The Iranian Revolution and Islamic Movements in the Twentieth Century

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The Iranian Revolution and Islamic Movements in the Twentieth Century (#1) The Iranian revolution of 1979 left profound significance for Iran, in that the revolution transformed the country’s political, social, economic, and legal structures. It resulted in the abolishment of the shah ruling and the establishment of a republic. In the revolution, not only secular laws were substituted with Islamic codes of law but political and military leaders in the shah government were expelled and a new elite group emerged. However, the Iranian revolution was a part of reflection of deep crisis of the entire Middle Eastern states in the 1970s. The states of the region failed to bring social justice, economic stability, and the end of imperialism; these unfulfilled aspirations, along with the authoritarian tendencies of the many of the region’s regimes, spawned social unrest and brought about various Islamic movements in Middle East (Gelvin 300). Although reflecting the distinctive circumstances of each state in Middle East, various types of Islamic movement exhibited similar features that characterized the Islamic resurgence as a whole. Hence, the models of political Islam put forth in the Iranian revolution and other Islamic movements are paralleled in two ways: They were initiated by those from non-political or religious sectors of the society, and Islamic values served as driving force and ultimate solution over any Western ideas to the problems of society. It has significant meaning that the Iranian revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the Islamic movements in Egypt, took place at the hands of relatively young and religiously or politically unrefined groups of people in Islamic society. These common people, who did not have any political background and were not affected by religio-political ideas, were arouse to blame elite ruling groups that were unable to bring expected changes and advancements in society. Beginning in the mid-1970s, financially strapped regimes began to withdraw from their responsibilities to bring economic progress, political freedoms, or social justice; many Muslims began to question their leaders’ reliance on foreign practices and neglect of Islamic values (Gelvin 300). These groups concluded that the departure from an Islamic order of the ruling class contributed to the weakness of Islamic society as a whole. Provoked by these ideas, Iranian urban professionals and students from the new secular universities expressed their discontent. They were joined by the bazaar merchants, who represent the traditional sectors of urban society. University students fought for freedom of the press and assembly, denouncing censorship, secularism, and corruption of the shah’s regime. The economic recession of the 1970s also forced the urban working classes to join students and merchants who stood against the shah’s repression, and eventually urban masses took part in the revolution. This group was led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the central figure in the revolution, who kept an uncompromising stance and drew people to his side in the face of opposition from the shah’s regime. Khomeini led the revolution to the success (Cleveland 429). In a similar way, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was also established by an ordinary group of people in the 1920s. Parallel to those of the Iranian revolution, this group of people was driven by political concerns of the society and eventually turned their political problems to religion. This movement was initiated by Hassan al-Banna, an ordinary religious scholar whose foundation of political activism was rooted in Islamic values. It was also Egyptian youths, who continued to take a critical role in the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt through the 1970s. When President Sadat was becoming a target of criticism because of his Western-inclined policies and a treaty with Israel, these young, ordinary groups of people with non-political or religious backgrounds...
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