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Pragmatic Dogma: Understanding the Ideological Continuities in Iran's Response to the Charlie Hebdo Attacks

journal contribution
posted on 2016-01-02, 00:00 authored by James Barry
Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie cemented Iran's space within Western discourses surrounding blasphemy and Islam. The fatwa has earned its place within the polarizing debate between free speech and religious tolerance, which fundamentally serves the political ambitions of those involved. This article therefore argues that, in order to understand accusations of blasphemy in Iran, one must address the political concerns in which the accusation takes place since these reveal Iran's tendency towards pragmatic dogma – the practice of meeting the needs of the state in a way that accords with its religious ideology. The responses of Iranian officials to the Charlie Hebdo killings in 2015 provide a useful case study for the analysis of this pragmatic dogma, since the Islamic Republic pursued a different approach to the Charlie Hebdo “blasphemy” from that which it had followed with Rushdie. Instead of condoning the killings, Iran's political and religious elite chose to condemn the actions of both the cartoonists and the gunmen, without outlining a punishment. The article will argue that this case demonstrates many of the continuing themes in Iran's approach to blasphemy, since the Charlie Hebdo cartoons have largely been used to reinforce the Islamic Republic's overall worldview.



Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations






77 - 93





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2016, University of Birmingham