Towards “Secular Nationalism” in Iran
Ali Asghar Kazemi
While nationalism in the Moslem world is commonly considered as an alien ideology imported from the West, Persian nationalism has been emerged from a religious ground. Shi’ism is an outgrowth of this phenomenon that distinguishes Iranian from other Arab and non-Arab Moslems in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
Up until the advent of the Islamic regime in Iran, national consciousness has been with Iranians parallel to their religious traditions. In other words, religious nationalism formed an inherent trait of the Persian identity for a long period of time[i]. This feature helped Iranians to consolidate, fight against their enemies and secure the country from disintegration and collapse. However, this trend has changed its course during the past several years. A new generation of Iranian intellectuals, academics and educated people is gradually moving away from the political Islam and traditional religious values toward a more universal and secular approach to various issues of society and the nation.
The progressive “Green Movement,” that emerged amidst the controversial presidential elections of June 2009, can be considered as the social and political manifestations of this new tendency. Upon a series of bloody clashes with the regime during the post-elections turmoil of June 2009, the movement has turned to radical and secular nationalistic slogans that aim at the very foundation of the religious system.
What is the substance of this new nationalistic awareness? How far this movement is capable to pressure the regime for fundamental changes? What are the implications of changes for the domestic and foreign affairs of the nation?