Anne Applebaum writes in praise of Morocco this week as the not-Iran. Certainly, Morocco doesn't move terror armies around the globe (Hezbollah) or kill American troops (in Iraq), but that's a plus she doesn't mention. What intrigues her about Morocco is that the government "admitted to carrying out crimes" under the last king (d. 1999) and in 2004 set up a " `Truth Commission' " along South African and South American lines" -- not that I would call South Africa or South America paragons of much at the moment.
Anyway, the main point to this Truth Commission, Applebaum writes, is that it has resulted in what she calls "a kind of social peace" -- perfect for a submissive, I mean, Islamic country. The country has moved from "traditional monarchy to constitutional monarchy" with "no revolution, no violence. The king is still the king, and he still has his collection of antique cars."
Applebaum also notes the country's "byzantine" political corruption, "cultural" restraints on women, extremely low literacy, extremely low election turnout, etc. But her ultimate question is: "Is this [Morocco] a model for others?"
While the king's antique car collection does sound charming, I pulled out WorldPublicOpinion.org's February 2009 poll on opinion in the Islamic world to check out the Moroccan zeitgeist that appealed so to Applebaum ("On the day I visited....")
Here are a few stats on Moroccan opinion, mostly from polling done in February 2006 (and which appears in 2009 report):
72% of Moroccans want US out of Islamic countries; 68% approve of attacks on US troops in Iraq; 52% approve of attacks on US troops based in Persian Gulf; 61% approve of attacks on US troops in Afghanistan; 78% believe US goal is to weaken and divide Islam [dream on]; 67% believe US goal is to spread Christianity; 82% think US goal is maintain control of oil; 38% believe US goal is to prevent rule by "extremist groups"; 23% believe US supports Palestinian state; 16% have favorable opinion of US [double the Iranian percentage of people who have a favorable opinion of the US--8% in 2008!]; 64% agree with Al Qaeda goal to keep Western values out of Islamic countries; 21% have negative feelings toward Osama bin Laden; and in December 2006, 76% of Moroccans agreed with Al Qaeda goal of requiring strict applicationof sharia in every Islamic country.
Morocco as the model? Applebaum seems only to be talking very specifically about the country's "slow transformation under the aegis of a (so far) popular king." Then she says: "One thinks wistfully of the shah and what might have been.
Yes, yes. One surely does think wistfully of the shah -- the forgotten man in news "analysis" of current events in Iran -- and not just about what might have been. What was.
Andrew Bostom this week lays out the astonishing strides to emancipate Iranian women from sharia that took place in Iran under the last shah and his father. Reading this piece a stunning modern historical fact comes through: the "opposition movement" in Iran already came and went in the 20th century during the period Bostom describes as Iran's "relatively brief flirtation with Westernization and secularization under Pahlavi rule from 1925 to 1979." The evidence to date does not suggest that we are now seeing heirs to this secularizing, anti-sharia movement in the Tehran's streets.
Bostom's essay opens:
When Iran was returned in 1979 to its longstanding status as a Shi’ite theocracy, (i.e., from 1502 to 1925; interrupted by a period of Afghan invasion and internecine struggle, from 1722-1795), following its relatively brief flirtation with Westernization and secularization under Pahlavi rule from 1925 to 1979, one notable commemoration, Women’s Emancipation Day, was abolished. The original date—January 7—commemorated the anniversary of the day in 1937 on which Reza Shah announced at a Girls’ High School prize-giving that Iranian women would be forbidden to wear the chador, or veil. Later, the date was moved to February 27th, the anniversary of Muhammad Reza Shah’s 1963 speech to the Iranian Senate, proclaiming that women’s traditional Shi’ite Islamic legal disabilities would be removed, and most notably, that women would receive the right to vote.
Andy goes on to reveal the efforts of an extraordinary, Western-educated Iranian woman, Sadiqeh Dolatabadi, a journalist, women's suffragist, and government cultural official who, as early as 1927 was refusing to wear the veil. He writes;
The impact of Dolatabadi’s efforts were apparent by 1941. Despite the expected opposition of the irredentist Shia clergy, Sir Clarmont Skrine would record in his World War in Iran (London, 1962, p. 109), that the announcement of Reza Shah’s abdication,
…was received with gloom by the governing class and the younger generation who feared a return to the medieval, mulla-ridden Persia they thought they had left behind for good and all. This fear received some confirmation from the fact that very soon, for the first time in years, women appeared in the streets of Meshed in the chador enjoined by religion but forbidden by the late Shah.
Reza Shah’s abdication was marked by a revival of Shiite Iranian clerical influence which reached its apogee during the premiership of Muhammad Mosaddeq (1951-1953). Allied to the clerics, who were also against external “domination,” Mossadeq’s regime, was punctuated, as F.R.C. Bagley notes, by
…sermons broadcast from loudspeakers in mosque-minarets [which] not infrequently denounced foreign manners, and many well-educated Iranian ladies resumed the veil…”
Bagley goes on to summarize three primary reasons why most clerics view with “hostility…any sort of women’s emancipation”:
· It is regarded as contrary to Islamic Law, the Sharia
· It represents a move toward “Westernization” of manners
· It was preached by non-Muslim infidels in Iran, notably the Bahai. and Christian missionaries, and advocated by Iranian freethinkers, such as the poet Iraj Mirza (d. 1926)
Following the restoration of Iran’s own constitutional rule—suspended by Muhammad Mossadeq—Muhammad Reza Shah returned to his throne, and Mossadeq was replaced as Prime Minister. The Shah’s subsequent “White Revolution,” which emphasized women’s suffrage, was in turn denounced by the Shi’ite clerical hierarchy who felt women’s suffrage was “un-Islamic.”
And the retrograde 1979 Khomeini “revolution” has marked a brutal re-imposition of Islamic Law even worse than what the Iranian women of 1941 had feared, and characterized then as “a return to the medieval, mulla-ridden Persia they thought they had left behind for good and all.”
And now? Today's "opposition leader" is a Khomeinist supporter of the Islamic regime and its jihadist activities; his wife a hejab-Islamic-supremacist; and the protesters -- ? So far, the evidence suggests they are rebelling within Islamic lines.
What might have been, indeed.
Meanwhile, the poll I cited at the top of this post offers data on Iranian public opinion on the following points from February, 2008:
The good news first: 51% of Iranians had a favorable impression of Americans.
But only 8% had a favorable view of US government.
84% believe it is US goal to weaken and divide the Islamic world.
84% believe it is US goal to maintain control of oil.
8% believe US mostly shows respect to Islamic world; 21% believe US often disrespectful to Islamic world; 64% believe US purposely humilates Islamic world.