Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First-Century Iran

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805075144
ISBN-10: 0805075143
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From 1998 to 2001, when they were kicked out of Iran, Abdo (No God but God) and Lyons were the first American citizens to be allowed to work as journalists in the country since the 1979 Islamic revolution. This unprecedented access allowed the husband-and wife team to conduct the daily observations and hundreds of interviews that form the basis of this engrossing book of reportage. Focusing mainly on the society's elite-they were apparently unable to gain access to more people in the lower classes-the two are still able to develop a complex, nuanced view of Iran. They show how, even before the fall of the shah, those who called for democracy were outmaneuvered by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who merged hatred of the shah with a skillful understanding of Iran's Islamic tradition. The authors offer historical background on Khomeini and his rise to power, the electoral success of the current president, Mohammad Khatami, and other clerics and dissidents. They also shed light on the more recent challenges to the regime, most notably from the press and from students. For the past few years, many Western observers have seen Iran as a society torn between hard-line clerics and moderate reformers, pinning their hopes on Khatami. But as Abdo and Lyons show, Khatami himself has betrayed true reform, among other ways by making speeches critical of student protests. As a result, Abdo and Lyons conclude, it is unlikely Iran will move toward democracy any time soon.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

While the media of the West focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian violence and the looming war against Iraq, the turmoil in Iran has generally been relegated to the back burner. Yet, as the authors illustrate, that turmoil, while presently at low boil, could easily explode and flame out of control. Abdo and Lyons are husband-and-wife journalists who were based in Iran from 1998 to 2001 until they were pressured to leave by the government. They provide a riveting, firsthand view of the ongoing struggle between reformers and hard-line Islamic clerics. Many of the reformers are also clerics, and a few were close associates of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. In the end, however, the future destiny of Iran is at issue; the reformers want a true democratic republic, albeit within an Islamic framework; the hard-line conservatives hope to maintain the power of a religious vanguard that can suppress "un-Islamic" writings and ideas while overruling an elected legislature. This is an unsettling but informative and important book. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805075143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805075144
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,406,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Abdo and Lyons have done a masterful job of reporting in this well-timed book. Their efforts provide the reader with a nuanced perspective on a charter member of the so-called "Axis of Evil" and show how the laws of unintended consequences apply to U.S. foreign policy. Lyons, a veteran Reuters correspondent, and Abdo, a well-known journalist and commentator, provide compelling arguments about the genesis of 21st century Iran that should lead to deep discussions and thoughtful debates as the United States prepares to reprise its earlier war against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "dscrang" on March 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A cogent and well-written look at the inner workings of Iran after the Islamic revolution, filled with insights into how religion feeds into every aspect of politics and society. A great read.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By DAVID-LEONARD WILLIS on January 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In the late 1990s, the Islamic Republic adopted a policy of cautious outreach to the world and Khatami's landslide victory in 1997 raised hopes of a more moderate regime in Iran, with democracy, a free press, the free flow of information, political and religious tolerance, and participation by women and minorities. However, this revolution in thinking brought Khatami's government into conflict with the ruling clerics with their own vision of an Islamic society. Based on interviews conducted during their residence from 1998 to 2001, Abdo and Lyons concluded that the clerical establishment is still very powerful and is able to block any move not to their liking. As a consequence little if any of the hoped for changes have taken place. All politics in Iran stem ultimately from theological conflict and the deep doctrinal, philosophical and political differences separating the Sunnis who dominate the broader Islamic world and the Shi'ites who recognize only the authority of Mohammed's direct heirs. Both sides believe in preserving the Islamic system, but it is the degree of flexibility and independence within the system that forms the basis of their disagreement. Currently there are two issues which are being fought behind the scenes - will it be the democratically elected or the clerics who rule Iran and will it be the Sunnis or the Shi'ites who will win the battle for the minds of the young people.
According to Shi'ite texts the first eleven heirs to the Prophet Mohammed were killed by agents of the rival Sunni Caliphs and the twelfth Imam went into hiding, announcing in 941 that he was severing his earthly ties to return at the end of time to usher in a reign of perfect peace and justice.
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By Will Jerom on October 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Content Summary: This is a good book, but not the easiest book to read. If you have not read a book about Iran or know nothing about it, this is not perhaps the best place to start. The contents deal mostly with domestic religion and politics of Iran (foreign policy is not the focus), and how the intention of the Islamic revolution there was to carve out a new democratic space, but how those intentions became captive slaves of the hard-line Islamic clergy. Now, instead of an Islamic democracy, it appears to be more of an Islamic tyranny, but with some bright and hopeful Iranians challenging the status quo.

Analytical Review: The book does an excellent job spelling out some of the resistance to what has become tyranny of the Islamic clergy. It offers insight into the ambiguity and promises of those who wish to reform the system, but cannot because they do not hold power. If you wish to understand what is happening in Iran, this book will prove crucial to you at some point. This book is, however, organizationally complex, a bit wandering, and filled with detail. While it is worth absorbing, it is not necessarily the place for a beginner to start.
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