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Iran, How A Clerical Regime Has Undermined Religion Itself

One of the chief victims of radical clerical rule in Iran has been religion, historically a bulwark of Iranian society now seen as a tool of tyranny.

Photo of people in a Mosque

People visiting the Vakil Mosque in Shiraz, Iran

*Reza Saidi-Firouzabadi


The installation of a theocratic regime in Iran in 1979 upended the lives of Iranians, as the self-styled Islamic Republic sought, in the name of religion, to interfere with social customs and personal habits.

This republic has a particular reading of religion tied to its theory of unquestioned rule by a Shia jurisprudent (Velayat-e mutlaqe-ye faqih). The regime insists the Islamic religion has planned and regulated all aspects of daily and social life, which requires a government to enforce those rules.

Even religion must be governed, in contrast with the secular order preceding the revolution, where it was kept separate from public affairs.

Throughout Iran's long history, religion had been a force for stability to society.

Weakened beliefs

After 1979, the state's socio-cultural interventionism and control over all religious bodies have effectively eliminated innovative, independent or dissenting religious thinking (inside Iran), promoted superstitions and put cynics and manipulators in charge of faith!

Instead of people turning to religion in droves, they will leave God's religion in droves.

These have weakened religion, divided the religious establishment, and widened existing social rifts. The public have blamed religion for the inability of its politicized version to solve mundane problems relating to socio-economics, culture and politics, but also for the state's violence over 40 years.

And not surprisingly, there has been growing hostility toward religion, among critics and believing Muslims, in keeping with the earlier warnings of a good many social observers. The Iranian theologian and Muhammad Mojtahed-Shabestari wrote in his Critique of the Formal Reading of Religion (Naqdi bar qara'at-e rasmi-e deen), published in Tehran in 2000, that the danger is "that with this method (political Islam), religious thinking will be paralyzed. Religion becomes an obstacle to spiritual growth and progress and the resolution of life problems.

Instead of people turning to religion in droves, they will leave God's religion in droves. In the critical process affecting religious interpretation, the element of crisis has placed a burden on the science of (Shia) jurisprudence that it could never bear, given its methods, goals and principal concern."

Photo of the Hosseinieh Ershad in Iran

The Hosseinieh Ershad is a non-traditionalist religious institute established by Nasser Minachi in Tehran, Iran.

Rouzbeh Fouladi/ZUMA

A national demand

The national uprising of late 2022 has once more turned the separation of state and religion into a national demand. This was broadly the norm in Iranian history, in spite of episodes of political control over religion, for example under the 17th century Safavids or earlier Sasanian empire.

It may be no exaggeration to say, this is what most Iranians want.

The separation of state and religion does not mean hostility to religion or "anti-clericalism", as religion has historically been a pillar and source of strength to Iranian society.

But many Iranians, including pious Iranians, believe in this separation.

They can see how meddling by religion has harmed governance, the economy and society, not to mention morals and religion. It is time then for clerical leaders and society to restore that separation, to strengthen society and religion, and repair the socio-cultural divides of recent decades. It may be no exaggeration to say, this is what most Iranians want.

*Saidi is an Iranian surgeon based in Syracuse, New York. His views are not those of Kayhan-London.

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The Problem With Always Blaming Climate Change For Natural Disasters

Climate change is real, but a closer look at the science shows there are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters. It is important to raise awareness about the long-term impact of global warming, but there's a risk in overstating its role in the latest floods or fires.

People on foot, on bikes, motorcycles, scooters and cars navigate through a flooded street during the day time.

Karachi - People wade through flood water after heavy rain in a southern Pakistani city

Xinhua / ZUMA
Axel Bojanowski


BERLIN — In September, thousands of people lost their lives when dams collapsed during flooding in Libya. Engineers had warned that the dams were structurally unsound.

Two years ago, dozens died in floods in western Germany, a region that had experienced a number of similar floods in earlier centuries, where thousands of houses had been built on the natural floodplain.

Last year saw more than 1,000 people lose their lives during monsoon floods in Pakistan. Studies showed that the impact of flooding in the region was exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, the outdated river management system, high poverty rates and political instability in Pakistan.

There are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters, but one dominates the headlines: climate change. That is because of so-called attribution studies, which are published very quickly after these disasters to highlight how human-caused climate change contributes to extreme weather events. After the flooding in Libya, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described climate change as a “serial offender," while the Tageszeitung wrote that “the climate crisis has exacerbated the extreme rainfall."

The World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has once again achieved its aim of using “real-time analysis” to draw attention to the issue: on its website, the institute says its goal is to “analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events." Frederike Otto, who works on attribution studies for the WWA, says these reports help to underscore the urgent need for climate action. They transform climate change from an “abstract threat into a concrete one."

In the immediate aftermath of a weather-related disaster, teams of researchers rush to put together attribution studies – “so that they are ready within the same news cycle," as the New York Times reported. However, these attribution studies do not meet normal scientific standards, as they are published without going through the peer-review process that would be undertaken before publication in a specialist scientific journal. And that creates problems.

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