“The Iranian state serves the revolution, not the other way around,” concluded Iran analysts at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (IGC) in a series of 2019 studies four decades after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. As this series has previously indicated, in the name of pursuing an Islamic new world order, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has gone to extreme lengths to suppress any contrary indigenous, independent Iranian culture.
Iranian-Canadian political analyst Shahir Shahidsaless has noted that the IRI’s founding father and first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had “viewed the concept of nationalism as un-Islamic.” “Like many other pious Muslims,” for him nationalism meant “opposition to the concept of ummah (Muslim worldwide community), which fundamentally rejects borders that divide Muslim societies.” “Those who, in the name of nationalism, factionalism, etc., create schism and disunity among Muslims are armies of Satan, opponents of the Holy Quran, and helping agents of the superpowers,” Khomeini had stated. He believed that “nationalism is designed by the plotters to create discord among the Muslims and it is being propagated by the agents of imperialism.”
Shahidsaless contrasted the “secular rule of the Shah,” Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, overthrown in 1979, whose “vast propaganda empowered nationalist fervour.” “In a glaring move,” the shah eliminated in 1976 the Islamic calendar, which begins with the 622 migration (hijrah) of Islam’s prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. As replacement came the Iranian royal calendar based upon the 559 BCE coronation of Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. From Najaf, Iraq, where Khomeini had fled from the shah into exile in 1963, Khomeini labeled the new calendar a “preamble to the elimination of Islam.”
Ascending to power in 1979, Khomeini presented a dramatic reversal with the statement “Islam in fact is an ideology, in which religion represents one aspect.” The IGC analysts have noted that the “constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran makes clear the expansionist and Islamist nature of the country’s 1979 revolution” with a “centrality of ideology.” “Iran’s Islamist ideology is therefore at the crux of the Islamic Republic and cannot be detached from the Iranian state” while “for Iran’s leaders, the creation of an Islamic state in Iran was a first step to establishing a broader pan-Islamic order.” “The revolution does not exist to perfect the state; the state—the republic—is simply a means to support and perfect the revolution. Where the two conflict, the revolution is prioritized,” the IGC experts have summarized.
“All of Iran’s leaders are Islamists and claim their mandate to implement an Islamic order on the nation derives from God,” the IGC analysts have detailed. The “supreme leader is the leader of the revolution, not of the republic,” and the “Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is sworn to defend the purity of the revolution from enemies both within and without.” In public addresses, Iranian leaders have typically “opened with a prayer in Arabic, something that was not a regular feature of Iranian political culture before 1979.”
The IGC reports have especially noted that the
Green Movement protests against the 2009 Iranian presidential election results were a rude awakening to many Iranians who had believed the revolution was about political emancipation, when it was abruptly announced that obedience to the supreme leader and his appointees was the equivalent of obedience to God. No modern Iranian monarch could have made such a claim.
As Israeli Iran expert Raz Zimmt has explained, the IRI has tried to inculcate such loyalty by purging Iranian culture of nonconforming elements from the shah’s ancien régime in an attempt to create a new Iranian homo Islamicus. The “Islamic regime sought to place religion at the center of Iranian national identity, as a reaction to the blatant secularism of the royalist regime, and its efforts to emphasize Iran’s pre-Islamic past.” The national security and Middle East analyst Sarah Katz has concurred that the IRI “spurned Iranian nationalism in favor of a world conquering Islamist vision; and dissociated itself from Iran’s pre-Islamic past.”
Katz has elaborated that,
in the wake of the 1979 revolution, the government in Tehran has smothered the country’s rich, diverse, and ancient culture beneath a theocratic dictatorship. The regime is openly contemptuous of Iran’s history, its ethnic and religious minorities, and its secular-minded citizens.
In this diversity’s place, the IRI has indoctrinated a monoculture reflecting the Arab-Islamic seventh-century conquest of Iran, as the Iranian-American expatriate Amil Imani has noted. Since 1979 a “proud people with an enviable heritage have been systematically purged of their sense of identity and forced to think and behave like barbaric and intolerant Muslims.” His fellow Iranian expatiate Sheda Vasseghi has observed that the “Islamic Republic’s political and social agenda is to dilute Iranian culture and heritage with Islam to facilitate its Arabization.”
Public place names have served as one reeducation means. Khomeini gave Khalid al-Islambouli, the jihadist leader of the 1981 assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, martyr status and named a Tehran street after Islambouli after his 1982 Egyptian state execution. Katz particularly noted that the IRI has been “Arabizing many Tehran street names from their classical Persian.”
Much more egregious, a “concerted effort was made to demolish historical monuments,” Imani noted, including previously examined attempts to destroy remains of the ancient Achaemenid Empire such as Persepolis and Cyrus the Great’s tomb. “The Islamist zealots ruling Iran for the past 40 years have undertaken a systematic campaign of endangering and destroying the cultural sites of pre-Islamic Iran, ignoring the numerous petitions and pleas of the Iranian people.” Imani stated that:
History is repeating itself. When the original Arabs conquered Iran, the first thing they did was destroy Persian books, heritage and artifacts, as we have witnessed similar actions by ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] in both Iraq and Syria. The Islamic Republic of Iran also despises anything and everything Iranian, and has been gradually obliterating Iranian antiquities while no one notices.
Yet Vasseghi found “no better evidence regarding the Islamic Republic’s cultural genocide of Iran than its own textbooks.” Imani elaborated that the
animosity toward Iranian pre-Islamic culture and history and became the hallmark of the Islamic Republic’s regime. De-Persianization and adulation of the Arabic tribal culture entered elementary school books. In schools, instead of teaching Persian history, culture and geography and history, they taught culture and geography of the Bedouins of another land. In schools, children were brainwashed by a type of ideological indoctrination no longer acceptable by modern society and taught a Persian language obliterated by unfamiliar jargon. Purging of our institutions of higher education of scholars, top professors and researchers caused lowering of educational standards relative to international standards and flight of the best and the brightest of our country.
The views of Imani and others, along with recent Iranian events, indicate that the IRI’s revolution is backfiring. Iranians naturally reject abandoning their national identity for the costly, cosmic claims of an Islamic ideology perceived by many Iranians as a foreign imposition. Rather than fomenting totalitarian religious zeal, the IRI has ultimately highlighted Iran’s conflicted history between native and Arab-Islamic elements, as the next part of this series will analyze.
EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. All rights reserved.