I’d really like to go see this exhibit!

From the NPR story on a Paris exhibit on Iran’s “twitter” revolution:

“My generation, we [were] very ashamed, because it was our fault what’s happened to them,” she says, adding that the latest demonstrations have helped bring the two generations back together.


The gallery’s top floor is pitch dark, except for some tiny electric candles placed around the floor. The room is filled with the sound of people chanting “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” from the rooftops of Tehran.

Another Green Ribbon member, Azam, 27, says this chanting went on every night for more than six months after the June 12 election, turning what was once a mantra of the Islamic revolution into a call for protest. She says the nightly ritual brought people closer.

“They went to the top of their house or behind their window, and they say ‘Allahu akbar,’ and in front of your house there’s another house, and there’s someone there who says ‘Allahu akbar,’ and they know each other after one month. And it’s so kind,” Azam says.

More on that here

Specifically I thought it was really, really interesting how you have here two examples of religion being used in politics. In the first case, the older lady reflecting on 1979 and how her generation’s support of Khomeini was a disaster that the new generation still blames them for. In the second case you have this amazing, spontaneous and moving expression of political sentiment via a simple religious slogan. At what point does religion as political expression become “dangerous”? I mean, at what point is a line crossed? I would guess that it’s impossible to say until you’re past it. It’s very easy to condemn Bhutto, for example, with the benefit of hindsight. Not so easy when you are actually living in between 1970-1974 to say when the line was crossed, but it was certainly crossed by the time of the second amendment.

I would guess that this is the biggest challenge for Muslim politicians in the present century which is how to manage the religiosity of the public (which tends to naturally overshadow all other forms of political expression) and to prevent it from becoming a beast that swallows the entire political system. In “Discourses on Livy” Machiavelli says that the ruler of the Republic should co-opt symbols of religion that hold emotional value to the public. I think he gave the example of some ruler who disregarded some augury before a war and suffered politically as a result. But Machiavelli was referring to the pagan religions of the ancient world and I don’t think he had as accommodating an attitude towards the Christian church and honestly, I have no idea what he would have made of a Muslim majority state where Islam is clearly a competing source of political authority and moreover one to which the public turns far more naturally than to any ramshackle “corrupt” and man-made system of government.


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