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

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9780805075144: Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First-Century Iran

“Riveting . . . a side of Iran that is often misrepresented by the world’s media—[an] insightful, captivating book.” — San Francisco Chronicle

Taking the reader inside Iran’s key institutions, Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons 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. Twenty years later, a power struggle between conservative and reform elements provoked a clash that has destabilized the country and limited Iran’s ability to integrate with the world community.

Answering Only to God challenges the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics or that a Western-style democracy will soon transform this ancient land of Shi’ite and Sufi tradition. Instead, the authors explore the controversial view that beyond their quarrel with the West, stemming from decades of exploitive foreign policies, the real struggle in Iran is between reformers and conservative mullahs.

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About the Author:

Geneive Abdo reported from Islamic countries for The Guardian and The Economist for over a decade. She is the author of No God But God, a correspondent in the Washington bureau of The Boston Globe, and a commentator on NPR and the BBC. Abdo was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2001–2002.   Jonathan Lyons served as the bureau chief of an international news agency in Iran and in Turkey. Before that, he covered the collapse of the Soviet Union. They both live in Washington, D.C.

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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