The Death of Theocracy

By the rule laid down by the mullahs, the Iranian people are not even allowed to meddle in their own internal affairs. They are counted as wards of the state, as children in the care of a paternal priesthood. (It’s for this reason that the humiliation of dictatorship is felt with especial and stinging keenness by the rising generation of young Iranian adults.) The immediate result of theocratic policy when measured by the standard of repression is pretty clear and getting ever clearer: any government that imagines it has a divine warrant will perforce deal with its critics as if they were profane and thus illegitimate by definition.

But now see how this plays out in the ordinary human world, and watch what happens to a state or society that forbids itself the secular catharsis of self-criticism. In 1988 a certain Mr. Rafsanjani paid an urgent call on a certain Mr. Khomeini in order to tell him that Iran had no serious choice but to sign a U.N.-sponsored peace deal with Saddam Hussein. Not even the consecrated martyrs of the Revolutionary Guards could go on taking the catastrophic casualties of the war. Khomeini had resisted Rafsanjani’s “realism” for a long time, claiming that God was on the side of Iran and that his will would therefore prevail. But he was obliged to sign.

Then, desperate to recover religious credibility and honor, and noticing that there were angry protests against an Indian-born novelist living in England, Khomeini doubled and quadrupled … >>>

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