Sacred As Secular in a Muslim Context: Religion and Secularization in Iran's Islamic Republic

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Abdie KAZEMIPUR, University of Calgary, Canada
The recent wave of scholarship on secularity has challenged many of the previous assumptions and biases in the field, including a Western European bias, focus on the Catholic world, and viewing sacred and secular as mutually exclusive. Despite these challenges, this body of research still remains heavily focused on Christianity and the West, and maintains a disciplinary bias towards political philosophy, political science, and religious studies. In the study proposed here, I discuss the secularization forces in a Muslim context, namely, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Drawing on a vast amount of data that have recently become available -- e.g., survey data covering a 30-year period, government documents for the last three decades, etc. -- my research shows a deep process of secularization in Iran, which reflects itself not only in the beliefs and behaviours of the populace but also in the structure and behaviours of the state and the religious institution. This fundaemntal shift towards secularity in the Iranian society is directly related to the governmental policies adopted in the four decades since the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979 -- ironically, with the purpose of Islamizing the Iranian society. The findings offer several nuances to the existing scholarship on secularity in the contemporary world.