When the Iranian soccer team beat the US team at the World Cup Finals in France last year, the west was shocked to see Muslims pouring into the streets in cities across the world to celebrate. These celebrations showed that ordinary Muslims all over the world instinctively recognise Iran as not just another Muslim nation-State, but an Islamic State--the first in the modern era--and so worthy of their allegiance and support in whatever form they can express it. Victories over the US by the Moroccan, Tunisian, Nigerian or Saudi Arabian teams in France could never have elicited such jubilation.
Twenty years after the Islamic Revolution, the enemies of Islam have clearly failed in their intensive and ongoing efforts to minimise the achievements of Iran’s Islamic movement. Their strategies have included trying to isolate Iran on sectarian grounds, and constant allegations of internal problems, such as the supposed ‘power struggle’ at the highest levels of government, which have been reported infinitus ad nauseum since the death of Imam Khomeini rahamullah in June 1989.
The reasons for the Muslims’ instinctive support for Islamic Iran are not hard to find. First and foremost is that the Islamic Revolution and its leadership are clearly rooted in the religious and political traditions and principles of Islam rather than the west. When Imam Khomeini flew into Tehran from Paris in February 1979, all Muslims immediately recognized that this was a radically new and different sort of Muslim leader. Despite the west’s incessant propaganda about ‘the failure of political Islam’ in Iran (and elsewhere), Muslims also realize that Iran’s performance in every sphere over the last 20 years has been far better than that of the secular, pro-western Muslim States. It is also a living demonstration giving lie to western claims that it represents universal values and the only possible basis for ordering modern societies.
Of course, Iran has not been free from political controversies, faults or errors during this time. Even the Islamic State established by the Prophet himself, upon whom be peace, in Madinah was faced with difficulties. Iran’s mishaps have been the honest mistakes of sincere and principled leaders genuinely attempting to implement the social values of Islam in a modern context. Again, Muslims everywhere recognise this to be in sharp contrast to the performances of their own rulers.
The second factor is that the Islamic Revolution is precisely the expression of the popular will of the Muslims of Iran that Muslims elsewhere hope to emulate in their own countries. Islamic Iran is not only the world’s first Islamic State in the contemporary era, it is also the leading edge of the global Islamic movement; indeed, these two roles are inseparable. The global Islamic movement, and its constitutent local Islamic movements, received a huge boost from the success of the Islamic Revolution, bringing Islam to the forefront of world affairs, and inspiring Muslim successes in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, Chechenya, Turkey, Algeria, Bosnia and so many other places (the subsequent problems in many of these areas notwithstanding).
This resurgence of the Islamic movement has been intensively opposed by the west and its agents in Muslim countries, be they political leaders or secular intellectuals, social scientists and others. This opposition has taken many forms, both brutal and subtle. Some Islamic movements have been subverted by the machinations of these enemies, and have been diverted into sectarian, nationalist or ‘democatic’ movements which bitterly criticise Iran. In some cases the leadership of these movements are sincerely misguided, in others they are motivated by the patronage of pro-western ‘Islamic’ governments or institutions. In the short term, they may do some damage; in the long term, however, the political instincts of the Muslim masses will render such movements irrelevent and ensure that the Islamic movement achieves its objective, insha’Allah. The continued example and leadership of Iran in essential to this process.
Islamic Iran is no longer a wonderful gift to a depressed Ummah. In 20 years, it has become an established part of the world’s political landscape, its presence and role taken for granted. Familiarity, the saying goes, breeds contempt, and some have fallen into the habit of criticising Iran for being imperfect. Instead, we should remember how far we have come in these 20 years, thank Allah for the gift of the Islamic Revolution, and continue to give it all the support we can.
Muslimedia: Feb.1-15, 1999