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Two seasoned scholar/journalists of the Islamic world focus on Iran-the modern age's first theocracy-to challenge the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics. Instead, Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons explore the controversial view that Iranians have a legitimate quarrel with the United States and the West stemming from decades of exploitive foreign policies against Iran and its people.
Taking the reader inside the country's key institutions, the authors, whose research includes an astounding three years of intensive meetings with leading theologians, argue that the 1979 Iranian revolution, long viewed in the West as the pursuit of an imagined medieval Utopia, was, in fact, a political movement designed to modernize Islam. A power struggle between conservative and reform elements has provoked a clash that is destabilizing the country and limiting Iran's ability to integrate with the world community. Since 2000, when the authors were forced to flee Iran, free expression has been stifled and the democratically elected president, Mohammad Khatami, has been stripped of power, as have other mullahs who advocate flexibility in the application of Islamic law. The uninformed U.S. response to this struggle has strengthened the hand of the conservatives. The authors demonstrate Iran's critical influence on the world's 1.4 billion Muslims and Islamists and its chances for democracy in the years ahead.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Iran Politics and government 1997-Islam and politics Iran, Democratization Iran