How the Iranian uprising has transformed Shiism

Abbas Milani in The New Republic:

ScreenHunter_07 Jan. 15 15.35 The Green Movement is a revolt against theocracy. Most of its adherents are young Iranians with little or no religious motivation. Yet, an iconic figure of the revolt was the nation’s highest-ranking cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri; and, last month, Ashura, a holy day celebrating martyrdom, occasioned some of the movement’s most massive protests.

Perhaps the fact that the movement has acquired a Shia veneer shouldn’t be terribly surprising. During the past century, no social movement in Iran has succeeded without draping itself in religion or without a strong Shia contingent in its leadership.

But to limit the discussion of the Green Movement’s religiosity to rhetoric and political maneuverings is to diminish the significance of the happening. The Green Movement (and the Ayatollah Khamenei’s clumsy response to it) has exacerbated a split with Shiism. It has accelerated the development of profound and potentially far-reaching doctrinal innovations. The course of the coming months will determine the extent to which these innovations will transform Shiism and Iran.

More here.