The Ayatollahs' Democracy: An Iranian Challenge

Overview

Hooman Majd offers a dramatic perspective on a country with global ambitions, an elaborate political culture, and enormous implications for world peace. Drawing on privileged access to the Iranian power elite, Majd argues that despite the violence of the disputed 2009 elections, a group of influential ayatollahs—including a liberal, almost-secular opposition—still believes in the Iranian republic; for them, “green” represents not a revolution but a civil rights movement, pushing the country inexorably toward ...

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The Ayatollahs' Democracy: An Iranian Challenge

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Overview

Hooman Majd offers a dramatic perspective on a country with global ambitions, an elaborate political culture, and enormous implications for world peace. Drawing on privileged access to the Iranian power elite, Majd argues that despite the violence of the disputed 2009 elections, a group of influential ayatollahs—including a liberal, almost-secular opposition—still believes in the Iranian republic; for them, “green” represents not a revolution but a civil rights movement, pushing the country inexorably toward democracy, albeit a particular brand of “Islamic democracy.” With witty, candid, and stylishly intelligent reporting, Majd, himself the grandson of an esteemed ayatollah, introduces top-level politicians and clerics as well as ordinary people (even Jewish community leaders), all expressing pride for their ancient heritage and fierce independence from the West. In the tradition of Jon Lee Anderson’s The Fall of Baghdad, The Ayatollahs’ Democracy is a powerful dispatch from a country at a historic turning point.

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Editorial Reviews

The Atlantic.com
Regardless what you happen to think of Majd's political analysis (I happen to mostly agree with it), he has the most detailed and gripping reporting of the Iranian elections to date…. I encourage the White House to get a copy of Majd's book. And for Dish readers to pre-order it.— Patrick Appel
Kirkus Reviews

Iranian-born journalist Majd (The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran, 2008) offers a nimble take on Iran's fraught political landscape.

"Massive fraud," writes the author, accompanied the official announcement of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "landslide re-election" against rival Mir Hossein Mousavi in June 2009, giving the lie to the so-called Green Movement of reform. The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, validated the results shortly thereafter by declaring a triumph of "religious democracy on display for the whole world to witness." People were stunned, yet the Islamic Republic has survived for 30 years and is "not a form of government to write off just yet." How to account for its resiliency and even public support? Majd, an Iranian diplomat's son who was largely educated in America, has impeccable connections and is able to infiltrate the official and nonofficial camps fluidly. In somewhat erratically organized but readable essays, he is determined to get at theoghdeh, or complexes, that underscore the Iranian psyche. When angry Iranians took to the street to protest the election results, the delighted Western media proclaimed the uprising "a rejection of the Islamic regime altogether," thus playing into the hands of Ahmadinejad's supporters, who depicted the movement as a foreign-inspired plot to overthrow the government. First and foremost, the Iranians reject foreign influence and deeply revere democratic ideals. Abrasive and irreverent, with humble provincial roots as the son of a blacksmith, Ahmadinejad has endeared himself to the masses by his muscling of the elite. Majd looks at Iran's grandiose aspirations abroad, as well its as pernicious support of Hezbollah; the evolving relationship with President Obama; the tenacity of Iranian Jews who insist on staying despite Ahmadinejad's poisonous anti-Semitic statements; and the power of the mullahs.

Useful survey of the roiling state of recent Iranian affairs.

Patrick Appel - The Atlantic.com
“Regardless what you happen to think of Majd's political analysis (I happen to mostly agree with it), he has the most detailed and gripping reporting of the Iranian elections to date…. I encourage the White House to get a copy of Majd's book. And for Dish readers to pre-order it.”
Reza Aslan
“No writer knows more about modern Iran than Hooman Majd. Nor does any other commentator write more cogently, or more beautifully, about this complex and sometimes opaque culture. The Ayatollahs’ Democracy establishes Majd as the go-to guy for understanding Iran and Iranian politics.”
Firoozeh Dumas
“Hooman Majd’s penetrating new book, The Ayatollahs’ Democracy, exposes Iran's innermost political machinations. Combining analytical agility, journalistic talent, the prose of a seasoned writer, Majd draws deft analogies between events in Iran and events in American history, and untangles the many factions and alliances that run Iran's enigmatic government. Best of all, Majd breaks down complex issues into understandable pieces, without sacrificing complexity. A must read.”
Lesley Hazleton
“The first fifty pages of this book would make a Sundance-winning film, but the meat of the book explores, in vividly readable style, the evolving concept of Islamic democracy, the widespread support for nuclear power, and the historical pride and resistance to western intervention. A well-connected insider with the eye of a master psychologist, Majd gives us a nuanced, in-depth portrait of a country both far more sophisticated and far less rigid than western policymakers have yet appreciated.”
Time
“Its insights may startle Americans who think of Iran purely as a fundamentalist Islamic state.”
Marc Tracy - The New York Times Book Review
“Like a nonfiction novel, going beyond hard facts to enter people's consciousness.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393072594
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/20/2010
  • Pages: 282
  • Product dimensions: 9.72 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Tehran but educated in the West, Hooman Majd is the author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ (an Economist and Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2008) and The Ayatollahs' Democracy:
An Iranian Challenge
. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Everything is True; Nothing is Permitted 1

Dramatis Personae 2

Act One Everything is True 3

Entracte 19

Act Two Nothing is Permitted 27

Prologue 41

My Name is Green 47

Democracy, Interrupted: It Takes a Thousand and One Villages (and a Mullah or Two) 67

Oh Yeah? Kardeem va Shod! 93

Where I Sat in Babylon 129

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Iran and America in the Age of Obama 161

The Good, the Bad, the Unclean 211

Nothing is True; Everything is Forbidden 255

Acknowledgments 273

Index 275

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