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Participatory Shia Islamism: The Islamic Republic of Iran

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Abstract

Thus far, we have examined four trends of Sunni Islamism on the basis of their approaches to power and their attitudes to democracy. This exercise suggests that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is comfortable with democratic politics, while the other groups are either participating with reservations (e.g., Salafis) or rejecting democracy outright as un-Islamic (e.g., some Salafi, Taliban, and alQaeda-style transnational jihadists). In this chapter, we will explain how the Shia Islamist trend in Iran has responded to the democratic political system. By examining the historical development of Shia political thought, we will show how contemporary Shia political ideas and behavior, regarding the state, adhere to the acceptor form of Islamism. Additionally, Iran’s Shia Islamists, like the MB, are participatory in regards to democracy. In fact, in some respects they are more acceptor and participatory than the MB, which is rather surprising given the origins and nature of Shia theology.1 Unlike Sunni Islamists, over the centuries Shia Islam has gravitated toward a clerical hierarchy. Intuitively, this should mean that the minority branch of Islam would be far more resistant to what prominent contemporary Iranian philosopher Abdolkarim Soroush calls “extra-religious” ideas.2 On the contrary, there has been an evolution in Shia religio-political thought and practice—facilitating an embrace of presidential-parliamentary republicanism that is lacking among several of their Sunni counterparts.

Keywords

  • Presidential Election
  • Voter Turnout
  • Gulf Cooperation Council
  • Executive Branch
  • Islamic Republic

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Notes

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© 2013 Kamran Bokhari and Farid Senzai

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Bokhari, K., Senzai, F. (2013). Participatory Shia Islamism: The Islamic Republic of Iran. In: Political Islam in the Age of Democratization. Middle East Today. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137313492_8

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