Modernity in Iran

The Iran’s history since 19th century has been represented by a struggle between the iranians and external powers. The country was divided, some people supported a governor who accepted the “help” of external powers and others just prefered (and prefer) others who dont listen to any external influence, and this has been like that for centuries. We can see an example of this in the putsch of 1953, or in the 1978 revolution in Iran.

Modernity is specially difficult in arab countries because “the process of modernity did not come about as a result of indigenous factors but followed outside domination” ( page 6). We find again the struggle between the internal and the external. By precluding legitimate means to assert autonomy, only deviance or resistance remained as possible reactions ( page 6). And this is the key. For example, the 1978 revolution was against the Shah, who had been supported mainly by the United States, and had became a real dictatorship. So we cant say iranian history is isolated, because every important issue has had a close relation with external powers and their support for some iranian leaders (as the Mohammad-Reza Shah, in this case).

Apart from this, theres a special feature on arab law that makes a little more difficult to reach the stability on the law. There is a special code in the arab countries, known as sharia, that makes it difficult to reach the modernity in law. The sharia is not as strict as the Coran can be, because it depends on the interpretation of the ruler, but it requires some important characteristics in the law that make it different from the western law and it makes specially difficult to create a really democratic constitution for these countries (like Iran). Sharia Guarantee Clauses” (“SGCs”)try to realize through the lens of modern constitutionalism the classical Islamic political principle that a ruler’s laws should respect the fundamental principles of sharia. The SGC provides that, even if a law has been enacted according to constitutionally correct procedures, that law must be treated as void if it is inconsistent with sharia ( page 2).

Therefore, its is really difficult to get a democratic constitution if this one has to carefully respect the laws of the sharia some of which are clearly antidemocratic. The secularism of the states is impossible to reach in the arab countries, if theres a rule which says that they must respect some religious mandatories, and this is an important step to achieve modernity. The respect of liberal rights are almost compulsory to accomplish modernity and, of course, sharia doesnt respect them (in the theory, we should remind that the interpretation is up to that moment’s governor).

This “respect” for the sharia dissapeared for a while because there were some attempts to install secularism in Iran, but in the 20th century people recovered the Islam’s fervor. The failures of many secularist states either to provide for their people or to guarantee their rights contributed to a reaction against secularism ( page 9). We can see again the struggle between the secularism and the traditionalism and fundamentalism, which seems to be eternal. If we take a look at this, we can clearly see theres no secularism on iranians law: “A new institution called the Guardians Council was given sole authority to conduct abstract constitutional review of laws. One half of its members were lawyers nominated by the judiciary subject to confirmation by an elected parliament. The other members were clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader. Only clerics voted on whether the law violated the constitutional Islamization provision” ( page 32). Anyway, the Iranians relation between the religion and the state is explicit. Maybe in other countries that are supposed to have modern constitutions (like Spain, in my case), it is said to be a clear distinction between the religious power and the government but it is not like that if we take a look at the reality. Spain is declared to be a secular country, but religion (catholic religion) is a compulsory subject at school, we can see crucifixes on the classroom’s walls (Im talking about public schools) or the recent abortion law, who is clearly relationed with the religious power and their view on this issue. So its a little hypocrite to talk about secularism here, and how the arab countries cant be secular at all because the religion and the state are almost the same, because in some countries like mine, this separation is only on the papers.

Maybe its a matter of time to reach a real secularism (in Western and Arab countries) but I think, while the intervention of external powers continue to be like now in countries like Iran, where they try to nationalize oil and inmediately external powers try to derrocate the governor, the secularism is not going to be reached, because iranians will want to defend themselves against external influences and nationalism (and so traditionalism and fundamentalism) will just continue growing and growing



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