Are Iranians Really Protesting Against Islam?

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

What began on December 28 as local protests against high food prices in the northern city of Mashhad, Iran, has spiraled into mass protests consisting of some hundreds of thousands of Iranians in some two dozen cities, including if not especially Tehran, the seat of government.  So far over 20 people have been killed and many hundreds arrested in what has been widely described as “the most serious internal crisis the country has faced this decade.”

The protests have morphed from mundane topics concerning the economy to more existential topics concerning Islamic leadership. Reportedly hundreds of thousands of protesters have been heard shouting “We don’t want an Islamic Republic,” and calling blessings on Reza Shah, the staunch secularist and political reformer who did much to Westernize Iran, until his son and successor, Muhammad Reza Shah was deposed during the Islamic Revolution of 1979.   According to Mideast media, women—such as Maryam Rajavi—are spearheading the current protests (and symbolically rejecting Islamic impositions by publicly removing their hijabs).    

Even the Iranian regime sees the current unrest as a revolt against Islam.  In his initial remarks after demonstrations first erupted, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said, “All those who are against the Islamic Republic … have all joined forces in order to create problems for the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution” (note the recurrent and telling adjective “Islamic”).

Even so, “mainstream media” see growing poverty and frustration at the lack of social freedoms as the onlyreasons behind the current unrest.  Overlooked in their analysis is that, because Islam is not meant to be a “spiritual thing” one does privately, but is rather a complete system of governance, permeating the whole of private and social life, the ongoing protests in Iran, while ostensibly revolving around economic, social, and political issues, are ultimately protests against Islamic teachings concerning economic, social, and political issues, which the Islamic Republic of Iran has been imposing on the populace since coming to power in 1979.
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