Then and Now: A Look at What Forty Years of Islamic Rule Has Brought to Iran

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Then and Now: 40 Years Rule

Iran is the only country in the world led by Islamic clergy. Forty years ago this past February, Iran’s secular intellectual elites joined with the conservative clergy to overthrow the Western-backed monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Both the aristocracy and clergy wanted to remove the influence of foreign nations, stabilize an economy suffering from high inflation and overspending on large modernization projects, and regain previous power roles and wealth that government corruption and the Shah’s growing oppression of dissidents had taken away from them.

Soon after ousting the Shah’s regime, the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared Iran an Islamic republic. The religious right quickly removed their secular, leftist allies from power, and enforced a return to the conservative religious and social values that the Shah had upended with his modernization program. The general populace—who had seen their country move rapidly from a conservative rural society to a modern urban and industrial one in less than a generation—welcomed the change.

Kashan, Iran: Iranian families suffer increasing inflation, unemployment, and distrust of their corrupt government. Photo: grigvovan

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) implemented Islam and forced its laws in every area: personal life, family and society. The people of Iran have seen theocratic Islam in action firsthand for 40 years.

What do they think now?

In a series of blogs over the next few weeks, I will discuss the current spiritual, political, social, and economic climate in Iran and why I believe Islamic rule in Iran is nearing its end.

Part 1

The Current Spiritual Climate of Iran

After 40 years of theocratic rule, the people have changed their spiritual thinking and behavior.

Rejection of Islam

The people of Iran have seen Islamic rule in action for 40 years. A growing number have concluded that Islam is not the answer to their problems; it is the source of their problems. They realize that if they want a better future for their country, they need to get rid of Islam and Islamic rule. 

The rejection of Islam has occurred little by little over many years, not overnight. It is not an emotional reaction to suffering and injustice but rather a thoughtful and deliberate decision. The number of people who want nothing to do with Islam grows daily. We now get reports regularly from our viewers saying such things as, “My uncle who was a devout Muslim and pro-government just one year ago now says Islam is not of God and is interested in Christianity.”

The rejection of Islam is so wide and deep that I can boldly say Iran is turning away from Islam and will never go back to it. Indeed, Islam is experiencing the greatest defeat of its history in Iran today.

“My uncle who was a devout Muslim and pro-government just one year ago now says Islam is not of God and is interested in Christianity.”

–Report from Iranian viewer

Growth of secularism

As a result of the rejection of Islam, Iranians have become attracted to secularism both politically and socially. They do not want to be religious. They want to be free, and they think that to live free means to do whatever they desire to do. Many are embracing a life of immorality, drugs, sex, and hedonism—a total reaction to the oppressive dictatorship of Islam. Since Islam was forced on them as the best religion in the world, they say, “If this was the best religion, let’s forget about the rest.” As a result, those who walk away from Islam usually do not want anything to do with any organized religion including Christianity, until we show them that Christianity is not like Islam. This is why so many have come to Christ through our satellite broadcasts.

Growth of Christianity

Currently, Christianity is more respected and valued in Iran than Islam. This attitude is amazing because Iran is still a Muslim country and almost all were born as Muslims. I just read a quote on Instagram from a Muslim addressing the clergy in Iran: “I’d rather go to hell with Christians than go to heaven with Muslims like you.” The media, and especially satellite broadcasts, have had a major role in dispersing the lies and misconceptions about Christianity such as these: Christians worship three Gods, they are blasphemers, they are drunkards and live immoral lives. According to Operation World Research, Iran has the fastest growing evangelical population in the world with 19.6 percent growth per year. 

Persecution of Christians

Persecution in Iran is a reaction of the government to the growth of Christianity. The government has, to a great extent, destroyed its opposition inside the country. They feel safely in control because they know the people of Iran are reluctant to bear arms and start a violent revolution. The only wildcard out of their control that can threaten their future is the growth of Christianity. They realize they cannot stop this growth, but they are trying to slow it by intimidating Christians so they will neither witness nor gather together. It is a campaign of intimidation and isolation. 

Spiritual freedom of the younger generation

The emerging younger generation is free from fear. They have little fear of the government. They are convinced that Islam is not of God, so they are not afraid to deny Islam. Religion is a non-issue for them. They want change but are unwilling to use violence to topple the government. They live a hopeless life not seeing any bright future for themselves. Suicide, drug addiction, and sexual immorality are rampant among the youth in Iran. The good news is that once they come to Christ and find a purpose in their lives, they boldly spread the gospel. Many are not even afraid of arrests and even death. I heard many young Christians say “I am not afraid of death because before Jesus, I was dead; indeed, He gave me life.” Another young man told me, “I am not afraid of them. They are afraid of me and my gospel message.”

The role of satellite broadcasts

Satellite broadcasts have been essential for delivering information to Iranians’ living rooms despite the government’s obsessive control of media and communication within the country. The government regulates and monitors the internet in Iran, so searching online can be very dangerous. But watching the 40 illegal but available satellite channels in the privacy of a home is not dangerous. The people of Iran get the latest news and hear the voices of government opposition 24/7 via satellite. 

Iranians watch Church 7 on live satellite broadcast.

Satellite broadcasts have been essential for delivering information to Iranians’ living rooms despite the government’s obsessive control of media and communication within the country. The government regulates and monitors the internet in Iran, so searching online can be very dangerous. But watching the 40 illegal but available satellite channels in the privacy of a home is not dangerous. The people of Iran get the latest news and hear the voices of government opposition 24/7 via satellite. 

Satellite broadcast has played a great role in evangelizing Muslims and strengthening persecuted Christians as well. There are an estimated 3 million Muslim background believers in Iran (some put a conservative estimate at 1 million and some extrapolate up to 6 million). Most have never been to a church of any kind even once. They are prisoners in their homes when it comes to worship or learning more about Jesus. The number of underground house churches and the count of people attending them are very small compared to the total number of Christians. It is estimated that only 5 percent of Christians in Iran are a part of the underground church. That is why Iran Alive’s global church and its broadcast services are so popular in Iran—it is the only church the people have available and can belong to. 

Freedom from Islam’s spiritual bondage

Spiritually, a veil has been lifted from the minds of Iranians. Muslims, in general, prohibit independent thought and questioning their faith. I have seen intelligent Muslims with PhDs freeze up when I ask them questions that require them to think independently rather than repeat answers given by an authority. In Iran, however, using reason and questioning Islam has become a norm and even a fad. Unlike Muslims in other countries, an increasing number of Iranian Muslims are looking at Islam objectively and considering other options with an open mind. 

Diminishing hatred toward the Jews

Hatred towards the Jews and Israel is diminishing gradually. First, those who come to Christ learn from the Bible to pray for Israel and that the Lord has special plans for the Jewish nation. They also learn that the Lord wants them to love all nations including the Jews. Such love is expected of true Christians, but what is unexpected is that a growing number of Muslimsare also questioning the government’s mandate to hate the Jews and wipe Israel off the map. There is such distrust toward the government that when the government sets up rallies shouting, “Death to Israel,” they say, “We don’t trust you. Tell us why we should hate Israel. What have they done to us? You are our true enemy not them.”

Iran has been approaching this turn in its spiritual climate for many years, and now, especially in this past year, it is picking up speed.

Next week: the current political climate of Iran.


Hassan Rouhani is an Experienced, Expert Nuclear Negotiator

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series 5 Things About Hassan Rouhani's Visit to the U.S.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
If this is the way the majority of the world sees Rouhani… the world needs to take a closer look.

Rouhani’s involvement in Iran’s political landscape predates the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  As a young cleric, Rouhani regularly gave speeches against the government of the Shah of Iran, whose cooperative posture with the U.S. did not please the Islamic clergy.  After the revolution, Rouhani established himself in Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s inner circle and quickly earned prominent positions within his regime.

In 1989, Rouhani was appointed as the first Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), a position he kept for the next 16 years.  Known for his negotiating prowess, Rouhani garnered the nickname “Diplomat Sheikh” by Iranian news media.

Through the confirmation of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hassan Rouhani was placed in charge of Iran’s nuclear case in 6 October 2003.  His objective was to lead a team that would deflect attention from Iran’s newly discovered nuclear development and run interference with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that would prevent the rapid acceleration of allegations against Iran resulting a report of Iran’s nuclear case to the United Nations Security Council.

Rouhani and his team were successful in this endeavor until he stepped out of the role in 2005 as a result of the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and subsequent disagreements between the two leaders. Ahmadinejad’s antagonistic demeanor and unwillingness to fulfill his role as diplomat to the West contributed to the contentious posture, which has resulted in heavy sanctions and pressure from the U.S. and it’s allies.

It is this same Rouhani who is now representing the nuclear intentions of The Islamic Republic of Iran to a leery, yet hopeful, audience of world leaders.

Rouhani has vast experience in the art of deception.  He is a seasoned expert and adept at creating smokescreens to cover up Iran’s nuclear activities and intentions.  His skills in delay techniques may be sufficient to buy enough time for his superiors to finish the development of nuclear weaponry.

I pray that President Obama and his counterparts in the U.N. have a working knowledge of Hassan Rouhani’s resume and credentials and the wisdom to treat his statements with great caution and apprehension.