9/11. She understood with perfect clarity the evil the west was facing. And what was the west’s response? Charges for “defaming Islam”. Willful blindness to the nth!

  6. geokstr Says:

    Maybe, as a species, we’ll never be able to learn from history, now that one of the two predominant religions doesn’t believe in even teaching history other than the myths in the Koran and the Hadiths, and the other has made an art of manipulating and re-writing it to support its own Marxist myths.

    Just another Hobbesian choice, like this election, and both sides freely chose it. If democracy is supposed to be the best system after we’ve tried all the others, perhaps our faith in it has become the definition of insanity. We’ll have to think outside the box, try some brand new ones.

    I have no idea what those might be. I’m just a civilization monitor.

  7. J.J. Says:

    Islamism is tyranny wrapped in a religious cloak.
    Everything in the state, everything of the state, nothing out of the state, and all to please Allah. Khomeini was a cunning deceiver until he grasped the reins of power. And why not. The Quran teaches such. His declaration of all-out war on infidels is quite plain. Liberal intellectuals sit back and smugly opine that he has no chance of accomplishing his goals. After all, as Obama has said, “Iran is a tiny country. They’re no threat to us.” And that beat goes on as long as liberals are at the helm of government.

    Back in the days of kings and emperors the rulers wrapped themselves in the cloak of religion. Why not, it keeps people in the fold. The new would be kings and emperors also wrap themselves in the cloak of faith. Sometimes in it a faith in a higher power (Islamism) and sometimes it is a faith in no higher power. (Communism, progressivism)

    Representative government and separation of church and state is such a recent departure from having all powerful government (statism) that those who don’t pay attention to history fail to recognize how historically rare it is. And, it seems to me, that too many people long for a return to statism in its various forms – Nazism, Fascism, Communism, progressivism, Islamism, etc.

    It seems to me that the lesson of history we all need to pay attention to is that some men want to control other people. They have the delusion that they know what is best for everybody. Statism in its various flavors is their preferred tool. When we see the evil wrought by statism in all its forms, we should reject it. But we don’t. And therein lies our problem.

  8. Sharon W Says:

    JJ–Very well-put. And of course, our liberal betters are well-protected while doing all they can (whether or not intentionally) to ensure we are not. Of course this is in direct violation of the founding, stated purpose of our federal government.

  9. Eric Says:

    Neo:
    “I often wonder whether we can learn from history at all.”

    The fundamental lesson we re-learned after 9/11 is that displacing the enemy and, in replacement, building peace on our terms requires steadfast, strong-horse control on the ground, ie, model American leadership of the free world.

    As stated by T.R. Fehrenbach in This Kind of War:

    …[Y]ou may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life—but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud.

    Or, as stated in US Army FM (field manual) 1:

    The Army’s contribution to joint operations is landpower. … Landpower includes the ability to … Establish and maintain a stable environment that sets the conditions for a lasting peace

    We haven’t always upheld the model American leadership of the free world. But with the course-setting Iraq intervention under President Bush, we did.

    We learned from history by committing to dedicated peace operations with Iraq and not disengaging prematurely, until Obama’s radical course-changing deviation. We were compelled to learn a lot more in the mission, but that’s consistent with our military history. As done in the past, when severely challenged to adapt by the enemy on the ground, American soldiers proved their mettle versus the enemy in the arena and substantiated American leadership of the free world.

    The closest we’ve come to the right answer in the current fitness test of American leadership, with heed to history and hard earned with invaluable knowledge gained on the ground, is the OIF Surge+Awakening. That’s the model solution.

    However, Obama, Trump, and Clinton share in promoting the demonstrably false narrative of OIF that stigmatizes and prevents the right answer for America the leader of the free world. By cutting off the model solution, the OIF Surge+Awakening, they’ve set America at premise to chase the wrong, losing answers, instead.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    Humans always did love falling for cons. Especially in America, where freedom meant that everyone was responsible for their own fate.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    junior Says:
    July 26th, 2016 at 11:31 am
    One of these days, I really ought to read the Koran (or at least more than the tiny snippet I have). Unfortunately, I’ve heard that there are a lot of bad translations out there, and haven’t yet taken the time to find out what might be considered a relatively “faithful” one.

    Don’t forget the Hadiths and Sura. Those motivate Islamic doctrine more, because it is about the life of Mohammed, their primary and probably only prophet. Thus they take their commands from that authority, because Mohammed spoke with Allah’s voice. Even if Mohammed didn’t write it down, his life style and choices can still be emulated by the faithful. Which is what they are doing, with jihad. Mohammed was chief and foremost, a sex slave raider and trafficker, a conqueror, a military genius, and a king.

    What people think they know about “religion” is fickle and shallow, to provide the context to comprehend all those roles.

  12. miklos000rosza Says:

    Michel Foucault, the French postmodernist philosopher who was quite au courant in the late 70s and all through the 80s in American and European intellectual circles, had a huge role in making Khomeini seem acceptable to the intelligentsia. I’ve theorized aloud before that I believe Foucault, who was gay and into S&M, found the perfect dominant leather daddy in Khomeini, who was charismatic and forceful in person.

    Most of Foucault’s writings about Khomeini and the glorious Iranian revolution have not been translated into English, because the keepers of his flame know how bad they will make him look. He didn’t give one flying fuck at a rolling donut what was going to happen to women when Khomeini had influence and power, Rather, Foucault was intoxicated by Khomeini’s badass manner, however many corpses were going to pile up.

    Other than the black turban and beard, Khomeini strongly resembled the aging Sean Connery. He was a goodlooking double-plus alpha male.

  13. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    When the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979, one of his first legal reforms was to reduce the marriageable age of girls to nine years old, exactly in line with the example of the Prophet, announcing: “It is a blessing for a family to have a daughter out of the house before her first blood.”

    “Those who oppose the mullahs oppose Islam itself; eliminate the mullahs and Islam shall disappear in fifty years. It is only the mullahs who can bring the people into the streets and make them die for Islam– begging to have their blood shed for Islam.” -Ayatollah Khomeini

    “There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun [or] joy in whatever is serious.” Ayatollah Khomeini

    “I say let Iran go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.” Ayatollah Khomenei

  14. F Says:

    I think I’ve mentioned the book before, but for those interested in modern Iran “Reading Lolita in Teheran” by Azar Nafisi is very interesting — and enlightening. I recommend it highly. $1.90 on Kindle. Use Neo’s link.

  15. A_Nonny_Mouse Says:

    a reply to junior at 11:31 (in search of a good translation of the Koran)

    Craig Winn’s Prophet of Doom pulls together English translations from 5 recognized / accredited translators.

    See
    http://www.prophetofdoom.net/

    and
    http://www.prophetofdoom.net/POD_Quran.Islam

    Quoting from the above: “Prophet of Doom presents the Qur’an in chronological order and in the context of Muhammad’s life as it is known through Ishaq’s Sira (Biography) and Tabari’s Ta’rikh (History). There is no better way to understand Islam’s lone prophet, his god, their message, or their purpose–especially since the Qur’an itself is a jumbled and incoherent mess.
    The translation presented in Prophet of Doom was a blend of the literal Noble Qur’an by Khan (the one found in most American mosques), and English translations by Ahmed Ali, Pickthal, Yusuf Ali, and Shakir. Collectively, these represent the five most respected and universally accepted Muslim translations of Allah’s book.
    To validate Craig Winn’s scholarship in regard to his presentation of the Qur’an, you will need access to all five of these. While we encourage you to conduct your own investigation of the Islamic scriptures, you may be comforted to know that of the many thousands of emails we have received from angry Muslims claiming that Craig has misrepresented their religion, no one has found an inaccurate Qur’anic portrayal. {etc} ”

    Browse the whole site. There are PDF’s of the various chapters (suras) of the Koran, as well as a large PDF of the book as-a-whole. A *LOT* of good -and accurate- information can be found there.

  16. Dennis Says:

    Neo said:
    “Straight from the horse’s mouth: Islam, not a religion of peace.”

    Bingo! There have been a lot of horses’ mouths which have told us the same thing. Perhaps our friend expat could do a psychological profile on Khomeini for us and tell us why his violent statements and multiple murders have nothing to do with Islam?

  17. Chris Says:

    What keeps me awake at night with respect to Iran is the possibility of a high altitude electromagnetic pulse attack. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) created by the detonation of a nuclear device at high altitude over our country could end modern life in America in an instant. Iran has made it clear its intention to eventually destroy the “great Satan” and it’s my belief that the goal of their nuclear program is exactly that.

    Our only defense is to develop a robust missile defense and to harden our electrical infrastructure, and neither is currently being done. In fact, Obama has actually cut funding for missile defense. I have no doubt that if Hillary is elected we will continue to be vulnerable. Therefore, as much as I despise Donald Trump and would have preferred ANY of the others (I voted for Cruz and still greatly admire him) I may hold my nose and vote for Trump in the hope that he is more likely to address this.

  18. parker Says:

    Chris,

    An EMP is the greatest threat for a catastrophic attack. Park an oil tanker outside territorial waters, bring an ICBM out of the cargo hold, launch it aimed to denote over Illinois and it all falls down. Communications and transportation are finished. Think of it as a large scale beheading.

  19. Chris Says:

    Parker,

    And I’m convinced that’s exactly what the mullahs have in mind.

  20. junior Says:

    A_Nonny_Mouse –

    Thanks.

  21. AesopFan Says:

    Ymarsakar Says:
    July 26th, 2016 at 2:22 pm
    junior Says:
    July 26th, 2016 at 11:31 am
    One of these days, I really ought to read the Koran

    * * *
    In the mean time:
    http://counterjihad.com/sharias-incompatibility-with-western-values-explained

  22. neo-neocon Says:

    F:

    My post on Reading Lolita in Tehran.

  23. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I often read The Diplomad’s blog, and some months ago in one of the discussion threads where some other retired State Department people, (going by their own comments and reminiscences) brought up the suddenness of the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. One of those retirees remarked on how suddenly after Jimmy Carter took office that the Shah – who had hitherto been seen by the State department as mildly favorable towards as a reliable ally in the Middle East – seemingly became untouchable. Out of the blue came all these claims of human rights abuses, the brutality of his regime, and how exiles like Khomeini should be allowed to return. It was all very odd to that State veteran, and curiously seemed to come from the very top, when he began to ask questions of his superiors. He wondered if Carter had been gotten to by the Saudis (who have since been one of his big, big backers and funders of his presidential library) and in return for their favors, had agreed to see the Shah “neutralized”. I know – Shia, Wahabi and all that, being not so likely allies.
    It was speculation, of course, on a comment thread, and when has that ever happened before – but the coincidence seemed … curious, in light of subsequent events and of Carter’s apparent detestation of the Shah. But nothing the least bit good happened in the Mideast with the Shah’s overthrow. Just about every bit of instability there started with that. If Carter really did start the ball rolling in this manner – he might really, truly be one of history’s greatest monsters.

  24. sdferr Says:

    Learning “from history” is one thing. Learning about or of history, another: Strauss’ seminars on Vico. (The freely downloadable “PDF” there is a complete and annotated transcription of the course, especially good for those who prefer reading to listening. Listening is still, however, much to be commended.)

  25. Big Maq Says:

    @sdferr – Thanks for the link!

    Skipping past the preface / intro and reading the first two pages of Session 1 very much tweaks one’s interest to read/listen further.

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    Some of those Iranians, now that I recall, came to the US and gave their support to another evil, in the Demoncrat party.

    If Carter really did start the ball rolling in this manner – he might really, truly be one of history’s greatest monsters.

    Every Democrat is about as demonic, not “incompetent”. Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Hussein, Clintons, etc. None of them are clean, none of them removes the transgressions from the Leftist alliance they were part of.

    There is no difference in guilt for them, from my pov. And no amount of claims that they were “misguided” or “patriots” will change that.

  27. expat Says:

    Dennis,
    Of course Khomeini is influenced by Islam. There is plenty there to give him all to ammo he needs to gain power. But there are other Muslims such as the secularized Turks who interpret Islam differently. We have to fight to give them room to reinterpret the religion in a more civilized way. I’ve read that many Pakistanis don’t support the violence of the Talliban or ISIS. And the interpretations in Malaysia and Indonesia are also different. Islam has had to adapt to the different cultures where it was imposed. It could be possible that further adaptations could be made. The radicals are running the show for now, but if we can show ourselves to be strong men and offer the prospect of a better life, we could win over some.

  28. Ymarsakar Says:

    One of the things the first Caliphate (s) did, was to wage a holy war against Arabs who wanted to convert away from Islam.

    Nobody gets out of “Islam” alive, if Allah has anything to say about it.

    The radicals are running the show for now, but if we can show ourselves to be strong men and offer the prospect of a better life, we could win over some.
    If I was in the shoes of peaceful Muslim heretics, I wouldn’t trust Americans if they said the sky was blue.

    Syria, Libya, Iraq, Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, Rhodesia, Afghanistan, etc.

  29. J.J. Says:

    expat, I’m with you.

    The murderous cult called Islamism could be reformed. Christianity and Judaism have had reformations. They now exist in many different forms and have become tolerant. Such a reform must come from those within Islam. But outside forces (strong horse voices in the West) can give impetus to the reform. I’m under no illusions that this would be easy or quick or bloodless. IMO, it’s worth the effort as opposed to “kill them all.”

  30. Ymarsakar Says:

    Christianity and Judaism have had reformations.

    After State Christianity purged and killed the heretics first.

  31. Lucius Says:

    It is a mistake to believe that Islam can be reformed. It is also a mistake to believe that those committing atrocities are “radical Islamists”. No, those who do such things are only following the example of Mohammad and the spirit that directed his hands. They are the true practitioners of Islam as proscribed by the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sira. If you want to know what god one serves, go to their scriptures and observe the fruit it produces in their lives. Islam is demonic, and humanity has suffered for 1400 years because of it. Y’all have the internet, so do your own due diligence.

  32. Sharon W Says:

    “Political Islam”, “Historic Islam”, those are 2 names I would use to describe “radical Islam”. I would have to do more research as to why, but Daniel Pipes refers to the “Islamists” and states it is a 20th century construct. I see it more like what Lucius wrote. If people practice “historic” Christianity, especially if following Jesus’ prescribed words, no one gets hurt. The same could never be said of Islam. In fact, the opposite.

  33. Yankee Says:

    I had a very good professor in college, taking one of his courses that covered Iran in part. His point was that Iran in 1979 was the first time that Islam had been a revolutionary political force. That’s what made that revolution unique, and why it caught those at the time by surprise. He also noted that power in Iran today is divided up by competing groups, with differences on how to conduct policy, which is not apparent to many of us on the outside.

  34. Dennis Says:

    OK guys. I’m surprised that expat’s imagination is not big enough to come up with a psychological explanation for Khomeini which exempts Islam. How do you decide which terrorists deserve a psychological explanation and which are actually influenced by Islam?

    Also it appears that you think that the actual contents of the holy books has nothing to do with the evolution of a religion Apparently there is some natural law which says that all religions become more peaceful and tolerant over time. Exactly how you came up with that is beyond me, but again if the contents of the holy books have no influence over the development of the religion then perhaps one could extrapolate from Judaism and Christianity to all religions?

    Let’s suppose that you are wrong and that people actually do pay attention to what is written in the holy books. In that case, if you think Islam has the ability to reform from within then you should be able to offer the positive passages within the Koran which could support the reformation. I’ll offer some passages from the Bible and in turn you can match them with equally positive passages from the Koran.

    1. Matthew 5
    43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

    2. John 3
    16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

    3. John 8
    36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

    4. Matthew 7
    1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

    5. Matthew 7
    12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

    There are many more Bible passages where these came from. Now it is up to those who claim that Islam can reform from within to back up those claims by quoting similar passages from the Koran.

  35. Dennis Says:

    Yankee Says at 7:15 pm
    “I had a very good professor in college, taking one of his courses that covered Iran in part. His point was that Iran in 1979 was the first time that Islam had been a revolutionary political force.”

    That statement just takes my breath away. What does the professor think happened to the Roman empire (often referred to as the Byzantine empire) which used to reside in Constantinople (now renamed Istanbul)?

  36. Yankee Says:

    Dennis:

    A revolution overthrows the existing political order inside the country. With Iran, the rule of the clerics became supreme, driving out not only the Shah, but eliminating all opposition in the bureaucracy and the military. It would be as if the Archbishop of Canterbury had taken over everything in England, becoming head of state instead of one of the kings, and combining all political and religious power.

    The Muslim conquests of states outside the Arabian peninsula began in the 7th century, after the Prophet’s death. Those were wars of conquest waged by Arabs, taking over territory once controlled by the Byzantine and Persian Empires, which were weak at that time from fighting with one another.

    In general, those areas taken over by Muslim conquests were subject to Arabization and Islamization over time. The Persians became Muslim, but retained their own language and much of their culture. Persia (with varying borders) was ruled at times by Arab, Turkish, Mongol, and Persian dynasties, notably the Safavid, who began the conversion to Shia Islam.

    The Muslim conquests led by Arabs had notable success in the early Middle Ages, but in later centuries, their power was eclipsed by the Turks. The Ottoman Turks finished off the remnants of the Byzantine Empire (taking Constantinople in 1453), expanded through the 17th century, and then began its long slow decline to where we are today.

  37. Dennis Says:

    Yankee,

    Thanks for the history lesson.

    I think what your professor may have been referring to is that traditionally Shia clerics do not rule directly. In that regard the present situation is somewhat anomalous. However that seems to be a distinction without much of a difference.

    Civil rulers have always been subject to the dictates of Sharia law which is highly political and severely limits the ability of civil leaders to legislate. In that regard Islam has always been a theocracy even though Allah has not revised his laws for well over 1000 years.

  38. Yankee Says:

    A lot of history there in that region, starting from Cyrus the Great and the Achaemenid Empire, roughly 2500 years ago. One could assume that an Iranian today would be proud of that long history, would like the Persian language and culture, and is comfortable being a Muslim. However, I’m guessing that maybe half the people there are tired of rule by the clerics, and would prefer more normal lives. A fair number of Iranian-Americans are also in the U.S., including reporter Christiane Amanpour, and actress Sarah Shahi.

    Of course, the subject of President Obama and his policy toward Iran is a whole other matter; one could also speculate what the next President might do.

  39. J.J. Says:

    Dennis: “Also it appears that you think that the actual contents of the holy books has nothing to do with the evolution of a religion Apparently there is some natural law which says that all religions become more peaceful and tolerant over time.”

    As recently as the 1500s being the wrong sect of Christianity in the wrong country could get your head on a pike. The 30 Years War has been cited as the beginning of tolerance and less literal translation of the Bible by Christians. Today I know Christians who are fundamentalists. They believe the Earth is 5000 years old and that the Bible is the literal word of God. Yet, they do not practice polygamy, stone adulteresses, or other ancient practices from the Old Testament. In other words they have modified the beliefs that some Christians held in Medieval times.

    I can’t tell you what verses of the Quran advocate peaceable practices and I doubt that you can either, unless you have read the book in its original Arabic. The Muslim world is filled with people who are illiterate and know only what they are told by their imams. That said, even many literate Muslims have only a small acquaintance with the Quran. But they are looking for something to explain why they live in such a benighted society and are open to the Wahhabist explanations.

    After the fall of the Ottoman Empire most Muslims were on a course toward moderation (reform) of Islam. Check out the Muslim graduation pictures in this piece:
    http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/48901/how-veil-conquered-cairo-university-jamie-glazov

    What happened? IMO, it was the advent of Muslim writers like Hassan al Banna and Sayyid Qutb who both had discovered the teachings of Muhammad bin Abd al Wahhab, who lived in the Arabian peninsula during the eighteenth century (1703-1791). They popularized the philosophy of Wahhab and their writings were instrumental in the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Wahhabism is the accepted form of Islam in Saudi Arabia. As long as it was confined there it was no problem. In the 1960s Saudi Arabia used their growing oil revenues to began funding Wahhabist imams outside Saudi Arabia. The spread of violence and terrorism has tracked the revival of the spread of Wahhabi doctrine – forced conversion and Sharia Law in addition to other less objectionable Muslim practices.

    I’m no Muslim scholar but I know this much from reading and talking to Muslims. There are five pillars of Islam. The three practiced by moderate Muslims are prayer, fasting, and charitable works. The other two that Islamic radicals follow are Sharia Law and converting or killing all infidels. The first three are acceptable and not a problem in the U.S. as long as they follow U.S. law. The last two are unacceptable to any society that isn’t hardcore Islamist and are a declaration of war on all non-Islamist societies.

    Sharia and forcible conversion are a threat to free people and representative government everywhere. When will American leaders see this and start speaking about it? Why not call for reform of Islam and stand up to the Islamist doctrine as well as killing their jihadis? If Islam cannot do away with Sharia and forced conversion, they are a threat to the entire world, just as General el Sisi of Egypt pointed out. Reformation would not happen overnight but the process needs to be started and pursued in the strongest terms possible.

    As I said, it beats trying to kill over a billion people.

  40. MissJean Says:

    “Yet, they do not practice polygamy, stone adulteresses, or other ancient practices from the Old Testament. In other words they have modified the beliefs that some Christians held in Medieval times.”

    JJ, Christians did NOT practice polygamy, stoning, etc in the Middle Ages. Do you know what “medieval” means? The period from the Fall of the Roman Empire (5th century) to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Even the Romans didn’t practice polygamy or stoning for capital crimes, so it defies reason why Christians would adopt such practices after.

  41. F Says:

    Neo:

    Thank you for that link. I had to seen it before, and it was an excellent analysis of the book.

    Iran has a long and exciting history that is frequently forgotten because of event since the return of Khomeini and takeover of our embassy. Several of my colleagues — several I knew well and served with in previous posts — were hostages there. It was not a pretty situation.

    Maybe one day Iran will return to a semblance of what it was before Khomeini. That would be good news for Iranians and for us too.

  42. neo-neocon Says:

    Dennis:

    If I recall expat’s comment correctly, her explanation did NOT “exempt Islam.” It added to it.

    Sometimes there are many reasons something happens, and they all work in concert. They are not mutually exclusive.

  43. Dennis Says:

    J.J. Says at 11:13 pm

    “I can’t tell you what verses of the Quran advocate peaceable practices and I doubt that you can either, unless you have read the book in its original Arabic.”

    Somehow I’m not surprised. Muslims believe the Koran is Allah’s exact words so that no translation is actually the Koran. Unfortunately, that literalism gives Muslims little room for reformation. Very few Christians, even most fundamentalists, believe that the words they read in the Bible are dictated word for word by God.

    I believe MissJean has spoken to the polygamy and stoning issues.

    Wahhabism is indeed a blight on Islam. Of course, Islam was violent and aggressive long before Wahhabism made it’s appearance. Sharia law predates has a long history and predates Wahhabism so if one wants to know Islam without Wahhabism that is a good source. It makes interesting reading.

    ” If Islam cannot do away with Sharia and forced conversion, they are a threat to the entire world, just as General el Sisi of Egypt pointed out. Reformation would not happen overnight but the process needs to be started and pursued in the strongest terms possible.”

    We agree, it would be good if Islam were to reform. It’s not at all clear that such a reformation is imminent or if Western Civilization will survive while we are waiting. Right now radical or devout Islam is working very well for Islam since Islam is spreading much faster under the radical guise than it did under the “moderate” guise so there is no incentive to reform. If the only alternative to reforming Islam is to kill a billion people we are in deep trouble. Fortunately, there are other ways to defeat it without committing mass murder. The first step is for the West to stop making excuses for Islam and to stop lying to themselves and each other about the true nature of Islam.

    neo-neocon Says at 12:51 am
    “Dennis:

    If I recall expat’s comment correctly, her explanation did NOT “exempt Islam.” It added to it.

    Sometimes there are many reasons something happens, and they all work in concert. They are not mutually exclusive.”

    I agree. The argument that there are multiple causes for most things is almost self evident. For example, everyone who is exposed to Mycobacterium tuberculosis doesn’t become outwardly ill. Islam is very much like Mycobacterium tuberculosis only it is considerably worse.

  44. Fred Says:

    My be useful Reading Khamenei: The World View of Iran’s Most Powerful Leader (pdf)
    http://carnegieendowment.org/files/sadjadpour_iran_final2.pdf

  45. Fred Says:

    Iran’s Srebrenica: How Ayatollah Khomeini sanctioned the deaths of 20,000 ‘enemies of the state’

    A tribunal at The Hague publishes a report illustrating the regime’s crimes against humanity
    Peter Popham @peterpopham Friday 8 February 2013
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/irans-srebrenica-how-ayatollah-khomeini-sanctioned-the-deaths-of-20000-enemies-of-the-state-8485984.html

  46. Fred Says:

    The problem with religions is not the text in holy books but its created by those who interpreted.

    This general between all religions

  47. Fred Says:

    Wahhabism is the accepted form of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

    This very basic and most common mistake most been circulated here and there.

    There are FOUR major sectors of Islam much respected and followed by the majority of Muslims
    الحنفية والمالكية والشافعية و الحنابلة

    Hanafi
    Maliki
    Shafea
    Hanbali

    Whatever its not really sort of those main sectors spatially Wahhabism which well known created during British area to control ME and Part of bring down the Ottoman Empire

  48. Fred Says:

    Days of God’ by James Buchan
    ‘A Little Feu de Joie’
    Adam Shatz
    Days of God: The Revolution in Iran and Its Consequences by James Buchan
    John Murray, 482 pp, £25.00, November 2012, ISBN 978 1 84854 066 8

    During the Borujerdi era, Khomeini was a marginal, even ostracised figure in Qom, known
    mostly for his austere lifestyle and his expertise in erfan (mysticism). His lectures attracted a
    following, but they also raised suspicions that he was an infidel, perhaps even a Sunni. He
    cultivated an air of otherworldliness that entranced his followers, and he disdained his
    colleagues, the ‘stupid, reactionary mullahs’. He admired men of action who performed their
    religious duty by assassinating members of the regime. Borujerdi held Khomeini at a distance,
    fearing that his radicalism might leave the seminary vulnerable to the security services. But
    after Borujerdi died in 1961, Khomeini started to raise his voice against the shah.

    Khomeini argued that the Quranic concept of the velayate
    faqih, ‘the stewardship of the
    jurist’, applied not just to widows and orphans (as most scholars believed) but to society as a
    whole: the Islamic state should be ruled by a group of clerics; even, he hinted, by ‘a single
    man’, though he could not be a monarch, since Islam was inherently hostile to monarchy.

    but even before he reached Tehran, Khomeini insisted on his
    resignation. The American government was divided between those in favour of a military
    coup, and those, like William Sullivan, the American ambassador in Tehran, who saw
    Khomeini as a Gandhilike
    figure and a potential ally in the fight against communism. The
    Soviets assumed that America’s loss would be their gain, and that the shouts of ‘God is great!’,
    the sea of turbans and chadors in the streets of Tehran, were merely a façade for socialist
    revolution. But Khomeini’s slogan was ‘neither East nor West’,

  49. Dennis Says:

    Fred Says at 9:24 am
    “The problem with religions is not the text in holy books but its created by those who interpreted.

    This general between all religions.”

    Fred has summed up our differences quite succinctly. I think that dismissing the effect of the doctrines of a dominant religion on society and on individuals is dangerous.

  50. Fred Says:

    Emma Sky

    @11:28
    https://vimeo.com/140402887

  51. J.J. Says:

    MissJean: Polygamy was not widely practiced in Medieval times but there were some select Christians (mostly royalty or noblemen) who did engage in such.
    Read this: http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/326/polygamy-in-judaism-and-christianity

    The story in John 7:53-8-11 of Jesus forgiving the adulteress who was about to be stoned is thought to be a late addition (after 1200) to the NT.

    Though I can’t find any concrete examples of Christians practicing stoning of adulteresses in the Middle Ages, there is plenty of evidence that adulterous women were severely punished. Punishments such as being expelled from their homes, their dowries confiscated by their husbands, heads shaven and forced to parade through the streets for shaming. Then, of course, there was the Scarlet A. Not stoning to death but severe punishment in spite of Jesus example in John 7:53-8-11.

    My point , though badly made, was that Christians have moderated their beliefs considerably since the 1500s.

  52. J.J. Says:

    Fred: Thanks for the link to Emma Sky’s video. Good stuff.

  53. Ymarsakar Says:

    The story in John 7:53-8-11 of Jesus forgiving the adulteress who was about to be stoned is thought to be a late addition (after 1200) to the NT.

    What religious authority decided that one?

  54. MissJean Says:

    Ymarsakar beat me to it.

    The polygamy link reinforces what I wrote: the Romans didn’t practice polygamy. The Church Fathers also wrote “Of the Good of Marriage” about 400 A.D. and in it, marriage is described as between one man and one woman. If a man were to “put away” his wife (divorce her) or vice versa, the man could not have another wife. Vows until death are mentioned at this early time. You can read it yourself here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1309.htm

    As for the polygamous Anglicans in Africa, that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. The Church of England started, after all, because Henry VIII wanted easy divorces.

  55. J.J. Says:

    “What religious authority decided that one?”

    And who would you consider a religious authority?

    Ah, that is the question because words and books often mean different things to different people.
    But since you asked, here are a few links to peruse:
    http://www.academia.edu/7928058/The_Historicity_of_the_Pericope_Adulterae_John_7_53-8_11_

    “Until recently, it was not thought that any Greek Church Father had taken note of the passage before the 12th Century; but in 1941 a large collection of the writings of Didymus the Blind (ca. 313- 398) was discovered in Egypt, including a reference to the pericope adulterae as being found in “several gospels”; and it is now considered established that this passage was present in its canonical place in a minority of Greek manuscripts known in Alexandria from the 4th Century onwards.” Found here:
    http://textus-receptus.com/wiki/Jesus_and_the_woman_taken_in_adultery

    “This entire section, Joh 7:53-8:11, traditionally known as the pericope adulterae, is not contained in the earliest and best MSS and was almost certainly not an original part of the Gospel of John. Among modern commentators and textual critics, it is a foregone conclusion that the section is not original but represents a later addition to the text of the Gospel.”
    See here: http://oneinjesus.info/2014/05/apologetics-how-we-got-the-bible-part-6-the-woman-taken-in-adultery/

    You may be dead sure of your information, but when it comes to ancient manuscripts and their interpretation there are differences of opinion. Just as there are differences of opinion here at Neo’s. Especially when it comes to religion. Religion deals with faith. What is faith? It is a strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. Thus, your mileage may vary. I’m all for any religion that helps people get closer in a relationship with God/Jehovah/or? I’m opposed to religions that preach forced conversion or brutal punishments for transgressions – Islam for one.

    I don’t understand why people can’t seem to deal with the facts of Christianity’s Medieval practices and how they changed to being more tolerant and more forgiving over time. Those were times when too many clergymen and rulers lost their way and used their interpretation of Gospel to justify their intolerance and barbarity. If you haven’t read about the 30 Years War, you should. It was a barbaric religious war that opened people’s eyes to a better way – of living in peace and tolerance with other religious sects. It didn’t happen right away, but the intolerance slowly ebbed away.

  56. J.J. Says:

    MissJean, what you are sending me to is official Catholic documentation. I surrender. You’re right. I’m just a hopeless sinner who goes around spreading stupidity on the internet. Thank you for pointing out my errors.

  57. MissJean Says:

    You’re welcome.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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