Friday, June 21, 2013

Pew Survey: Views on religion and politics in Iran

by Salman Hameed

The elections in Iran are over and the reformist-backed candidate, Hassan Rouhani, has won the elections. Predictably, the coverage in the US has all been about the nuclear issue as if Iranians were only voting for that. For that matter, there rarely is a recognition that the elections are held regularly in Iran and the turnout is consistently high. Yes, The Supreme Leader and The Guardian Council can veto legislation and disqualify candidates, nevertheless, the President is not completely toothless. If that was the case, then the participation in the voting would not be that high. In fact, the turnout in the last US elections was 57.5% compared to 72.2% in the Iranian elections. A recent Pew survey that shows that a majority of Iranians do want a political role for religious figures. Now first, "political role" can be understood to have a very broad meaning, and second, most Iranians follow Shi'a Islam, where there already is a more established religious hierarchy compared to the run-of-the-mill Sunni equivalent.


There are still 30% of Iranians who believe that religious figures should have little to no political influence at all. But an overwhelming majority (82%) believe that Iran's laws follow sharia:


Read the full Pew article here.

In case you are wondering, Pakistan is a very different case, but religious parties received only 5% of the total vote in the recent elections (but religious parties still wield an outsized influence for other reasons). In comparison, 67% of the vote in Egyptian parliamentary elections in 2012 went to Islamist parties (38% - the largest share to The Muslim Brotherhood). However, a recent Pew survey shows that the support for Muslim Brotherhood is declining. This is precisely the reason, why we should let the process of democracy run. These political religious parties have no magic bullet - and when it becomes obvious, their support will decline:
But back to the original question of political influence of religious leaders, here is the landscape of Muslim views around the world (Pakistan and Tunisia have similar opinions on this matter! But also look at the high numbers for Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Jordan, and Bangladesh):


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