At a time when Muslims around the world are under intense attack from external enemies, most of them directly or indirectly associated with the United States of America, the sole superpower of the modern world, it is sometimes easy to forget the key objectives facing Islamic movements. Defending our lands and societies from outside attack is undoubtedly essential but our main objective must be the establishment of Islamic institutions and orders in our own societies, most importantly Islamic political orders. All across the world today, Muslim societies are dominated by political orders and state structures that exist not to serve and promote the interests and values of Muslim peoples, determined by their Islamic commitment, identity and political culture, but to serve the selfish interests of ruling elites and the foreign powers that support them. All Islamic movements recognise the need for the reform of our political structures and processes, and the cleansing of our societies from un-Islamic influences; achieving this is a very different matter.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran, whose 26th anniversary is being marked around the world this month, was the first time in modern history that a Muslim people rose to overthrow their authoritarian and secularising pro-Western state and replace it with a state based on Islamic principles and values, and led by a figure steeped in the traditions of Islamic leadership. Developments in Iran over the subsequent 26 years have not always been smooth. The structures and procedures established there have not worked as well as many might have hoped, and Muslims in Iran and around the world are all too aware of the many errors that have been made. This was only to be expected; the problems of centuries could never have been solved overnight. Genuine, deep-seated political and social change has to emerge through, and be consolidated by, processes over decades, even generations, rather than the events of a few short years. The Islamic Revolution radically changed the framework within which the future development of Iranian society would take place, making it possible for that development to be shaped by indiginous forces rather than external ones. It should not have been expected to establish ideal institutions and results in the short term.
The most important achievement of the Islamic Revolution may be that it has enabled the political development of Iran over the last 26 years to be shaped predominantly by indigenous political forces. Virtually everywhere else in the Muslim world, the paths that political energies have taken have been distorted by the malevolent influence of Western interference and influence. This is why Iran now has the most vibrant politics of any Muslim country, and is the only Muslim country that is capable of pursuing an independent line in international affairs. This, above all, is what is unacceptable to the US; and this is why revolutionary change like that demonstrated in Iran 26 years ago is the path that all other Muslim societies must pursue in the future.