Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First-Century Iran

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9780805072990: Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First-Century Iran

The story of the internal clash of Islam versus Islam in today's Iran

Two seasoned scholar/journalists of the Islamic world focus on Iran-the modern age's first theocracy-to challenge the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics. Instead, Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons explore the controversial view that Iranians have a legitimate quarrel with the United States and the West stemming from decades of exploitive foreign policies against Iran and its people.
Taking the reader inside the country's key institutions, the authors, whose research includes an astounding three years of intensive meetings with leading theologians, argue that the 1979 Iranian revolution, long viewed in the West as the pursuit of an imagined medieval Utopia, was, in fact, a political movement designed to modernize Islam. A power struggle between conservative and reform elements has provoked a clash that is destabilizing the country and limiting Iran's ability to integrate with the world community. Since 2000, when the authors were forced to flee Iran, free expression has been stifled and the democratically elected president, Mohammad Khatami, has been stripped of power, as have other mullahs who advocate flexibility in the application of Islamic law. The uninformed U.S. response to this struggle has strengthened the hand of the conservatives. The authors demonstrate Iran's critical influence on the world's 1.4 billion Muslims and Islamists and its chances for democracy in the years ahead.

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About the Author:

Geneive Abdo is an author and commentator on Islamic affairs. Ms. Abdo was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2001-2002. From 1998-2001, she served as the correspondent in Iran for The Guardian newspaper of London and was a regular contributor to The Economist and The International Herald Tribune. She was also the recipient of a Ford Foundation grant for research on Iran.

She has reported from numerous Islamic countries over the course of a decade, from the Middle East to North Africa and Central Asia. As a correspondent based in Cairo, she covered the Middle East for The Dallas Morning News. Ms. Abdo reported the fall of the Soviet Union for Reuters news agency. She was a staff writer for Newsday and the Baltimore Evening Sun in the 1980s.

She is the author of No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2000). Her commentaries and essays on Islam have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Washington Quarterly, The New Republic, The Nation, The Christian Science Monitor, and Middle East Report. She has been a commentator on National Public Radio, PBS, the BBC, the Jim Lehrer News Hour, CNN and other radio and television services.

Jonathan Lyons is the Washington editor for general news for an international news agency. In 1998, he reopened the agency's bureau in Tehran, 14 years after it was closed by Iranian authorities. From 1994-1998, Mr. Lyons was bureau chief in Turkey. A Russian speaker, his first foreign post was in Moscow, from 1989-1992, where he covered the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the independent republics.

Mr. Lyons began his journalism career in 1980 for a series of American newspapers. He was a mid-career Fellow at Columbia University's Harriman Institute for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union.

Jonathan Lyons and Geneive Abdo, the first American journalists based in Iran since the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, are husband and wife. They were forced to leave the country in February 2001 under threat of prosecution and have been banned from returning.

From Publishers Weekly:

From 1998 to 2001, when they were kicked out of Iran, Abdo (No God but God) and Lyons were the first American citizens to be allowed to work as journalists in the country since the 1979 Islamic revolution. This unprecedented access allowed the husband-and wife team to conduct the daily observations and hundreds of interviews that form the basis of this engrossing book of reportage. Focusing mainly on the society's elite-they were apparently unable to gain access to more people in the lower classes-the two are still able to develop a complex, nuanced view of Iran. They show how, even before the fall of the shah, those who called for democracy were outmaneuvered by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who merged hatred of the shah with a skillful understanding of Iran's Islamic tradition. The authors offer historical background on Khomeini and his rise to power, the electoral success of the current president, Mohammad Khatami, and other clerics and dissidents. They also shed light on the more recent challenges to the regime, most notably from the press and from students. For the past few years, many Western observers have seen Iran as a society torn between hard-line clerics and moderate reformers, pinning their hopes on Khatami. But as Abdo and Lyons show, Khatami himself has betrayed true reform, among other ways by making speeches critical of student protests. As a result, Abdo and Lyons conclude, it is unlikely Iran will move toward democracy any time soon.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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