Secularism & Theology: Islam & Politics

March 19, 2008

In a discussion broadcast by WAMU radio, Tamara Cofman Wittes joins Kojo Nnamdi to explore trends in the Muslim world, where religious parties and candidates are claiming victory over secular governments with increasing frequency.

In progress…

Kojo Nnamdi: Tamara, let’s start with the Iranian Revolution back in 1979, when the Western-backed Shah fell to a group of Islamic rebels led by an exiled ayatollah. Why was that revolution successful?

Tamara Cofman Wittes: It was successful for reasons that had to do with the failures of the Shah and his government, significant human rights abuses, and it was part of broader trends in the region. The Shah had been a very close ally of the United States, and at certain points in his rule had in fact been supported against internal opposition by the United States. So, the revolution gained strength not only as an effort to create a popular government — as opposed to the absolute monarchy that was represented by the shah — but also as an anti-colonial expression against the United States, Britain, and other major powers that had interfered in Iran for centuries prior to that.

Listen to the full interview » (Windows Media)