Current developments in Iran are forcing a fundamental reassessment of the relationship between Islam and democracy and the processes of democratization in the Muslim world. While some scholars have argued that ‘Islam’ and ‘democracy’ are essentially incompatible, others have sought to portray the advent of political Islam as a transitional phenomenon to be overcome before democratization can take root. Ansari, in tracing the historical roots of political development in Iran, argues that what is in fact taking place is an intellectual synthesis of ideas drawing from both Western and traditional Iranian norms. The author analyzes the origins and dynamic of this development, and discusses the possible consequences for Iran and the region, as well as Iran’s relationship with the wider world.
Ali M. Ansari is a professor in modern history with reference to the Middle East at St. Andrews University, Scotland, where he is also the founding director of the Institute for Iranian Studies. He is an associate fellow at Chatham House.