Religion’s Chaotic Market and the Envious Doormen of Paradise
Iranian officials have always claimed that they are to make the people’s world and afterworld flourish and they are the only one who are able to so. They have used every opportunity to show this authoritarian and totalitarian spiritualism and care for life after death. One example is their position against having movie theatres open in Ramadan even after dusk (Mash
had and Khorram Abad Friday prayer leaders, August 13, 2010).
To guarantee paradise for the public, Iranian officials have been ready to resort to chains, brass knuckles, lashes, arms, solitary confinement, rape and terror. The Islamists in power have officially transformed all sins to crimes to prosecute people who behave differently and do not believe in what the Islamists identify with. They use force to stop them. The result of this transformation is institutionalized interference in people’s lives and reorganization of all governmental offices to Orwellian mind control and surveillance apparatuses.
The rulers of Iran consider themselves as the best group in the world and the God chosen people. They believe that the world is filled with sin and Iran under their control is the summit to send people to the God’s court. Now the question is whether being religious in any meaning of the word is now easier in the country or more difficult. What have the key holders of paradise done to the religion and society in Iran?
Holders to the Keys of Heaven and Hell
Religious state ideologues rest assured that just establishment of the Islamic Republic has led to the closing of inferno (Abdullah Javadi Amoli, Tabnak, November 27, 2009); people themselves through force and Satan’s temptations try to open infernos’ gates. Therefore, if there is any sin it is individually and willfully shaped by the individual sinners, and the government and the society have no role in this process, but if there is any good, the credit goes to the Islamic government and the clergy. From this point of view, all the gates of heaven are open to the loyalists to the Islamic government, even if they have blood on their hands and do not refuse any opportunity for corruption.
The Shi’i ruling clergy sees its power as a God-given gift that has brought so much light and compassion into the world that there should hell’s gates will not open. This group is so narcissistic that takes the seat of the lord and opens and closes the doors of heaven and hell just because it has the absolute power in its hands.
Based on this notion of holding heaven and hell’s keys, Iranian officials actually offered the families of Green Movement’s victims the title of “martyr’s family” (Alef, January 4, 2010) but most of the family members such as Neda Agha Soltan and Ali Habibi Musavi (Mir Husein Musavi’s nephew) refused. By making this offer to provide a pension to the families of those murdered by the regime in the post-election uprisings and declaring them as “martyrs” in the eyes of God’s representatives (the ruling clergy), the government tries to pay off the families and silence them.
The government assassinates the dissidents and if there are any complaints in the society about killing Muslims, the dead are sent to paradise (killing non-Muslims is not a big deal).
Mission of Key Holders
What has the Shi’i clergy and its supporters done that they believe hell’s doors are closed to them? They have wiped out thousands of dissidents from the face of the earth; mosques and chapels are established in every public places and the clerics are paid by the government to lead prayers in these locations; they have also passed laws to punish people who do not even pretend to believe in Islamic laws (Article 638 of Islamic Penal Code); women are forced to wear hejab and men are rewarded if they grow beards; some of the Islamic bureaucracy have burned their foreheads to obtain the sign of years of praying.
Some of the public sector personnel and Basij forces are sent on pilgrimage or seclusion in mosques; women are expelled from public places to protect them from sin. The government produces, imports, distributes and promotes black chador (a loose robe which is worn like a cloak) to stop women from showing the shape of their bodies.
This advocacy for Islamic ordinances gives them the ruling clique the justification to hold absolute power, and most of the wealth of the country in their hands. Any one who is in their circles benefits from the national resources (oil, gas, mines, seas and lands) more than any one else.
Considering these rewards for the rulers and their supporters, religiosity is very easy for them and non-religiosity (not believing in Shi’I Islam according to the velayat-e faqih, the theocratic head of state) is difficult and expensive for others (to the point of receiving lashes, being stoned to death and executed). The rulers and their supporters believe they are doing their religious duties. But are they?
First, most of the opponents of the Islamic government are Shi’I Muslim living in hell on the earth. They are incarcerated in small cells, and their family members are not secure. Disagreeing with the government has become very expensive during the Khamenei and Ahmadinejad administration. Shi’i opponents of the regime are not living in a better situation compared to Baha’is, Sunnis, Jews, the non-religious and non-believers in Shi’i Islamism.
Second, the government’s rewards for loyalists have increased the levels of lies, subservience, flattery, and hypocrisy, all by resort to religion. These are fatal poisons for any religiosity. They not only ruin the religion of liars, flatters and hypocrites, but the religion of others. In any religious markets which these qualities are spread, heart-felt, sincere religiosity will be looked down on as well.
Third, the Islamic regime has a role in the non-religiosity business boom by imposing observance of Islamic ordinances. The government’s actions have made oppressed ideologies, beliefs and behaviors very interesting for the new generation. The opponents have a higher ethical ground, while the representatives of religion shoot people in the chest in public arenas, rape and torture the prisoners, filter the internet and jam the satellite signals, censor the books and press, and violate every human rights. Now Iranian youth are leaving faith in large numbers, and the government run media presents the news of one conversion to Islam once in a while.
These actions have made honest religiosity in the public sphere almost impossible. Now only the supporters of the government race each other to show their faith in public to receive the benefits related to these actions. Believers who have not benefited try to hide their beliefs not to be mistakenly taken for being government supporters. They do not want to be blamed for the regime’s crimes, inefficiencies, and calamities inflicted on the population.
The Expenses for Being Religious
In a society that the key holders of paradise and inferno are violent and sour, and they descend heaven to their state to justify their rule, not only non religiosity is socially and politically expensive, but any honest religiosity comes with lots of expenses for non-loyalists. The government rewards just seemingly religious loyalists and this is just an instrument for political propaganda and increasing legitimacy.
This fact cannot be hidden from the public, and government’s interference in the religion market makes the cycles of supply and demand chaotic. Gradually the government monopolizes the religion market and only an underground religion market will maintain some believers. The prices in the underground religion market are so high that lots of people leave and never come back.
The Islamic state not only has deranged Iran’s politics, economy and culture but has inflicted disorder in the religion market. Now it is too difficult for any one to recognize a genuinely religious person from a hypocrite, to distinguish honest religiosity from flattery and power-oriented religiosity, and a truly personal religiosity from an ideologized one.