Shiism, Nationalism, and the Past Clash in Modern Iran
Huffingtonpost / Jamsheed Choksy & Stephen Szrom

Day after day in Tehran, Isfahan, Tabriz, and other cities, the Iranian government exhorts the greatness of the nation's Shiite Islamic faith. It does so more cautiously in recent months, however, as a revival of Iranian nationalism questions the political legitimacy of mullahs who have controlled the country for over thirty years. As Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pushes the boundaries of his influence, at the expense of the clerics', his own appropriation of Iran's history and pushback from the mullahs have highlighted the continued importance of Iranian civilization's legacy.

The 1979 revolution replaced a 2,500 year-old tradition of secular, monarchic, reign with a theocracy. Glorifying that imperial tradition, which is rooted in ancient Iranian social and confessional mores, contradicts the bases and the results of the Islamic revolution. For much of its history, Iran was primarily a Zoroastrian (an ancient religion that gave the world notions of good and evil, judgment and retribution, heaven and hell) country. As the Shiite clerics see it, many of Iran's deep-rooted traditions conflict with Islam's influence.

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