Although the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the most fanatically Muslim of regimes, there is hope that Iranians, fed up with corruption and constraints that they rightly connect to the mullahs who represent a mental underclass, will begin to see, or are seeing, Islam in a new light.
And they have the possibility of doing so — a possibility denied to the Arabs. The Arabs” entire civilizational being is wrapped up in Islam, so that Islam and ‘Uruba, or ‘Uruba and Islam, are regarded as inseparable. But the Iranians are in a very different situation, because Iran has a long pre-Islamic history, one that is given great attention. And because many of its physical remains still exist, any Iranian can, if he wishes, ride in mental triumph through Persepolis, and consider how passing brave it is to be a Persian. Not a Muslim, mind you, but a Persian. The great hope is that this other identity will reassert itself. It is, after all, an identity that predates Islam, and is one that sometimes has been in opposition to Islam: see how Firdowsi, by writing his epic of the Persian kings, the Shahnameh, managed to help Iranian culture withstand the linguistic and cultural imperialism of the Arabs that in so many places effaced, or reduced to almost nothing, the pre-Islamic or non-Islamic portions of this or that people’s or region’s history.
I long ago mentioned that perhaps there would be, fantastical as it may seem, a return to Zoroastrianism in Iran. This return would not be based on anything intrinsically attractive about that faith, but rather on the fact that it was Persian, Iranian, before Islam (the “gift of the Arabs”) came along to dislodge it and to send into exile some Zoroastrians (who in India were known as the Parsis, or Persians), and to reduce the dwindling remaining population of Zoroastrians to a status of dhimmi. That status was written about, and then observed close up, by the British historian of Zoroastrianism Mary Boyd.
In exile, Iranians are often quite different from Arabs. They are much more open, much less hysterically wedded to defending Islam. Alone among the Muslim countries of the Middle East, Iran has a long and separate existence; it is not merely one of those countries that we call “a tribe with a flag.”
If anything is to be salvaged from the nonstop viciousness of the Khomeini regime, and that of Khomeini’s epigones, it is that damage has been done, among thinking Iranians both in exile, and in Iran, to the status of Islam.
And that is a good thing — for Iran, and for Infidels.
It is unlikely that those countries that are either Arab, or that have nothing but Islam — I am thinking of Pakistan, which was founded, which exists, only because of Islam, to be a “land of the pure” — will be able to create a sufficient number of people who can connect the economic and political and social and moral and intellectual failures of their own states and societies to Islam itself, but those Muslims who possess another identity, a non-Arab identity, can have hope.
And despite the current fanaticism in Iran, if that regime is humiliated and wounded, even if there is a brief period, possibly a few months, of rally-round-the-flag stuff even by Iranians who should know better but cannot help themselves, the Islamic Republic of Iran will be shaken, and permanently weakened. Such a humiliation could take the form of an attack on the nuclear project. After all, if the Islamic Republic of Iran ever does manage to produce such weapons, its prestige among the primitive masses will be sky-high, and the advanced Iranians will — even if today some of them argue against such an attack — find their cause set back, with the most fanatical Muslims safely in the saddle for a long time to come.
That’s not the main reason for making sure that the Islamic Republic of Iran does not manage to produce such weapons. But it is an independent and very good reason: to hasten the day when the hold of Islam over Iran, over Iranians, is shaken sufficiently, so that other possibilities are discussed, are considered, are possibly even taken up.