Iran’s Shift to the Right

There is something eerie about this article on the Washington Post website. The article describes Iran’s recent, and intense, shift toward the political right. Reading through it, I sensed some similarities between the Iranian shift, and the political shift in this country in the last six to eight years. From the article:

a senior cleric close to the new president suggested in January that Iranian voters were largely irrelevant because the government requires only the approval of God.

This cleric’s comments initiated a great deal of public debate in Iran, but they helped me to realize, first, how many things are not wrong in our country . . . yet. While we do not claim that voters are irrelevant, the Republicans do leverage religious belief into political support through wedge issues and the use of churches as political support groups. Faith based initiatives are also on the rise. The problem with letting government and religious fundamentalism become intertwined is addressed in the article:

said one Iranian official close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei . . . “They can damage Iran. They can damage Islam. They are like the Taliban. They are like al-Qaeda. They say they know what Allah expects from us — that we should do what he wants from us without paying attention to the consequences. And it’s a very dangerous belief.”

When we have the FDA withholding a vaccine for HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer, because it might promote promiscuity among young women, we see shadows of this danger. Fundamentalists believe they know the correct way of doing things, and they are not shy about trying to enforce it.

Another disturbing mirror:

Other conservatives, who proudly call themselves fundamentalists, argue that reformists were hollowing out the Islamic Republic from within. Equating dissent with treason, they demanded a hard-line defense of the revolution’s tenets, including strident opposition to the United States and Israel.

Conflating dissent with treason is par for the course among right wing pundits. See, for example, Ann Coulter’s book Treason. This is another technique used to compel belief and enforce adherence to fundamentalist ideas.

Lest I be called shrill, I would like to state clearly that I believe Iran to be in a much worse situation than the United States. They have institutional religious control of government, and their people suffer for it, and for the concomitant discouragement of free thought and individual initiative. My concern, however, being primarily for the well being of the United States, I think it is worth pointing out these disturbing similarities so that they can guide our future decisions. Our nation is dedicated to a process of deciding actions–Democracy–rather than any particular actions in and of themselves. We trust in the citizens, whatever their religious beliefs, to make the right decisions for the country. It is worthwhile to remember that, and to do our best to protect our system against degradation.