Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Interfaith Coalitions and Revolution

I was sitting there in my "Introduction to the Middle East and Islamic Politics" course today, listening to Dr. Hashemi lecture about the relationship between authoritarian states and their effect on political expression. He did this through a case study of Iran, explaining the ways in which politicized Islam grew to be a legitimate outlet for Iranians because there was no other outlet. This is what happens when a government squeezes its own civil society.

As he was speaking, I zoned out, and found myself wondering (because I've never checked it out) where the other religious groups stood in those months leading up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Despite Tehran's vociferous condemnations of Israel, Iran still boasts a population of 25,000-ish Jews (they've been there a very, very long time). At the time of the Revolution, there could have been as many as 80,000. There are of course Christians of various shades and Zoroastrians and probably bunches of others. I'm going to do some research and see if I can find out how involved, if at all, these groups were before, during, and after the Revolution. And of course find out if they are involved today.

It's worth noting that interfaith coalitions are really a value-added way to promote revolution/social change. Martin Luther King walked with Abraham Joshua Heschel. Gandhi collaborated with Indian Muslims and the panoply of South Asian faiths. There were Christian/Muslim/Jewish coalitions working to end apartheid in South Africa.

In all these cases, and for our current hour, the power of people of faith cooperating to do good things is readily apparent, and cannot be underestimated.