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3 - Policy sphere of recognized religious minorities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Eliz Sanasarian
Affiliation:
University of Southern California
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Summary

On the surface, the theocratic state granted the recognized religious minorities (RRMs) the same rights they had held before. Each enjoyed political representation, and their communities were guaranteed freedom of religion, language, and culture. The new regime, solely based on its constitution, could rightly claim a policy of continuity vis-à-vis the Armenians, the Assyrians and Chaldeans, the Zoroastrians, and the Jews. The exclusion of the Bahais was also consonant with past practice.

In reality life became more taxing and complex for the minorities. Readers should keep in mind the impact of the Revolution and the subsequent eight-year Iran–Iraq War as intervening variables in the analysis presented in this and the next two chapters. Just as important is the use of religion as a political ideology, which led to contradictions, fusion of myth with reality, a struggle between religious principles and the quest for power, a breakdown of hierarchical order, and eventually unprecedented confusion on human rights. The end result was development of a sharp “us”–“them” distinction involving the Muslim citizens of Iran and the non-Muslims. In contrast to the previous regime which stressed homogenization, the Islamic Republic accepted pluralism but pursued either exclusion or subordination, with coercion or the threat of coercion, based on ideology. The theocratic character (fused with a strange version of leftist ideology) of the state had created a new set of relationships between the state and the religious minorities, constituting compartmentalization and segmentation.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2000

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