The aim of this essay is to examine the factors that significantly contributed to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, which culminated in the revolutionary overthrow of the Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi on January 16th, 1979, and the creation of the world’s first modern Islamic nation-state, the Islamic Republic of Iran. The overthrow of the Pahlavi monarch shocked many in the Western world because from the end on World War II until the late 1970’s Iran appeared to be a rock of stability in the turbulent Middle East, as it was a bulwark against Soviet expansionism, political radicalism and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as modernizing and adopting some Western institutions (such as a parliament and a constitution, which did not however, limit the absolute power of the Shah) and cultural values (such as Western dress and the banning of the veiling of women). Many leaders in the Western world simply ignored, or seemed totally unaware of, the civil unrest that was fermenting within Iran, which is adequately demonstrated by a remark made by U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1978, only a year before the Islamic revolution, in which he states that Iran was an ‘island of stability and tranquility’ in the Middle East.
When discussing the topic of Islamic fundamentalism (or any kind of fundamentalism for that matter, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism etc.) it must be noted how cultural perceptions and stereotypes influence the way in which people think in relation to the topic. When the words ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ are used in the Western media, the images that are conjured up in our minds are of militant, retrogressive, women oppressing, terrorist extremists who are dedicated to the destruction of the West, and in particular to the destruction of the ‘Great Satan’ - the... [continues]
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