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The Ayatollahs' Democracy: An Iranian Challenge Hardcover – September 20, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“No writer knows more about modern Iran than Hooman Majd. Nor does any other commentator write more cogently, or more beautifully, about this complex and sometimes opaque culture. The Ayatollahs’ Democracy establishes Majd as the go-to guy for understanding Iran and Iranian politics.” (Reza Aslan , author of No god but God and Beyond Fundamentalism)

“The first fifty pages of this book would make a Sundance-winning film, but the meat of the book explores, in vividly readable style, the evolving concept of Islamic democracy, the widespread support for nuclear power, and the historical pride and resistance to western intervention. A well-connected insider with the eye of a master psychologist, Majd gives us a nuanced, in-depth portrait of a country both far more sophisticated and far less rigid than western policymakers have yet appreciated.” (Lesley Hazleton, author of After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split)

About the Author

Born in Tehran but educated in the West, Hooman Majd is the author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ (an Economist and Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2008) and The Ayatollahs' Democracy: An Iranian Challenge. He lives in New York City.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (September 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393072592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393072594
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,527,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The chronology in the book bounces around a lot, sometimes in ways that don't seem to make sense. However, the author's arguments are well taken and should be read by all who are thinking of ways of dealing with Iran. Conservatives who demand the US confront Iran over its nuclear program often fault President Obama for not backing the Green movement. As Majd makes clear, the leaders of the Green movement are just as committed to the nuclear program as the current regime and have no interest in western intervention on their behalf. The author has no love for the mullahs' regime, but he does make the case that Iran is kind of a democracy, if not one that the west would easily recognize. He also has a chapter of Judaism in Iran, which is quite enlightening. For all the rabid anti-Semitism of Iran's President, there is a thriving Jewish community in Iran, which practices its religion within the same confines as other non-Islamic religions in Iran.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I was afraid of Iran and Mr. Ahmadinejad. I thought I had better learn more. Iran and the Iranian people are real live individauals to me now. There are difficulties in Iran, of couirse, but I think that you will find that the difficulties are not that different from the ones that Americans have. Somehow when a country has anti-American sentiments, I get the feeling that they must all be crazy terrorists. Mr Majd brings the Irainian people alive. They become real live individuals a lot like the individuals we encounter every day. I think that it is very important for people to try to understand and have respect for other cultures. Thank you very much Mr. Majd for bring the Iranian people to life for me.

Is there anything to worry about with regard to Iran. I would say yes. Mr. Ahmadinejad certainly does not like the west and he does not seem to have anyone's interest in mind, other than his own. He does not seem to have the best relationship with the Ayatollah. Fair elections appear to be a joke. I do not have the fear that I had before I read the book. I can see the Iranian people as real live individuals who I sincerely wish the best for, as well as the rest of us.
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Format: Paperback
In "The Ayatollah's Democracy", Mr. Majd sheds some light on various misconceptions about the Iranian regime and its people. "Iran... continues to be woefully misunderstood, and in some cases woefully misrepresented..." (pg. 45), and Mr. Majd sets out to reveal some truths about this complex and geopolitically important nation.

One of the greatest misconceptions about the Iranian population is the implication of their discontent with the ruling mullahs. While this discontent is real, Iranians are a resoundingly religious shia population with religious beliefs undeterred by the daily intrusion of the clergy's edicts in their lives. Iranians are also fiercely nationalistic and angry over centuries of weakness and foreign intervention in their political affairs, and much of their belligerent stance is a manifestation of of this sentiment.

And "the truth about the summer of 2009 [mass protests in reaction to massive election fraud] is that there never really was a revolution, or even the beginnings of a revolution - green, Twitter, velvet, or otherwise." (pg. 53). While this may be a bitter pill to swallow, evidence of this proclamation can be found in a complete lack of subsequent effort to overthrow the regime despite similar outcomes in numerous countries in North Africa and the Middle East - The Arab spring. Rather, the uprising in 2009 was a reaction to corruption and dictatorship of the supreme leader, much like the 2011 Russian election outcry and protest against Putin's seemingly endless grip on political power. Therefore, Mr. Majd argues, this is more an uprising similar to America's civil rights movement of the 1960s than anything else. The most likely outcome of the uprising, in Mr. Maj'd view is the acceleration of governmental reforms.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was written by an Iranian-American journalist, who wants to bring to the American public an insider's view of the Iranian people and government. The author takes you through many conversations with men at the very top of the Iranian power structure, and with simple working men on the street, and with all manner of men in between. (As you can tell, I don't really remember him recounting a conversation with a woman.)

One of the first things I noticed is that the author is a man of strong opinions, often making off-the-cuff, often snide little comments on all sorts of things. It gave me the impression that the author forms his opinions quickly, and does not like to change them.

The effects of this being a book based on conversations is that I felt as though the book gave me a very smoky and dim picture of the inside of Iran, but nonetheless one much more informative that the picture given by most mainstream publications of any political stripe.

It is the author's contention (and I think he makes a very good case) that though the Iranian people are unhappy with the present state of their Islamic democracy, they are in fact quite committed to the government, and will support it. He paints a picture of an Iranian people who are very easily slighted, and yet cannot imagine why anyone would be offended by their chanting "death" to them. A people who are deeply committed to their Shia faith and their imams, and who want their imams to set limits on their democracy - their imams, not necessarily the other imams.

Overall, I found this to be a very informative book, giving me an understanding of the Iranian people that no other book has.
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