Beginnings of Post-Islamism?

Arab uprisings and Iranian opposition movement yearn for freedom


Beginnings of Post-Islamism?
by Abbas Djavadi

People around the world have been making comparisons between the situations in their countries and those in the Arab lands in revolt. Will Saudi Arabia follow the path of Egypt? Is Azerbaijan like Tunisia?

Such comparisons are often misleading, but we can't help doing it and sometimes such exercises can produce interesting hypotheses. For instance, looking at the spectrum of the Arab uprisings, I believe that Iran is more like Egypt than like Libya. Maybe.

Anti-government protesters celebrate the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation.
Egyptians rebelled en masse against the authoritarian and corrupt rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The people wanted to bring an end to a regime that simply did not accept the right of the people to elect and change their government. The uprising came 30 years into Mubarak's presidency.

Obviously, this has parallels with Iran's Green Movement, which started in 2009, exactly 30 years after the Islamic Revolution. The masses rose up because they believed their votes had been stolen to allow the regime to continue unchanged. With the supreme leader, the Guardians Council, the Assembly of Experts, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Basij militia, the Iranian regime has developed a well-organized network of suppression to safeguard the survival of the system and to head off any attempt to change it.

Mubarak, of course, justified his authoritarian rule by claiming it ensured stability and prevented Islamists from coming to power and ending the peace with Israel. Iran's leaders, on the other hand, claim to be ruling in the name of God and the Hidden Imam. Some have recently begun arguing that they don't need popular support or a mandate. Libya's Muammar Qaddafi styles himself the leader not only of Libyans, but of the entire Arab world and Africa, and sees no need for elections or a popular mandate.

In both Egypt and Libya, the issue was one person -- the leader. The people simply wanted the leader to leave so that the government could be changed and the system reformed. In Iran, although the system is headed by the supreme leader, it does not depend on him. It will not fall apart if that person dies or is removed. It did not collapse when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died, and it will not collapse if something happens to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The system has reliable mechanisms for replacing the leader and for defending its own choice against dissent.

It is also important to note that Libya is primarily a tribal society and the conflict there has many features of a civil war. In Egypt and Iran, the conflict was between a more or less united nation and a repressive national government. Those two countries have strong national identities and large portions of their societies view themselves primarily as citizens of their country rather than representatives of particular ethnic or religious groups. The Green Movement in Iran has failed so far because, unlike in Egypt, a sufficiently large portion of the population has not yet stood up for change.

Another way in which Iran is more like Egypt than Libya is the lack of violence. Two years ago in Iran and recently in Egypt, people took to the streets peacefully and explicitly rejected violence and weapons. In Iran, leading opposition figures have argued vehemently that their movement can only succeed if it remains steadfastly nonviolent.

One common thread that unites all the Arab uprisings and the Iranian opposition movement is yearning for freedom and an end to corruption. In none of these countries is anyone calling for rule in the name of God or Islam, unlike in Iran 30 years ago. I would cautiously call the coming phase the beginning of post-Islamism. If modern Islamism can be said to have begun with Iran's 1979 revolution, then perhaps Iran's failed 2009 uprising will be seen as the precursor of post-Islamism. The Tunisians and Egyptians succeeded where the Iranians failed. But that does not mean that the "new Arab revolutions" will always be limited just to the Arab lands.

Abbas Djavadi is an associate director of broadcasting at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). This commentary was first published on




by alimostofi on

Wow Abbas so can you explain why the new FM of Egypt just said he likes the Ayatollahs. Sorry but your argument is wrong. There is only one agenda. The US needs to keep its forces well funded. It needs more mad regimes. Anarchy via the delusion of democracy is what sows the seeds of all divisions of society. And just as Obama used facebook to get elected so the rest of the world is doing the same. Revolutions coincide with new technologies; look at what Guttenburg did, and then the radio and then tv and now internet. That is the force.





Post Islamism

by afshinazad on

There would be no Post Islamism till two major pillars of that cancer been removed from the region and first starts with Iran (IRI) and second it Saudi Arabia, as long as any of these two are in that region, always there would be Islamic regime popping up in some country, we could see the Iraq and Afghanistan and following would be Yemen and Egypt and more to come, look at the culture and society of Yemen, not only the people but the culture of the country wouldn't allow to have the women’s right and freedom and democracy to get established in that country, because society is not been evolved yet, and with interference of  Saudi Arabia and Iran  democracy would never be born in that country whether they are ready or not. 

Western countries have come up with Islamic Republic for Iraq and Afghanistan and of course being next to Iran what would be more logical and what was the choice of people in these two countries?



Never loose sight of the

by vildemose on

Never loose sight of the unique threat posed by Iran. It's the only country run by Islamic purists with enormous piles of cash to invest in their evil cause. It's Islam's Cosa Nostra ; Revolutionary Guards for short, are their henchmen.

Mash Ghasem


by Mash Ghasem on

Structural changes are long term , macro level  phenomenons. Hold your horses.

What has begun are movements in various 'Islamic' countries that are consciouisly  distinguishing themselves from  a religious project, remeber Akhavn's response to Khameneahy: this is an Egyptian revolution, no an Islamic one.

Assef Bayat also has a few lines on Post-Islamist Politics.


No Structural Change has yet occured in Iran.

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

The people now know that their votes have been meaningless for 31 years and will continue to be meaningless.

Some people, few in number, also realize continuation of monarchy and gradual evolution of Iranians in an atmosphere of Freedom as it existed with the Shah, is the path to a more democratic Iran, a more successful iran and a more traditional iran.


Interesting article and some valid points, but...

by Reality-Bites on

it is far too early to assess how the post regime change status of Egypt, Tunisia, Baharian, Yemen and Libya might evolve. Of course, in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen's cases no regime change has yet taken place.

It is certainly too early to claim any kind of "post-Islamism" system taking over. In Egypt the most organised opposition group is the Muslim Brotherhood, which while superficially supporting the anti-Mubarak democratic revolt, is intent on establishing an Islamic Republic of some kind, even its leaders don't say this publicly.

As for Libya, there are reports that al-Qaeda fighters have joined the anti-Qaddafi rebels and, as we know, al-Qaeda is not interested in helping depose any regime simply to replace it with any kind of secular liberal democracy.

Take a look at this link regarding Libya.