No, I have no idea how they did it, but they did it damned well, sez Charles from LGF:
Â An Englishman responds to the caveman’s ‘invitation to Islam’-
Pat Condell is a British comedianÂ
Iran loses faith in clerics
Change elusive in rigid society
By Kim Barker
No Mo Moderates, Only Radicals:
The mob shouted for his blood. They called him a traitor; they yelled, “Death to Montazeri.”
The target of their wrath? The Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri.
Once, he was heir apparent to the ruler of the country, an Iranian equivalent to Thomas Jefferson, an Islamic revolutionary who helped topple the dreaded Shah of Iran. Now, though, his fall from grace seemed complete. Outside his home, an unruly crowd of hundreds had branded him a heretic.
As Montazeri, partially deaf, prayed in a room behind his office, he barely heard bricks shattering the windows. But his family members were scared. They ran from the cleric to the chaos outside and back, trying to shield Montazeri from harm.
Eventually, the police took action on that day in 1997, spraying the mob with tear gas. The aging cleric and his family escaped harm. But they would endure years of punishment, house arrest, prison and harassment.
Montazeri’s crime was simple: He had publicly criticized his one-time allies, the clerics who run the country, for abandoning human rights and freedom as the foundation of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“The shah is gone,” Montazeri said in a recent interview. “But a clergy has replaced him.”
On one level, the story of Hussein Ali Montazeri is a powerful drama of life, death and resurrection in one of the world’s most rigid societies. Critics say he is naive, manipulated by the people around him and bitter after falling out of favor with the government. But at 82, Montazeri has survived years of intellectual apartheid to rise again in the eyes of the Islamic world. Today he is considered one of the top two Shiite clerics worldwide and is a powerful voice for moderation in Iran.
His story also shows the ups and downs of the struggle over Islam in a nation where large numbers of people yearn for the economic and political freedoms practiced in the secular West, often viewed as an icon of immorality by the conservative clerics of Iran.
In thick, black-rimmed glasses, a white skullcap, cardigan sweater and long robe, Montazeri hardly fits the image of a rebel. His hands shake. He often sits on a heating pad. He suffers from diabetes, but he hides chocolates in a desk drawer. He speaks in singsong sentences that trail off in a wheeze.
But Montazeri is at the heart of a battle over Iran’s fate–one that could hint at the future in the Middle East, where radicals from Iraq to the Gaza Strip want an Islamic revolution like the one that happened in Iran 25 years ago.
On one side are the powerful clerics who rule Iran and thwart the most modest reforms.
On the other side, grass-roots reformers complain that the fight for an Islamic democracy actually led to an Islamic dictatorship, one that jails or even kills its critics, violates basic rights and distorts the tenets of Islam.
Led by senior clerics such as Montazeri and one-time foot soldiers of the revolution, they seek democratic reforms that would restore a respect for human rights and freedom. Some, such as Montazeri, believe that the country can be run through an Islamic system. But others believe that religion has no place in government. They want the clergy to return to the mosques. They want a true democracy.
“I don’t have any doubt it will come,” said Ibrahim Yazdi, the Islamic Republic’s first foreign minister, who now leads the country’s only secular-leaning political party.
The people of Iran are caught in the middle, chanting “Death to America” at Friday prayers then welcoming American visitors with fresh fruit. They adhere to strict Islamic codes in public but disappear behind closed doors to drink homemade vodka and watch MTV.
They live in a nation that is rich in oil but has a stagnant economy. Jobs are scarce, the air polluted, the press controlled and the politics repressive.
And in the ultimate irony of the Islamic Republic, the country is becoming less religious, not more.
On a Friday in January, one of Iran’s top politicians stood on an outdoor stage at the University of Tehran, praising the Islamic Revolution to a crowd of thousands.
“This is a big achievement,” said Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997. “In today’s world, when many countries and people are against religion, we see a religion emerging capable of making a country run.”
This was no ordinary political stump speech. Rafsanjani was leading weekly Friday prayers, a blend of politics and religion, of pep rally and prayer, of love for Iran’s government and hate for the U.S. and Israel.
On one side of the audience, about 5,000 women sat on Persian carpets. Most wore chadors, sometimes using their teeth to hold the sheet-like coverings over their hair and bodies. They could not see Rafsanjani over the tall dividers separating them from about 15,000 men.
During Rafsanjani’s speech, the crowd responded with the same cheers of praise shouted since the revolution. “God is great,” they yelled. “Death to the United States.”
Iran is still a religious country, despite pushes for political reform. People in the crowd on Fridays embrace the revolution and all that has followed.
“Until the day we no longer have blood in our veins, we will say `Death to America,'” said Soraya Ghayoomi, before cheerfully handing an apple to an American.