IV. If any of this had made its way into the thoughts of the reform-minded activists in Iran of the fin de siecle, there is nothing showing it in their recorded utterances and published works. Most celebrated and influential among these is no doubt Mirza Malkum Khan, who advocated reforms and worked for their implementations about half a century before the Constitutional revolution. He lived to see, though from self-imposed exile, the first Constitutional Assembly inaugurated in 1906. According to one Qajar prince to whom he taught French, he was "comparable to Aristotle and Plato" (Nazimoleslam, 1346, p. 150, quoting from Zel al-Sultan's Tarikh-e Mass'oudi), and according to an influential official in the Qajar court, he was "the Voltaire of Iran". His call for reform of the state and government circulated, through his pamphlets, letters and official reports, in public as well as among ministers and court officials, and even reached the monarch himself. Later in life, through the irregular, but provocative, journal Qanoon, which he published in London and smuggled into Iran, he managed to reach even wider audiences in the cities.
Malkum's essays (he also wrote some plays) cover a wide range of topics, which include the organization of the armed forces and political economy. In these there are references to the rights of the mankind, the rule of law and separation of powers, as well as mention of names such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Motesquieu, Mirabeau, John Stuart Mill and Newton. He also composed an essay entitled "Rowshanai" (Enlightenment), which is devoted to the reform of Persian script.
What comes across through his writings is an infatuation with progress, which he had perceived in Europe during his formative years, as well as an impatience with its total absence in every corner of Iranian society. (Incidentally, both these sentiments are shared by almost every generation of Iranians who sought part of their education in the West). His distinction as an essayist and activist comes from success in imparting both feelings to anyone who came into contact with him or his work, and certainly not from a sound attempt to diagnose obstacles to the transformation of the Iranian society.
First and foremost in Malkum's thought is the idea that progress in the West (as well as Japan) has been entirely due to the re-organization of administration in social, political and economic fields. The secret of this re-organization, which in his opinion is the main cause of the West's scientific and technological achievements, lies in devising a system for administration in every field that operates like a "manufactory" (Mohit-e Tabatabai (ed.) 1327, pp. 10-11). In this system not only collection of taxes and duties, but the expenditure of state revenues as well as education of the citizens, administration of justice and management of the armed forces are regulated alike. The extent of this regulation is such that "if someone steals ten tomans from two hundred and fifty million tomans of collected tax, and ... if there is an injustice done to one among thirty-five million people, it would most certainly be detected ..." (Ibid, p. 10).
This analogy is extremely potent as a rhetorical device. For, Malkum goes on, "Within the past two or three thousand years the West has discovered the principles of organization just as they have done those of the telegraph ... Just as we can take the telegraph from the West and install it in Teheran, likewise we can adopt the principles of their organization and set them to work in Iran without delay," so that in three months the Iranian government could advance the equivalent of three thousand years (Ibid, p. 11). Yet it shows clearly the naive basis from which his onslaught for reform had been launched. Malkum witnessed the aborted fate of the consultative assembly, which Nassereddin Shah set up in his court (very much under Malkum's influence), and lived to see the failings of the very first Constitutional Assembly that led to the putsch against it from the court. However, by his death in July 1908, his mind was clearly unable to see that the institutions of the Enlightenment require humans moulded by the Enlightenment in order to function. The best minds of all time were at work for two centuries in Europe to produce a consensus about the ideals of the Enlightenment. With people of Malkum's stature, the likes of whom have not been produced in Iran to this day, the formation of similar consensus in Iran would probably, on an optimistic estimate, require four.
If anything, the course of Western history appears in reverse order from Malkum's jaundiced view point: it is the Western institutions that produce the modern Western man and not the other way round. He writes: "without adopting the Western principles for government we can not only not have an army like those in the West, but also it would be impossible for us to have a blacksmith like that in the West." (Mohit-e Tabatabai (ed.), 1327, p. 99). His view of the Western institutions is also skewed; far from regarding them as the products of the Enlightenment, designed to safeguard individual humans' rights (vis a vis their responsibilities), he sees them as instruments for carrying out the king's wishes and commands with utmost efficiency. He writes:
The foundations of government in Iran is based on voluntary administration, that is, when the king issues a command the functionaries are free to execute it in any which way they see fit ... Government in the West is based on lawful administration, that is, the duties of the functionaries are so determined and limited by explicit laws that in the execution of the state's commands they are incapable of the slightest intervention" (Ibid, p. 105f).
This is what he means when he speaks of the rule of law as a key to progress: transformation of "voluntary" to "lawful" administration (Ibid, p. 108). It is further revealing to note Malkum's justification of his claims: "If now they ask me for the reasons for this proposition, I shall reply because I have been to the West, because I have spent ten years of my life on these issues, because I have mastered the science of economics which is the most universal of all sciences" (Ibid, p. 103)! He appears, in effect, to be claiming himself as an authority on the issue and resorting to that as the reason why he should be believed without requiring any argument.
This brings me to Malkum's ideas on the organization of the government. In this connection, he envisages a legislative assembly and a council of ministers (Ibid, p. 24). He insists that these bodies should be separate in the sense that the right to legislate should not be "mixed with" that to execute: "ministers to their own, legislators to theirs" (Ibid, p. 110). Nouraie (1973, pp. 63-66) interprets Malkum's insistence on the separation of these bodies as his belief in the idea of separation of powers. This hasty conclusion, which is further strengthened by a confused reading of Malkum's distinction between "voluntary" and "lawful" administration (Ibid, p.63), is entirely without foundation. Malkum clearly states that both the assembly and the Council are to be under the king's jurisdiction in whom alone "the authority to legislate and execute laws is invested by right" (Mohit-e Tabatabai (ed.) 1327, p. 24, my italics). They rather function, each separately, as the king's arms and only to prevent functionaries from carrying out his commands in accordance with their personal whims (Ibid, pp. 105-108). A far cry from the Enlightenment idea of separation of powers!
Earlier, his emphasis on the re-organization of the machinery of state as the key to progress was justified by the fact that all governments that have implemented similar re-organizations have also made visible progress. Later in life (after the assassination of Nassereddin shah in 1896), he came up with somewhat different, and more theoretical, justification. "[T]he first foundation", he wrote in a piece called "The Cry of Justice" around 1902, "on which prosperity in the world is based, is the law that in foreign countries they call `security of life and possessions'" (Ibid, p.201). Progress is fuelled by prosperity and the latter is the fruit of hard work; people would work hard only if their life and possessions are secured (Ibid, p. 200f). It is now claimed that as a means to provide this security, the rule of law must be established, so that "... no king, no minister ... can, in any shape or form, ever inflict a slightest injury to anybody's rights without a just and lawful sanction" (Ibid, p. 201).
This is not the first place where Malkum talks about rights. Earlier, he had talked of the "rights of the nation" or that of "the citizens," listing such items as equality before the law, freedom to hold beliefs and to hold property (Ibid, p. 26), without offering any clarification of these notions or indeed justification for their adoption. Now he introduced freedom of pen and speech and added justification of a sort: They are necessary if people are to guard themselves against misuse of power by ministers of state (Ibid, p. 206). Does this approach the Enlightenment idea that civil liberties are necessary in order to safeguard individuals' rights? If it did, then it would certainly clash with Malkum's idea that the rule of law guaranteed that ministers would carry out the king's commands in the most efficient way and that this was all that were required for progress. The raison d'etre of laws, we remember, was precisely to prevent misuse of power by functionaries, which was earlier held to be the only obstacle in the way of progress. The reason that in Malkum's view this obstacle could be removed so swiftly was precisely that he held ministerial interventions in carrying out the King's commands as the cause for holding back progress. His new pronouncements certainly imply that the removal of this malaise is not going to be enough for putting the affairs of the nation on the right path out of backwardness. That, still, citizens would be open to misuse by the ministers even after administration is brought under "the rule of law". But if that were to be the case, then the entire force of his insistence on the ease with which reforms may be copied from the Western countries would be lost all together. The issue of immunizing citizens against abuse by those who hold power over them opens up a whole new field, which not only is not covered by his earlier remedies, but also requires fresh attempts at diagnosis and prognosis that were neither at hand nor to be forthcoming.
Nonetheless, in the same piece, Malkum is quick to point out that by the two freedoms (of the tongue and pen) not only he, but also "the learned in the West with whom he has held conversations" understand the Islamic edict "to bid virtues and forbid vices" (Ibid, p. 207). This certainly suggests that if these freedoms are to be regarded the same as those included in the Enlightenment ideas of civil liberties, then the latter are not only consistent with, but indeed (and much more strongly) based on the Islamic edict. To what extent, if any at all, Islamic ideals, and generally the view of man as a social agent that Islam endorses, is consistent with that projected by the Enlightenment is (and was even then) a highly contentious issue. Malkum certainly fails to provide any argument anywhere (or even reproduce one from those he claims have a view on the issue) for the position he appears to favor here. For this reason, his utterance is far more likely again to be intended as a rhetorical device than actually based on a well thought-out position on this important question, which, incidentally, so far as I know, has been subjected to many emotional handling in Iran without receiving any serious treatments.
All this leaves the question of the affinity of Malkum's positions to the ideals of the Enlightenment dubious, to say the least. His name dropping and repeated references to personal experiences in Europe, thus appear to be attempts to cover up the shallowness of the bases he actually has at his disposal for supporting his claims. It is, nevertheless, within the context of these ideas that talk of universal suffrage, the rule of law and constitutional government was introduced in Iran. The influence Malkum exerted on the genesis and development of the reform movement leading to the establishment of the constitutional government in Iran is without parallel. He was held in awe by friends and enemies alike. Almost single-handedly he managed to mobilize not only reform-minded intellectuals of various political persuasions but courtiers and the leading religious authorities of his time for a single purpose, viz., the establishment of the constitution. The dramatist Akhoondzadeh, himself an active reformer at the time, called him "the holyghost"; excerpts from four of his essays were reproduced in the widely circulated and very influential work of political fiction, Maraghe'i (1274). Aqakhan-e Kermani, another tireless activist who gave his life for the cause, voluntarily took it upon himself to smuggle Malkum's Qanoon into Iran from Istanbul and organize Malkum-inspired associations among Iranian expatriate community there.
Of all the essayists involved in the constitutional movement, Malkum stands out as the most prominent, who could be linked to the Enlightenment. If, however, the Enlightenment were in fact in Malkum's mind, both as an influence and as an ideal to be imparted into the Iranian society, his writings do not reflect it. Instead, they reflect a simple-minded projection based on an unsophisticated observation: the West has made tremendous progress in the acquisition of wealth and might, and that Western societies are run on the basis of institutions with recognition of civil liberties. The only way we, in Iran, can hope to make similar strides is to emulate how they run their affairs in the West. This projection is simple-minded because in making it no thought appears to have been given to the most important question concerning the feasibility of an emulation in this regard, i.e., what makes the Western institutions run and why should it require civil liberties?
Variations on Malkum's line of thought, reflecting the same projection and employing more or less the same sort of justifications, appear in the writings of the period's other reform-minded authors who have their eyes on the West. There is, however, another streak in Malkum's thoughts, which is the source of a separate development on the question of reforms. In Malkum (1891), he makes a new diagnosis of the cause of backwardness bedeviling Iranian society, the echoes of which we have already seen: Ideas for progress come from the West, and Iranians, being in possession of a comprehensive religion such as Islam, feel threatened by them. So, they naturally take a defensive stance against the adoption of such ideas. To break through this defense, he proposes that Islam should be portrayed as the source of these ideas. Since the Shi'i version of Islam is dominant in Iran and it allows interpretations of religious principles and the life-stories of the prophet, and since this religion surpasses all others in sanctioning social reforms, ideas of reform should be so expressed as to be supportable by religious principles and commandments. In this way, he argued, a practical obstacle to the reception in Iran of ideas amenable to progress may be effectively overcome.
This strategy, in whose deployment there is evidence of Malkum's personal involvement, proved effective in winning required legitimacy for the constitutional movement. As a result, influential authorities such as Seyyed Mohammad Tabatabai and Seyyed Abdollah-e Behbahani assumed a leading role in agitation as well as the organization of secret societies, which proved important power-houses driving the events up to the establishment of the Constitutional Assembly and immediately beyond.
The vital importance of the active role played by the religious authorities in this episode of Iranian history can be seen in the events following the closure of the first Assembly as a result of Mohammad Ali Shah's putsch of 1908. After effectively silencing the pro-reform religious authorities inside Iran in the aftermath of the putsch, the headquarters of agitation appeared in Nadjaf (then in the Ottoman Empire and now in Iraq), an important centre of Shi'i seminaries at the time. Thanks to the telegraph facilities now covering major cities (which, incidentally were first introduced in Iran on Malkum's initiation), there was an effective line of communication in place for issuing edicts and providing guidance against a flood of queries from Iran. The three major authorities in Nadjaf, Khorassani, Mazandarani and Nadjl-e Mirza Khalil, were now proclaiming the re-establishment of the Constitutional Assembly as a necessity for safeguarding the principles of Islam and immunizing Muslim lands against foreign contamination.
In 1908 Naini (1327), a confidante of Mohammad Kazem-e Khorassani, published a work that articulated, for the first time, a theory of state and constitutional government according to Islam. It contains no reference to the Enlightenment at all and very little to how things are done in the West. The ideals of the Constitutional revolution are instead justified as the only ones that can ensure the Islamic character of government during the absence of the twelfth Imam (of the Shi'i). According to this theory, the government of the Muslim nations after the prophet's departure is, by divine law, the prerogative of the innocent Imams. During the absence of the last Imam, the best Muslims can do is to run their affairs through consultations informed and supervised by the highest religious authorities at the time (Naini 1327, pp. 6-15).
This proposition is justified by citing Quranic verses and edicts, as well as proclamations of other holy saints, that forbid Muslims to tolerate injustices and consent slavishly to the rule of the corrupt and the unjust, and commands them to consult one another in running their affairs (Ibid, pp. 16-57). To ensure, however, that the fruit of consultations is always bound within the dictates of Islam, two conditions are laid out. One is that the only people who are eligible as deputies in the Consultative Assembly are those who "have expertise in politics and international relations", "are not motivated by personal interests", and "are committed to the religion, believers, government and the homeland of Islam". The other is that the only legitimate decisions are those which are made by an assembly comprised of "religious authorities who are just and familiar with politics", and which "are ratified by the highest religious authority" alive (Ibid, pp. 86-90). So far as the fundamentals are concerned, this theory appears to be a precursor to Ayatollah Khomeini's idea of the velayat-e faqih. The two conditions for the legitimacy of legislature, are, almost verbatim, enshrined in the present-day constitution of the Islamic Republic.
V. The fruit of the first experience with constitutional government during the 20-year period leading to the changeover of dynasties was mainly the disintegration of the state authority in the face of inability to carry out effective reforms. By 1925, when the fifth Assembly in effect voted to dissolve itself and reconstitute absolute monarchy, both streaks in Malkum's thoughts had run completely out of steam. The installation of Western-like institutions, which included political parties and banks, did not fulfill anybody's dreams. Things did not prove any better when, after the forced abdication of Reza Shah (by the allies) in 1941, the second experience with constitutional government came to a grievous end. This time, the experience, lasting for about twelve years, produced successive short-lived and ineffective governments, and ended with drying up the state's coffers, bringing the country to the brink of bankruptcy as well as a take over by forces opposed to the ideals of the Enlightenment altogether.
The period spanning the rule of two Pahlavi kings, up to the dissolution of monarchy in 1979, is characterized by almost a complete lack of concern for the Enlightenment. Instead, attentions of the opposition activists, disillusioned with the feasibility of the Enlightenment ideals for Iran, were attracted by the ideals of communism in its various guises, and from the late sixties onwards, with what Islam has to offer for emancipation from the domination of the West. Socio-political institutions were no longer discussed as a key to progress. If and when there was talk of civil liberties, it was clear from the context that it was meant only to signify the desire of the protagonists of this or that ideology to be able to have everything their own way. The end of this period, however, may be characterized by an almost universal consensus on the undesirability of the existing autocracy. Nonetheless, unlike the preceding period, the question of how it may be eradicated in favor of civil liberties did not firmly occupy the back of anybody's mind.
The first nine years after the establishment of the Islamic republic was a period of turbulence, fuelled in part by internal strife and external aggression. Once the waves subsided, attentions began to focus on the fundamental questions about the organization of the state and the roles Islam demands of its constituents. The republic was established on the basis of the idea, now articulated by Ayatollah Khomeini (and supported by fresh arguments), that in the absence of the last Imam the right to rule belongs to the highest religious authority, who is not only just and most virtuous, but an expert in politics as well. This idea, very much like that of Naini's, came with provisions for publicly elected bodies charged with legislating laws and overseeing the constitution. The constitution, in turn, was drawn up envisaging separation between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary branch. All would, however, be under the supervision of the religious authority fit to rule in the name of Islam. In its final form, it recognized the state president as the head of the executive, and required it to be elected by universal suffrage. The head of the judiciary is to be appointed by the authority in question.
This arrangement clearly consists of the mixing of two ideas. One is the traditional and mainstream idea of government in Islam, modelled on the practices of the prophet himself. Accordingly, the Muslim believers should be ruled by a just and adroit authority in matters of religion, as well as state, i.e. a Khalif of Islam. The other, quite novel with respect to mainstream traditions, is government through separation of powers and elected bodies and officials. One is struck immediately by an underlying tension entailed by the mixing of these ideas. On the one hand, because the average citizen is not an authority in either rights and wrongs or deeper matters of religion, the reins of the Islamic government cannot be totally entrusted in his or her hands. On the other, the concentration of power, even in the modest shape of having just the final say, in the hands of an authority, no matter how just or wise, is a recipe for sanctifying autocracy.
This tension lies at the foundation of the disputes raging in public over the last three years in Iran. In the presidential election of 1997, the strategy of tapping popular feelings against the rule by authority and in favor of the rule by popular consent paid off handsomely. That this could happen must have at least been because of some public awareness of the tension in question as well as anxieties about consequences of it remaining unresolved. Since that fateful event political groupings have emerged and taken shape on either sides of a divide corresponding to the two disparate elements of the mixture on which the system of government in the Islamic Republic is based. The platforms adopted by the respective groupings are, in turn, very much defined around the question of the necessity of authority versus the indispensability of the popular will in the government of Islam. One broad platform, which goes by the generic name of upholding values, is based on the argument that government in Islam is a divine prerogative conferred only on those humans with the right sort of credentials, making them fit to rule mankind in general. The other, adopting the title of seeking reforms, bases itself on the argument that no rule can claim legitimacy in the eyes of the ruled, unless it is backed by their consent.
The rhetoric employed in the public disputes waged between these groupings (and their representatives in the press) is full of references to "rights", "freedoms", "toleration" and "civil liberties". The disputants on both sides indulge in using these terms, one way or another, to justify the grounds on which they stand. So far, however, no seriously minded attempt has surfaced to (i) clarify exactly in what sense these terms ought to be understood, (ii) show exactly how this sense is related to the tenets of Islam and (iii) articulate the ways in which the intended sense contributes to the constitution and functions of the institutional government. The extent and depth of this shortcoming becomes clear when it is realized that the dispute's only significant sides are groupings who profess total allegiance to Islam and its government, and who have sufficient (though not perhaps in how each side views the other) credentials for it.
Even within each loosely knit camp on either side of the dispute, there is no consensus on how these terms are to be interpreted and their adoption, or rejection, justified. My witness is the views expressed in an issue of a popular monthly duly devoted to "religion, toleration and violence". Two major (and academically minded) clerics who are perceived as being firmly within the so-called "reform" camp, cannot bring themselves to agree on terms of reference in their round-table discussion on the issue of how human rights are to be conceived from the Islamic point of view, whether they ought to be dug out from quotations and accounts of the public behavior of the accepted saints, or derived from the first principles, or simply taken from the Declaration of the Human Rights and shown not to clash with Islamic principles.
Elsewhere in the same journal, a lay theological "reformer," seen by many as the instigator of the "reform" movement, praises the Enlightenment as providing us with the notion of civilized man. He suggests that the Enlightenment takes the idea of rights as a primitive (i.e. not requiring a definition), "on the basis of which" that of civilized man is defined as someone who transfers some of their rights (to govern, for instance) to someone else. He then concludes that "civilization is closely and quite directly related to art" (and thus cannot accommodate any form of violence), because the transfer of rights is like an artistic license to take something as a proxy for something else (Abdolkarim Soroush in Kiyan 8:45, Feb-Mar. 1999, pp. 23-24). Finally, we come across an article, by a well known Islamic thinker who (appearing to side with the `upholders of values') asserts that the legacy of the Enlightenment is to establish relativism with respect to truth "under the guise of individual rights and freedoms" (or, rather, to "slaughter absolute truth at the feet of the individual"). Moreover, and no doubt under yet another influence of the Enlightenment, the West has come to give precedence to "human rights" over "God's rights" (can God have rights?, responsibilities too?), whereas in Islam, as in true Christianity, the precedence goes the other way (Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Ibid, pp. 41-44).
When this lack of clarity and consensus on basic principles gets reflected in the expressions of the journalists and public figures in the popular press, the confusion assumes dimensions that verge on the absurd, if not dangerous. To give a few examples from the most recent past, one public figure suggests that those who "beat the drum of violence" (meaning "say publicly that some violence may be justifiable"), "in fact want to strike at national security" (Fatth, 4 April 2000, p. 3, quoting Fazel Meybodi). A prominent anti-reform journalist says, in an interview, that some of the reformers" slogans "are like a coup d'etat" (Fatth, 4 April 2000, p. 3, quoting Mass'oud Dehnamaki). The lead article in a prominent reform journal equates the public statement by a distinguished religious authority to the effect that "in carrying out duties we should not be afraid of incurring losses ... or going to prison", with an "unlawful act" of inciting violence against the Islamic state (Sobh-e Emrouz, 4 April 2000, front page editorial against Ayatollah Messbah Yazdi). A deputy in the Islamic Consultative Assembly says, in an interview with a "non-reform" newspaper that someone who asserts "there is no thinker who belongs to all ages and who can provide answers to problems in all times ... shows that he has no respect for the prophet or the Imams" (Ressalat, 13 April, 2000, p. 2, interview with Hamid Reza Taraqqi.). Needless to say, public displays of disrespect extended towards holy saints incurs sever punishments by law in Iran.
These pronouncements, and many more like them, portray the ideas of civil liberties and the human individuals for whom they are to be defined. This picture is no sharper now than the one we glimpsed before. As in the Constitutional revolution, bodies have been set up during the Islamic era that formally, at any rate, resemble the socio-political, as well as economic, institutions inaugurated by the Enlightenment. Concepts such as freedom of the press, rule of law and human rights, now very much in circulation in the Iranian society, with formal endorsement by the authorities (Iran is and had been long before the Islamic revolution a signatory to the UN charter on the Human Rights), are clearly legacies of that very culture. Yet if the recent events, especially after the local government elections of 1999, are to testify to anything it is that the established bodies, as well as the realization of the circulating concepts, are already showing signs of strain.
After considerable time has elapsed from the formation of local councils throughout the country, the elections of which was a major demand of the `reform' forces, no visible sign of reform is to be seen either in the way they run or in their outcomes. A large portion of the popular press has been recently prevented from publication by the order of the Iranian judiciary on mere allegations of libel (against public as well as sacred figures) and jeopardising national security. This order, and many others like it, is popularly interpreted as the "inappropriate" use of an element of the constitutional government as an arm of suppression. This sentiment is sometimes even publicly backed by the members of the executive. This is not the only case where the members of the executive have publicly accused other organs of government of "unlawful" interventions. The recent general elections to the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and public skirmishes between officials of the ministry of the interior with officials from the Council of the Guardians (an assembly of appointed authorities in charge of interpreting the constitution, one of whose tasks according to the constitution is to oversee general elections), which followed over the questions of who is qualified to run, and what results are to be annulled, is another case in point. Nor has the previously sitting Consultative Assembly been spared suspicion. Many of its rulings and legislations within the past three years have been widely perceived as having been deliberately directed at undermining the "reform-minded" executive and suppressing freedom of expression. All this has passed under the watchful eyes of a commission set up by the current president to determine violations of the constitution, without, to this day, any ruling on what has or has not been lawful.
The conclusion to be drawn prima facie from the foregoing is that some on each side of the divide between the rulers and the ruled in Iran conceive others on the other side of abusing whatever instrument of power or control they may have at their disposal. Some in the press (but by no means only in the press), perceive some who are directly or indirectly in charge of the machinery of power in the ruling circles as using the public resources at their command to pursue autocratic ends. They regard this perception as sufficient license for using whatever means they can muster (which always stops short of producing hard evidence) to "expose" and undermine these targets. Some in the ruling positions (again, by no means only within these positions), in turn, perceive others on the other side as being either infiltrating arms of "international subversion", committed to the overthrow of the state, or else as morally depraved agents propagating the "decadent values" of the West. They thus duly consider it, on the basis of this perception alone (as their counterpart on the other side), their duty to try to eradicate the latter in any way they can. Either way, individuals inside public organs treat those at their receiving end as individuals lacking rights and responsibilities. As a result, the former behave not as social agents on a par with the latter, but as instruments for undermining them one way or the other.
The social effects of these perceptions are twofold. On the one hand, they enforce on those who hold them a conception of their targeted individuals, which is not reconcilable with that of persons. The consequence of this enforcement is that at least one sector in society, cannot regard some of the socio-political (or perhaps even economic) organizations in society as institutions. On the other hand, on account of holding these perceptions, some public figures and officials use their positions in the instruments of power and control in ways that are incompatible with the roles and performances of persons in institutions. The consequence of this is that the affected socio-political organizations in society are neither conceived to be, nor can they function as, institutions.
If the quasi-mechanical rendering of society and social forces that I have sketched is taken as a frame of reference, the shortcomings of attempts to establish institutional government in Iran finds a clear explanation. First of all, the machinery adopted for the organization of the government has not been adaptable to agents with and for whom it was meant to function, primarily because there has been no consensus in place on what these agents are and how they are to be defined. Secondly, a comparison between the three theories of "institutional government," those of Malkum, Naini and Khomeini, shows not only a common insensitivity to the question of what social agents are, but also a remarkable similarity in subjugating the whole machinery of the "institutional government" to an authority. Malkum's authority was the king; Naini's and Khomeini's were the just, politically minded and highest religious authority alive. The first feature would make the machinery inoperable; the second would introduce a bias, in effect giving one set of internal forces a dominant position over all the rest.
This analysis would certainly be consistent with the Enlightenment view of things. However, is the Enlightenment view right or in anyway superior to any other? Hasn't the mechanistic point of view been falsified, and haven't I coupled my interpretation of the Enlightenment view of society and social agents to it? Shouldn't the conclusion follow that the Enlightenment view is therefore false and hence, ought to be rejected? Maybe, maybe not. My aim has not been to argue for the superiority of one point of view against its rivals. Rather, I have sketched a point of view which I can claim to be as clear as the archetype on which it is modelled, and which is consistent with what the Enlightenment demands of social agents together with the society that is made up of them. The problem I am highlighting by this artifact is the non-existence of any rival viewpoint worthy of the name in Iran. My witness for this claim is the fact that the machinery that three distinguished theories have recommended, on the basis of which socio-political organizations have been set up to lead us out of our dark past, has formally resembled the institutions of the Enlightenment. Yet on the ingredients that are clearly required for the running of this machinery, as well as the conditions which would ensure its optimal performance, there is neither a consensus nor a serious attempt in sight to shape one. To expect such machinery to perform effectively towards the realization of the goals envisaged by its authors would require nothing short of a miracle.
From a letter of Amir Nezam-e Garroussi to Mowstashareddowleh, quoted in Nouraie, 1973, p. 174).
For a fairly good (and the best in print) account of his life and works see Nouraie (1973). A short and condensed account of his life and activities may also be found in Wright (1985, pp. 152-166).
There are two collections of his essays in print, one published in Teheran about a year before he died and another in 1948. I shall make all my references to the latter as Mohit-e Tabatabai (ed.) (1327).
The connection between the script and the Enlightenment is based, apparently, on Malkum's belief that the Enlightenment is all about progress and no progress would be possible without the propagation of sciences. As the latter would not be possible unless there is an easy to use script available, thus the need to reform the script actually in use, which, in his opinion, is an impediment to the spread of learning. See Nouraie (1973, pp. 98f, 103).
Letters of Akhoondzadeh quoted in Nouraie (1973, pp. 31,103).
For the details of Kermani's devotion to and cooperation in Malkum's cause see Nouraie (1973, pp. 207-212). Also see Adamiyat (1967, pp. 15-30).
Nouraie (1973, p. 26) claims that Malkum `studies politics from the view-point of the natural sciences ...', and `the source of Malkum's social and political thoughts is the thoughts of the Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth as well as the protagonists of progress in the nineteenth century'.
Adamiyat (1355) discusses a representative sample which include Moshir al-Molk Pirnia (p. 208), Zoka-Molk Forooqi (p. 210), Mostafa Mansoorolsaltaneh (p. 221) and Abolhassan Forooqi (p. 223). An exception appears to be Aqakhan Kermani (see Adamiyat 1967 for an account of his life and works). His thoughts, however, are such an eclectic mishmash of Islamic mysticism, historical fictions and superficial reading of western authors which prevents any clear message from being communicated. Besides, his writings never did enjoy any noticeable circulation in Iran.
Nazemoleslam (1346, p. 152) recounts a story of a meeting between a reluctant, but influential, religious authority with Malkum which lasted for five or six hours and resulted in winning the former over completely to the reform side.
See Nazemoleslam (1349) for a detailed chronicle of their activities.
For a detailed history see Browne (1910). A shorter account may be found in Avery et al. (eds.)(1991, pp. 174-212).
A sample of the proclamations from these authorities for the guidance seekers from Teheran is collected in chronological order in Nazemoleslam (1349). See in particular the telegram, meant to reach the Shah, from the three authorities in pp. 229-231.
Not that those who were responsible for terminating the constitutional government were believers in upholding the ideals of the Enlightenment. For a brief account of the Phlavi period, see Avery et al. (1991), pp. 213-293.
For a good introduction to Khomeini's ideas in English, consult Abrahamian (1993).
Universal suffrage in this context acquires a novel interpretation. Accordingly, everyone over the age of 16 is eligible to vote (for Muslims, it is their religious duty), but only a selected few, as screened by the Council of the Guardians, are qualified to run for office. This arrangement makes it clear that voting is not considered to be a transfer of the right to rule. Why, then, every should member of society be required to vote, has yet to be made clear and justified.
Modjtahed-e Shabestari in conversation with Mohssen Kadivar, (Kiyan, 8:45, Feb-Mar. 1999, pp. 17-19).
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