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Answering Only To God Faith & Freedom In

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The story of the internal clash of Islam versus Islam in today's Iran

Two seasoned scholar/journalists of the Islamic world focus on Iran-the modern age's first theocracy-to challenge the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics. Instead, Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons explore the controversial view that Iranians have a legitimate quarrel with the United States and the West stemming from decades of exploitive foreign policies against Iran and its people.

Taking the reader inside the country's key institutions, the authors, whose research includes an astounding three years of intensive meetings with leading theologians, argue that the 1979 Iranian revolution, long viewed in the West as the pursuit of an imagined medieval Utopia, was, in fact, a political movement designed to modernize Islam. A power struggle between conservative and reform elements has provoked a clash that is destabilizing the country and limiting Iran's ability to integrate with the world community. Since 2000, when the authors were forced to flee Iran, free expression has been stifled and the democratically elected president, Mohammad Khatami, has been stripped of power, as have other mullahs who advocate flexibility in the application of Islamic law. The uninformed U.S. response to this struggle has strengthened the hand of the conservatives. The authors demonstrate Iran's critical influence on the world's 1.4 billion Muslims and Islamists and its chances for democracy in the years ahead.

Geneive Abdo was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2001-2002. She was also the recipient of a Ford Foundation grant for research on Iran. She is the author of No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam. Her commentaries and essays on Islam have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Nation, and The Christian Science Monitor, among others.

Jonathan Lyons served as the bureau chief of an international news agency in Iran and in Turkey. Before that, he covered the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lyons and Abdo, who are married, were based in Iran from 1998 to 2001.

In 1979, Islamic revolutionaries set out to create a new kind of state from the ashes of the Shah's U.S.-backed monarchyone that was both religious and democratic. But the result was the modem world's first theocracy, an authoritarian state run by conservative clerics.

Hope emerged for a republic accountable to Iran's 62 million people with the landslide election of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997. Like Islamic reformers throughout history, Khatami argued that the needs of modem Muslims could be met if reason and rationality were introduced into the practice of the faith. His ideas energized other parts of the Muslim world yearning for free expression, the rule of law, religious and political tolerance, and increased participation among women and minorities. The promised land of the modem Islamic movement, the founding of a true Islamic republic, suddenly appeared within reach.

Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons, experienced Middle East correspondents, felt the same tug, and arrived in Tehran to document Iran's rebirth ten months after Khatami took office. Instead, they found themselves chronicling the collapse of this republican ideal under the weight of Iran's religious and social traditions. Answering Only to God gives readers an inside look at this secretive society and its battle for the true faith. It is a struggle that has plagued the Islamic Republic from birth: Is it a Shi'ite Muslim state ruled by clerics, or a republic ruled by the people? Unable to resolve this conflict, the clerical establishment has come to rely on repression to maintain power. Yet such despotism flies in the face of traditional Shi'ite Muslim practice, just as it shatters the dreams of millions of Iranians for a society that is both religious and free.

As the only American journalists to live in Iran since the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, Abdo and Lyons draw on hundreds of interviews carried out over almost three years. Their research and reporting reveal the most intimate workings of the Iranian regime. In 2001, they were forced to flee under the threat of prosecution and have been banned from returning. Answering Only to God will appeal to anyone searching for a deeper understanding of the conflicts sweeping the entire Muslim world.

"Abdo and Lyons have made a major contribution to contemporary Iranian history. Their eyewitness accounts are absolute gems of investigative journalism, done with courage and imagination and guided by a caring intellect."Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies, Columbia University, and author of Theology of Discontent

"Insightful, captivating, [and] riveting."Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle

"Abdo and Lyons have made a major contribution to contemporary Iranian history. Their eyewitness accounts are absolute gems of investigative journalism, done with courage and imagination and guided by a caring intellect."Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies, Columbia University, and author of Theology of Discontent

"A timely and very intelligent first-hand account of the current reform movement in the context of Iranian politics and theocratic government."Said Amir Arjomand, author of The Turban for the Crown and President of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies and Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook

"A remarkable first-hand account of Iran, the most interesting contemporary social experiment on the face of the planet. Abdo and Lyons bring us inside the soul of this intriguing countrywhich in many ways is the crucible in which the contemporary mix of radical religion and politics has been forged. Whether this religious politics has a future, and whether it can eventually be made compatible with the democratic values of the West, is what this thoughtful study is all about."Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence

"Abdo and Lyons have expertly delineated the struggle for the political soul of Iran; a struggle that the 'reformers' are losing. Answering Only to God is written with verve and authority."Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden

"Which is stronger: the ayatollah or rock 'n' roll? Progressive Iranians, weary after 20 years of the ever-more repressive regime of the mullahs and their religious police, had much reason to hope that the inauguration of President Mohammed Khatami, a dark-horse candidate who in 1997 'had won by a landslide, beating out the handpicked conservative designated for the job,' would usher in a period of comparative freedom. And Khatami at first did much to reinforce that hope, write husband-and-wife journalists Abdo and Lyons, who were based in Iran from 1998 to 2001. Himself a journalist, Khatami declared, for instance, that the press would henceforth be free to criticize the government and himself, to say nothing of the clerics. The clerics responded angrily, bringing their considerable power to bear on the civil government and, in the authors' view, repudiating the traditional Shi'ite Muslim vision of a society free of religious despotism. Abdo and Lyons point to a paradox that the Iranian government has failed to resolve since overthrowing the Shah: 'Is it an Islamic state ruled by clerics or a republic ruled by the people?' Neither, it would appearor perhaps both, though in either instance Khatami's attempt to liberalize the government was steadily undone, with opposition newspapers closed and journalists, trade unionists, and student leaders imprisoned for having dared question the authority of the 'Minister of Slogans' and other arms of the octopus state. In the authors' blow-by-blow account, the mullahs emerge as villains through and through, victimizing not only the progressives but also ordinary Iranian Muslims by coveting the power they are supposed to shun. Whether the reform movement is truly dead remains to be seen; though the authors fear that it is, recent newspaper headlines suggest that plenty of Iranians still long for 'an Islamic system but one built on social justice and civil liberties' and are willing to fight to bring it about. A thoughtful, reasoned contribution to the distressing affairs of the Middle East."Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

The story of the internal clash of Islam versus Islam in today's Iran

Two seasoned scholar/journalists of the Islamic world focus on Iran-the modern age's first theocracy-to challenge the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics. Instead, Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons explore the controversial view that Iranians have a legitimate quarrel with the United States and the West stemming from decades of exploitive foreign policies against Iran and its people.

Taking the reader inside the country's key institutions, the authors, whose research includes an astounding three years of intensive meetings with leading theologians, argue that the 1979 Iranian revolution, long viewed in the West as the pursuit of an imagined medieval Utopia, was, in fact, a political movement designed to modernize Islam. A power struggle between conservative and reform elements has provoked a clash that is destabilizing the country and limiting Iran's ability to integrate with the world community. Since 2000, when the authors were forced to flee Iran, free expression has been stifled and the democratically elected president, Mohammad Khatami, has been stripped of power, as have other mullahs who advocate flexibility in the application of Islamic law. The uninformed U.S. response to this struggle has strengthened the hand of the conservatives. The authors demonstrate Iran's critical influence on the world's 1.4 billion Muslims and Islamists and its chances for democracy in the years ahead.

Synopsis:

Two seasoned scholar/journalists of the Islamic world focus on Iran--the modern age's first theocracy--to challenge the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics. Photos.

Synopsis:

“Riveting . . . a side of Iran that is often misrepresented by the worlds media—[an] insightful, captivating book.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Taking the reader inside Irans key institutions, Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons argue that the 1979 Iranian revolution, long viewed in the West as the pursuit of an imagined medieval Utopia, was in fact a political movement designed to modernize Islam. Twenty years later, a power struggle between conservative and reform elements provoked a clash that has destabilized the country and limited Irans ability to integrate with the world community.

Answering Only to God challenges the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics or that a Western-style democracy will soon transform this ancient land of Shiite and Sufi tradition. Instead, the authors explore the controversial view that beyond their quarrel with the West, stemming from decades of exploitive foreign policies, the real struggle in Iran is between reformers and conservative mullahs.

Synopsis:

The story of the internal clash of Islam versus Islam in today's Iran

Two seasoned scholar/journalists of the Islamic world focus on Iran-the modern age's first theocracy-to challenge the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics. Instead, Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons explore the controversial view that Iranians have a legitimate quarrel with the United States and the West stemming from decades of exploitive foreign policies against Iran and its people.

Taking the reader inside the country's key institutions, the authors, whose research includes an astounding three years of intensive meetings with leading theologians, argue that the 1979 Iranian revolution, long viewed in the West as the pursuit of an imagined medieval Utopia, was, in fact, a political movement designed to modernize Islam. A power struggle between conservative and reform elements has provoked a clash that is destabilizing the country and limiting Iran's ability to integrate with the world community. Since 2000, when the authors were forced to flee Iran, free expression has been stifled and the democratically elected president, Mohammad Khatami, has been stripped of power, as have other mullahs who advocate flexibility in the application of Islamic law. The uninformed U.S. response to this struggle has strengthened the hand of the conservatives. The authors demonstrate Iran's critical influence on the world's 1.4 billion Muslims and Islamists and its chances for democracy in the years ahead.

Geneive Abdo was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2001-2002. She was also the recipient of a Ford Foundation grant for research on Iran. She is the author of No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam. Her commentaries and essays on Islam have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Nation, and The Christian Science Monitor, among others.

Jonathan Lyons served as the bureau chief of an international news agency in Iran and in Turkey. Before that, he covered the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lyons and Abdo, who are married, were based in Iran from 1998 to 2001.

In 1979, Islamic revolutionaries set out to create a new kind of state from the ashes of the Shah's U.S.-backed monarchy--one that was both religious and democratic. But the result was the modem world's first theocracy, an authoritarian state run by conservative clerics.

Hope emerged for a republic accountable to Iran's 62 million people with the landslide election of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997. Like Islamic reformers throughout history, Khatami argued that the needs of modem Muslims could be met if reason and rationality were introduced into the practice of the faith. His ideas energized other parts of the Muslim world yearning for free expression, the rule of law, religious and political tolerance, and increased participation among women and minorities. The promised land of the modem Islamic movement, the founding of a true Islamic republic, suddenly appeared within reach.

Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons, experienced Middle East correspondents, felt the same tug, and arrived in Tehran to document Iran's rebirth ten months after Khatami took office. Instead, they found themselves chronicling the collapse of this republican ideal under the weight of Iran's religious and social traditions. Answering Only to God gives readers an inside look at this secretive society and its battle for the true faith. It is a struggle that has plagued the Islamic Republic from birth: Is it a Shi'ite Muslim state ruled by clerics, or a republic ruled by the people? Unable to resolve this conflict, the clerical establishment has come to rely on repression to maintain power. Yet such despotism flies in the face of traditional Shi'ite Muslim practice, just as it shatters the dreams of millions of Iranians for a society that is both religious and free.

As the only American journalists to live in Iran since the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, Abdo and Lyons draw on hundreds of interviews carried out over almost three years. Their research and reporting reveal the most intimate workings of the Iranian regime. In 2001, they were forced to flee under the threat of prosecution and have been banned from returning. Answering Only to God will appeal to anyone searching for a deeper understanding of the conflicts sweeping the entire Muslim world.

Abdo and Lyons have made a major contribution to contemporary Iranian history. Their eyewitness accounts are absolute gems of investigative journalism, done with courage and imagination and guided by a caring intellect.--Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies, Columbia University, and author of Theology of Discontent

Insightful, captivating, and] riveting.--Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle

Abdo and Lyons have made a major contribution to contemporary Iranian history. Their eyewitness accounts are absolute gems of investigative journalism, done with courage and imagination and guided by a caring intellect.--Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies, Columbia University, and author of Theology of Discontent

A timely and very intelligent first-hand account of the current reform movement in the context of Iranian politics and theocratic government.--Said Amir Arjomand, author of The Turban for the Crown and President of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies and Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook

A remarkable first-hand account of Iran, the most interesting contemporary social experiment on the face of the planet. Abdo and Lyons bring us inside the soul of this intriguing country--which in many ways is the crucible in which the contemporary mix of radical religion and politics has been forged. Whether this religious politics has a future, and whether it can eventually be made compatible with the democratic values of the West, is what this thoughtful study is all about.--Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence

Abdo and Lyons have expertly delineated the struggle for the political soul of Iran; a struggle that the 'reformers' are losing. Answering Only to God is written with verve and authority.--Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden

Which is stronger: the ayatollah or rock 'n' roll? Progressive Iranians, weary after 20 years of the ever-more repressive regime of the mullahs and their religious police, had much reason to hope that the inauguration of President Mohammed Khatami, a dark-horse candidate who in 1997 'had won by a landslide, beating out the handpicked conservative designated for the job, ' would usher in a period of comparative freedom. And Khatami at first did much to reinforce that hope, write husband-and-wife journalists Abdo and Lyons, who were based in Iran from 1998 to 2001. Himself a journalist, Khatami declared, for instance, that the press would henceforth be free to criticize the government and himself, to say nothing of the clerics. The clerics responded angrily, bringing their considerable power to bear on the civil government and, in the authors' view, repudiating the traditional Shi'ite Muslim vision of a society free of religious despotism. Abdo and Lyons point to a paradox that the Iranian government has failed to resolve since overthrowing the Shah: 'Is it an Islamic state ruled by clerics or a republic ruled by the people?' Neither, it would appear--or perhaps both, though in either instance Khatami's attempt to liberalize the government was steadily undone, with opposition newspapers closed and journalists, trade unionists, and student leaders imprisoned for having dared question the authority of the 'Minister of Slogans' and other arms of the octopus state. In the authors' blow-by-blow account, the mullahs emerge as villains through and through, victimizing not only the progressives but also ordinary Iranian Muslims by coveting the power they are supposed to shun. Whether the reform movement is truly dead remains to be seen; though the authors fear that it is, recent newspaper headlines suggest that plenty of Iranians still long for 'an Islamic system but one built on social justice and civil liberties' and are willing to fight to bring it about. A thoughtful, reasoned contribution to the distressing affairs of the Middle East.--Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Geneive Abdo reported from Islamic countries for The Guardian and The Economist for over a decade. She is the author of No God But God and is a commentator on NPR and the BBC. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jonathan Lyons served as the Reuters bureau chief in Turkey from 1994 to 1998 and covered the collapse of the Soviet Union in the agency's Moscow bureau from 1989 to 1993. He also has reporting experience in Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780805072990
Subtitle:
Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First-Century Iran
Author:
Abdo, Geneive
Author:
Lyons, Jonathan
Publisher:
Holt Paperbacks
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Middle East
Subject:
Politics and government
Subject:
Practical Politics
Subject:
Islam
Subject:
Middle East - Iran
Subject:
Iran
Subject:
Islam and politics
Subject:
Democratization
Subject:
International Relations - General
Subject:
Religion, Politics & State
Subject:
History & Theory - General
Subject:
Islam - General
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Series Volume:
107-406
Publication Date:
20040501
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
20 BandW photographs
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.13 x 1.13 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Middle East » Iran and Persia
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » World History » Middle East

Answering Only To God Faith & Freedom In Used Hardcover
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Product details 320 pages MACMILLAN PUBLISHING SERVICES - English 9780805072990 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
The story of the internal clash of Islam versus Islam in today's Iran

Two seasoned scholar/journalists of the Islamic world focus on Iran-the modern age's first theocracy-to challenge the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics. Instead, Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons explore the controversial view that Iranians have a legitimate quarrel with the United States and the West stemming from decades of exploitive foreign policies against Iran and its people.

Taking the reader inside the country's key institutions, the authors, whose research includes an astounding three years of intensive meetings with leading theologians, argue that the 1979 Iranian revolution, long viewed in the West as the pursuit of an imagined medieval Utopia, was, in fact, a political movement designed to modernize Islam. A power struggle between conservative and reform elements has provoked a clash that is destabilizing the country and limiting Iran's ability to integrate with the world community. Since 2000, when the authors were forced to flee Iran, free expression has been stifled and the democratically elected president, Mohammad Khatami, has been stripped of power, as have other mullahs who advocate flexibility in the application of Islamic law. The uninformed U.S. response to this struggle has strengthened the hand of the conservatives. The authors demonstrate Iran's critical influence on the world's 1.4 billion Muslims and Islamists and its chances for democracy in the years ahead.

"Synopsis" by , Two seasoned scholar/journalists of the Islamic world focus on Iran--the modern age's first theocracy--to challenge the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics. Photos.
"Synopsis" by ,
“Riveting . . . a side of Iran that is often misrepresented by the worlds media—[an] insightful, captivating book.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Taking the reader inside Irans key institutions, Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons argue that the 1979 Iranian revolution, long viewed in the West as the pursuit of an imagined medieval Utopia, was in fact a political movement designed to modernize Islam. Twenty years later, a power struggle between conservative and reform elements provoked a clash that has destabilized the country and limited Irans ability to integrate with the world community.

Answering Only to God challenges the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics or that a Western-style democracy will soon transform this ancient land of Shiite and Sufi tradition. Instead, the authors explore the controversial view that beyond their quarrel with the West, stemming from decades of exploitive foreign policies, the real struggle in Iran is between reformers and conservative mullahs.

"Synopsis" by , The story of the internal clash of Islam versus Islam in today's Iran

Two seasoned scholar/journalists of the Islamic world focus on Iran-the modern age's first theocracy-to challenge the prevailing Western belief that the Islamic world is an undifferentiated mass of disaffected and dangerous fanatics. Instead, Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons explore the controversial view that Iranians have a legitimate quarrel with the United States and the West stemming from decades of exploitive foreign policies against Iran and its people.

Taking the reader inside the country's key institutions, the authors, whose research includes an astounding three years of intensive meetings with leading theologians, argue that the 1979 Iranian revolution, long viewed in the West as the pursuit of an imagined medieval Utopia, was, in fact, a political movement designed to modernize Islam. A power struggle between conservative and reform elements has provoked a clash that is destabilizing the country and limiting Iran's ability to integrate with the world community. Since 2000, when the authors were forced to flee Iran, free expression has been stifled and the democratically elected president, Mohammad Khatami, has been stripped of power, as have other mullahs who advocate flexibility in the application of Islamic law. The uninformed U.S. response to this struggle has strengthened the hand of the conservatives. The authors demonstrate Iran's critical influence on the world's 1.4 billion Muslims and Islamists and its chances for democracy in the years ahead.

Geneive Abdo was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2001-2002. She was also the recipient of a Ford Foundation grant for research on Iran. She is the author of No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam. Her commentaries and essays on Islam have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Nation, and The Christian Science Monitor, among others.

Jonathan Lyons served as the bureau chief of an international news agency in Iran and in Turkey. Before that, he covered the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lyons and Abdo, who are married, were based in Iran from 1998 to 2001.

In 1979, Islamic revolutionaries set out to create a new kind of state from the ashes of the Shah's U.S.-backed monarchy--one that was both religious and democratic. But the result was the modem world's first theocracy, an authoritarian state run by conservative clerics.

Hope emerged for a republic accountable to Iran's 62 million people with the landslide election of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997. Like Islamic reformers throughout history, Khatami argued that the needs of modem Muslims could be met if reason and rationality were introduced into the practice of the faith. His ideas energized other parts of the Muslim world yearning for free expression, the rule of law, religious and political tolerance, and increased participation among women and minorities. The promised land of the modem Islamic movement, the founding of a true Islamic republic, suddenly appeared within reach.

Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons, experienced Middle East correspondents, felt the same tug, and arrived in Tehran to document Iran's rebirth ten months after Khatami took office. Instead, they found themselves chronicling the collapse of this republican ideal under the weight of Iran's religious and social traditions. Answering Only to God gives readers an inside look at this secretive society and its battle for the true faith. It is a struggle that has plagued the Islamic Republic from birth: Is it a Shi'ite Muslim state ruled by clerics, or a republic ruled by the people? Unable to resolve this conflict, the clerical establishment has come to rely on repression to maintain power. Yet such despotism flies in the face of traditional Shi'ite Muslim practice, just as it shatters the dreams of millions of Iranians for a society that is both religious and free.

As the only American journalists to live in Iran since the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, Abdo and Lyons draw on hundreds of interviews carried out over almost three years. Their research and reporting reveal the most intimate workings of the Iranian regime. In 2001, they were forced to flee under the threat of prosecution and have been banned from returning. Answering Only to God will appeal to anyone searching for a deeper understanding of the conflicts sweeping the entire Muslim world.

Abdo and Lyons have made a major contribution to contemporary Iranian history. Their eyewitness accounts are absolute gems of investigative journalism, done with courage and imagination and guided by a caring intellect.--Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies, Columbia University, and author of Theology of Discontent

Insightful, captivating, and] riveting.--Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle

Abdo and Lyons have made a major contribution to contemporary Iranian history. Their eyewitness accounts are absolute gems of investigative journalism, done with courage and imagination and guided by a caring intellect.--Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies, Columbia University, and author of Theology of Discontent

A timely and very intelligent first-hand account of the current reform movement in the context of Iranian politics and theocratic government.--Said Amir Arjomand, author of The Turban for the Crown and President of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies and Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook

A remarkable first-hand account of Iran, the most interesting contemporary social experiment on the face of the planet. Abdo and Lyons bring us inside the soul of this intriguing country--which in many ways is the crucible in which the contemporary mix of radical religion and politics has been forged. Whether this religious politics has a future, and whether it can eventually be made compatible with the democratic values of the West, is what this thoughtful study is all about.--Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence

Abdo and Lyons have expertly delineated the struggle for the political soul of Iran; a struggle that the 'reformers' are losing. Answering Only to God is written with verve and authority.--Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden

Which is stronger: the ayatollah or rock 'n' roll? Progressive Iranians, weary after 20 years of the ever-more repressive regime of the mullahs and their religious police, had much reason to hope that the inauguration of President Mohammed Khatami, a dark-horse candidate who in 1997 'had won by a landslide, beating out the handpicked conservative designated for the job, ' would usher in a period of comparative freedom. And Khatami at first did much to reinforce that hope, write husband-and-wife journalists Abdo and Lyons, who were based in Iran from 1998 to 2001. Himself a journalist, Khatami declared, for instance, that the press would henceforth be free to criticize the government and himself, to say nothing of the clerics. The clerics responded angrily, bringing their considerable power to bear on the civil government and, in the authors' view, repudiating the traditional Shi'ite Muslim vision of a society free of religious despotism. Abdo and Lyons point to a paradox that the Iranian government has failed to resolve since overthrowing the Shah: 'Is it an Islamic state ruled by clerics or a republic ruled by the people?' Neither, it would appear--or perhaps both, though in either instance Khatami's attempt to liberalize the government was steadily undone, with opposition newspapers closed and journalists, trade unionists, and student leaders imprisoned for having dared question the authority of the 'Minister of Slogans' and other arms of the octopus state. In the authors' blow-by-blow account, the mullahs emerge as villains through and through, victimizing not only the progressives but also ordinary Iranian Muslims by coveting the power they are supposed to shun. Whether the reform movement is truly dead remains to be seen; though the authors fear that it is, recent newspaper headlines suggest that plenty of Iranians still long for 'an Islamic system but one built on social justice and civil liberties' and are willing to fight to bring it about. A thoughtful, reasoned contribution to the distressing affairs of the Middle East.--Kirkus Reviews

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