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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 08:33 GMT
How Islamic is the Islamic revolution?
When the clerics took over the state in Iran in February 1979, none of the founders of the Islamic Republic believed that in less than three decades, the ruling clergy would express concern over the loss of Islamic values.

Hard line cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who chairs the right wing Guardian Council, which recently barred thousands of reformists from standing for the forthcoming parliamentary election, has described financial corruption in Iran as "unprecedented in the whole world".

Ayatollah Khomeini
In the holy city where Khomeini preached questions are being asked about the Islamic revolution
This comment stirred widespread controversy in the country's reformist press.

Reformist cleric Hadi Qabel lives in the holy city of Qom, a spiritual centre of Shia Islam. His home is close to the seminary at which Ayatollah Khomeini lectured his zealot pupils.

In the city people make their own vodka at home and once in while, the Friday prayers leader has to warn against the spread of crimes including prostitution.

In an article he wrote for BBC Persian Online on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the "ayatollahs' revolution", Mr Qabel asks the question of "How Islamic is the Islamic revolution?"

The religious government set aside the slogans of equality and freedom of speech a short while after the victory of the Islamic revolution and limited political power to a circle of insiders.

During the years before the revolution, university students were fascinated by the Islamic ideas of idealist scholars such as Ali Shariati and Mehdi Bazargan. Ironically, none of these scholars were clerics.

Thanks to the behaviour of the ruling clerics who introduce themselves as the true embodiment of Islam, the younger generation of Iranians have become seriously disillusioned.

The clerics promised justice and equality but behaved otherwise.

Unsuccessful system

The Islamic Republic has defined religious government as a hierarchy which starts from Allah on top of everyone and everything. The there are the prophet and the Imams and finally, the supreme leader of the state, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The role of the people in such a system is that of sheer obedience.

This system has so far been unsuccessful.

However, Iranian youths still believe in religious values, but refuse to take part in the religious rituals which are, to a great extent, state-sponsored.

In a reaction to the ruling clerics' behaviour, Iranian youths show little interest in state-sponsored religious activities but take part in gatherings which have nothing to do with the government.

Part of the Iranian political establishment tries to pretend that the government is celestial in nature and maintains that it is the people's duty to pledge allegiance to the government.

Religion and state

The establishment of an Islamic Republic meant that the clergy would take over the state.

This created a controversy about the extent the religion would want to intervene in the affairs of the state.

In the early years of the revolution even the intellectuals believed that religion contained directives for every aspect of life.

But after 25 years, it turned out that this was not the case and that man should resort to reason rather than ideology in order to solve his problems.

Now they say that religion should stay away from the state and take on, if it really has to, a supervisory role outside the system of government.

The BBC's Jim Muir
"It's too early to say from the ground what the turnout is looking like"


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