What Are Iranian Women Dreaming About? – Jonathan Nash

In the twentieth and twenty-first century, Euro-American theory has made a habit of subsuming subaltern struggles into their narratives and theorizations of modernization and post-modernization. Following Arshin Adbib-Moghaddam’s assertion against Hardt’s and Negri’s Multitude that “the idea that contemporary Islamic movements are postmodern [are…] denies them an existence of their own” (138), I argue that Euro-American theory of resistance is typically negligent and dismissive of the work and modes of resistance outside the “West” that does not fit into the paradigm of modernization and post-modernization. As such, I investigate Iran’s resistance to Euro-American theory and modernity in the terms of Iran’s utopian imagination during the overthrow of the Shah regime in 1979, particularly through Foucault’s political commentary on the revolution. The Euro-American Left dreamed through the discourses of modernity and attempted to import this imagination into Iran, resisting Iran’s resistance to modernity and Euro-American hegemony. While the male, religious leaders of Iran imagined an Islamic Republic, Iranian women dreamed of more social project: their liberation. This paper, then, is comprised of two key sections: the first investigates Foucault’s journey to Iran in which he attempted to recover a “spiritual politics” to supplement the failed utopian imagination of May ‘68. Considering the criticism waged against Foucault, I argue that Foucault’s “spiritual politics” is a gross, orientalist appropriation of Islamutopia. I will show how Foucault’s appropriation of Islamutopia was negligent of the particularities of Iran’s revolution, especially the role of gender. In the second section, I will show how Iranian women were restricted to a national symbol that was pivotal in constructing Iran’s national identity, and therefore, I argue, at the heart of both Iran’s and the Euro-American dreams of utopia. During the revolution, the West imagined Iran as a “backward” and “defunct” social space where women were threatened by an archaic religion. At the same time, the West, positioning itself against Iran, imagined itself as a utopian space where women were liberated. Furthermore, I will show that a great deal of feminist criticism against the Iranian revolution was negligent towards the futures and social spaces Iranian women were dreaming about. I pursue the following questions: who is excluded from the West’s utopian imagination? That is, who does it fail to account for or fail to picture? Is it possible to have parallel utopias that are not necessarily bound to geographical coordinates? Can utopias not only be transnational, but also co-exist in parallel within the same spaces and temporalities?

Foucault’s Foray into the Iranian Revolution

The backlash Foucault faced for his writings on Iran ressemble the criticisms waged against Frantz Fanon’s and Jean-Paul Sartre’s intellectual intervention into Algeria’s resistance against French colonizers roughly a decade prior to the events in Iran. Of course, Sartre took a safe distance with his writings whereas Fanon produced his critical work alongside the National Liberation Front (FLN). Regardless, the Left was quick to denounce Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and Sartre’s preface to it. Hannah Arendt, for example, criticized Fanon’s theory and “valorization” of violence (Finlay 29), and Albert Camus dismissed the claims of the Algerian masses being subdued, tortured, and murdered by French colonizers, arguing that Algerians should simply accept the “benefits” of French modernity in his collection of essays, Algerian Chronicles. In both the Iranian Revolution and the Algerian Revolution, it seems what was at stake was self-determination—both intellectually and historically.

In his article “What are Iranians Dreaming About,” Foucault haphazardly enters the controversial dialogues of Iran’s burgeoning revolutionary spirit with Ruhollah Khomeini’s return in 1979. While the unanswered question of the time was whether the United States and Britain would ever let go of Iran and its oil, Foucault reminds us that the people of Iran were dreaming—of their own Islamic Government, of their own Utopia. Foucault recounts his conversations with the people of Iran:

‘A utopia,’ some told me without any pejorative implication. ‘An ideal,’ most of them said to me. At any rate, it is something very old and also very far into the future, a notion of coming back to what Islam was at the time of the Prophet, but also of advancing toward a luminous and distant point where it would be possible to renew fidelity rather than maintain obedience. In pursuit of this ideal, the distrust of legalism seemed to me to be essential, along with a faith in the creativity of Islam. (206)

I am reminded here of Fanon’s final words in The Wretched of the Earth—a utopian invocation, I argue, that sounds like a death knell to some: “for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must make a new start, develop a new way of thinking, and endeavor to create” (239). And a decade later Foucault would propose the end is near for Western philosophy (Afray & Anderson 2). If anything, Foucault’s commentary and the criticism it inspired is telling of the West’s intellectual discomfort with Islamic thought and its alternative, utopian imaginations. As such, I am not concerned with defending or abdicating Foucault’s work on Iran, nor with speaking on behalf of Islamic philosophy and its capacity to dream. I would like to, however, think through a few shortcomings of Foucault’s work on the Iranian revolution.

Foucault’s writings on the Iranian Revolution, overall, did not receive the praise Arshin Adbib-Moghaddam offers in “Islamutopia, (Post)Modernity and the Multitude.” Published in the Italian journal Corriere della sera and the French newspapers Le Monde and Le Nouvel Observateur between 1978 and 1979, Foucault’s political commentary on Iran and Islam was met with criticism and dissatisfaction by his contemporaries and is now tucked away or dismissed as a regretful epoque in his career. As Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson note, “progressive and leftist intellectuals around the world were initially divided in their assessments of the Iranian Revolution. While they supported the overthrow of the Shah, they were usually less enthusiastic about the notion of an Islamic Republic […] On Iran, Foucault stood virtually alone” ( 8). Alain Beaulieu, however, argues that Foucault’s foray into the Iranian Revolution is a significant intellectual development within Foucault’s late work on biopolitics, ethics, and self care. Meanwhile, the Left rallied behind claims of further oppression of the Islamic Republic, supposedly built on the radical fanaticism of Shi’ite Islam, would unleash upon the already disenfranchised. As notable critic of Foucault’s defense of Islam, Maxime Rodinson, comments:

Are we witnessing a revival of Islamic fundamentalism? […] The facts are there, and they are real enough. But are they part of a trend, whether broken or continuous? Are they linked to the essence of Islam and hence destined to indefinite renewal? Or is this trend perhaps not what it seems? Is it, as the ideologists and apologists of the Third World suggest, just an insidious campaign mounted by “imperialism”—elusive but omnipresent—to bring into disrepute an element in the forefront of the developing world? (223-224)

What does Rodinson mean by “revival”? Of course, the Shah regime before the Iranian Revolution heeded the dogma required to be initiated into Western modernity: secularization. Islam threatened to dislodge Iran from this coveted continuity with Western time. Indeed, Rodinson’s first mistake was to refer to Islam in finite terms—as if Islam were something essential, static, or eternal. His second mistake was to infer that it was as if Islam was being awoken from some slumber. The facts are there: Islam had been a part of Iranian public and political life in the form of the Clergy before the revolution of 1979. At no point in Iran’s history had Islam been put to sleep—especially with the advent of Western modernity after the implementation of the Shah regime in 1925. Nevertheless, Rodinson describes Foucault as an “apologist” and “idealist” of the political and religious revolution taking place in Iran. Even if Foucault’s interests in Iran were negligent of the pitfalls of an Islamic Republic (particularly with regards to women, as I will explore later ), I argue that his fervour for the Iranian Revolution had more to do with his own engagement with activism and his unwavering faith in the masses. What Foucault sought in the Iranian Revolution, perhaps, was a utopian impulse that Euro-American liberalism and socialism had failed to nurture.

The events of May ‘68 did not live up to the expectations of the intellectual left, as suchFoucault sought another May ‘68 in the Iranian Revolution. Reading Foucault’s biography, Ulrika Mårtensson observes that after May ‘68, “his writings became generally ‘anti-establishment’ and thus part of the international, revolutionary left’s intellectual repository” (118). The aftermath of May ‘68 left its mark on many intellectuals of the Left, but for Foucault it seemed to activate a kind of “violence” in both his engagements with colleagues and political altercations (Mårtensson 118). He garnered a sympathy for the struggles taking place in different pockets of the world and was reflective of the historical contingencies that engendered them. In a conversation with Deleuze published in 1977 in L’Arc, reflecting on theory and philosophy, Foucault responded to Deleuze:

In this sense theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice. But it is local and regional, as you said, and not totalizing. This is a struggle against power, a struggle aimed at revealing and undermining power where it is most invisible and insidious. It is not to “awaken consciousness” that we struggle (the masses have been aware for some time that consciousness is a form of knowledge; and consciousness as the basis of subjectivity is prerogative of the bourgeoisie), but to sap power, to take power; it is an activity conducted alongside those who struggle for power, and not their illumination from a safe distance. A “Theory” is the regional system of this struggle. (208)

Here, Foucault probes how “theory” should be practiced in local struggles insofar as it should work alongside local struggles. Otherwise, it is doomed to a top-down application. Hence, Foucault’s visits to Iran in 1978 and 1979 where he recognized a momentum in the “spiritual politics” coming from this militant Islam in Iran, which contained the potential to not only break from Western modernity but also the hegemony of the Soviet Union and China. (Afray & Anderson, par 8). For Foucault, Islamic thought is the “theory” that does practical work in the locality of Iran.

However, Foucault’s engagement with Iran must be problematized for its “neo-Orientalist” valorization of this “spiritual politics” Islam offers. Even though Arshin Adbid-Moghaddam seemingly congratulates Foucault for his optimistic portrayal of Islam, he does not interrogate the geographical position Foucault occupies in relation to Iran. As well, many of Foucault’s critics, such as Afray and Anderson, do not take into consideration his position as a European observer, speaking on behalf of Iran. In his seminal work, Orientalism, Edward Said critiques the scholarship and writings of ethnologists and travel writers that probed the Middle East and North Africa, imagining it as a timeless and exotic realm, and appropriating its knowledge, philosophy, and art for mass consumption in the West. First and foremost, then, Foucault acted as a sort-of travel writer in Iran and conducted his political and religious excavations of Iran during the revolution. Yet, I argue what makes Foucault’s work “orientalist” in operation—not that I want to affirm this was his intention—is its desire to uncover or appropriate the utopian impulse of Islamutopia to supplement what May ’68 failed to do.

To be sure, Foucault was no expert in the cultural and political history of Iran, let alone the Middle East at large as Alain Beaulieu notes. Beaulieu further explains, “his Iranian experience gave him the opportunity to look for the condition of possibility of revolutionary movements that has progressively been lost in the western tradition. According to Foucault, eastern ethical and political wisdom teaches us that there is no true emancipatory movement without a spiritual transformation of the self and others” (Beaulieu 804). Hence, Foucault disentangled the theocratic from the spiritual, so that he may export, so to speak, “the spiritual” for the purpose of thinking through a secularized “spiritual politics” in the West. However, the real issue is with Foucault’s foray into the Iranian Revolution in search of a new mode of utopian dreaming is not so much that he utilized the revolutionary momentum for inspiration, but that he failed to take into account the immense complexities of the revolutionary moment. That is to say, and I will elaborate this thought in a later section, Foucault neglected to account for the gendered and classed nuances in the revolution. Again, this is a point Beaulieu makes insofar as Foucault offered a blind apology for Khomeini, believing Khomeini to be a spiritual leader rather than the populist, political force he turned out to be (805).

Eventually, Foucault shied away from his brief intellectual encounters into the happenings of Iran, but not without critical self-reflection on his work. After Khomeini instituted his despotic and theocratic rule over Iran, Foucault did not respond to the revolution with the same enthusiasm. What the new Islamic Republic lacked, for Foucault, was the free-play of a liberal environment—the ability and fortitude of a liberal environment to not only critique itself but make space for unseen possibilities. This “spiritual politics” that Foucault modelled after the Iranian Revolution had an impact on his framing of a liberal utopia. If the Islamic Republic lacked the capacity for unseen possibilities, then the West lacked the capacity for a “spiritual politics.” Beaulieu observes:

Placing himself in the midst of two cultural backgrounds, Foucault attempted to unite elements that seem contradictory from an historical point of view—namely eastern spirituality and the rationality of the Enlightenment—by borrowing the best from both worlds. Rational critique as the ‘art of voluntary non-servitude’ is an ongoing effort to question and criticize the rationalities that govern us. It is in this attempt that the self (and the local collectivity) could improve itself, thus reaching a spiritual state of transformation. It became progressively clear to Foucault that the liberal environment offers the best context in which this process can take place. (807)

In other words, Foucault gestures towards a transcultural spirituality, which I claim is a utopian impulse.Nevertheless, Foucault’s orientalist impulse overrides his capacity to bear witness to the socio-political turmoil of pre-revolutionary Iran. Even though the Islamutopia of Iran, as Adbib-Moghaddam explains, operates within a dialectical relationship with modernity, this is only the case due to imposed Euro-American values on Iranian culture. Foucault’s journey to Iran for the purpose of spiritual answers can only be read as one of exploitation and extraction. Like the Imperial powers that utilized Iran for its oil, Foucault used Iran to dream of a new utopian horizon.

What are Iranian Women Dreaming About?

Here, I will consider this Islamutopia expressed by Iran at this specific historical juncture in the terms of Tom Moylan’s “The Utopian Imagination.” Although Moylan is working in the realm of the literary text he offers useful insights into perceiving Islamutopia as a critical utopia. As Moylan suggests, critical utopias function not by writing a “homogenous revolutionary plan,” but instead by actively negating the present, opening a space for the imagining of alternative modes of living (26-27). This argument aligns with Adbib-Moghaddam’s observations. Following Herbert Marcuse, Adbib-Moghaddam explains that “this [Islamic] utopian future opens up fables with fantastic figures and gnomic personalities that transcend both the empirical world and the artificial confinements within national histories” (144). Indeed, imagination plays a significant role in Islamutopia. Ultimately, for Moylan, utopia is something subversive, emanating from within “modern” society’s tendency to reduce life to commodities. The result, Moylan writes, is “[m]odern society itself has enclosed a utopian desire both externally in nature and the Third World, and internally in people’s private lives and unconscious” (16). If we understand Islamutopia as a critical utopia, then, I argue, we will also find the possibility for the liberation of women within Islam—but this is only possible if Islamutopia is a critical utopia.

We cannot take this possibility of alternative futures for granted, however—that is to say, assuming Islamutopia automatically paves the way for the emancipation of women. A possibility is just that: a possibility that must be actively imagined. This was Foucault’s lack of foresight, and Adbib-Moghaddam’s slip when defending Islamutopia. Of course, the majority of Islamicists who are men and those experimenting with utopian impulses within the revolution, did not pursue this dream of an emancipated of woman. Rather, they were pursuing a new national identity. As Valentine Moghadam notes in her essay “Gender and Revolutionary Transformation,” there are two types of revolution: social transformation and national construction. Khomeini’s vision fits the latter and recycles the patriarchal social and legal structures that inhibited the economic and social mobility of women prior to the revolution (335). Furthermore, we must remain cautious of wholly Western feminist accounts of Iran’s subjugation of women. In pre-revolutionary Iran, Euro-American feminism often colluded with the Shah regime’s forced unveiling. In post-revolutionary Iran, Euro-American feminism lacks an attention to the specific historical and social contingencies, attempting to emancipate an orientalised woman from the “clutches” of Islam. What needs to be emphasized here is many Iranian women, in both pre- and post- revolution, were pursuing an additional utopian imagination alongside the national project. It is at this juncture I wish to maintain the argument that at the moment of the revolution there were parallel utopias: a national one in the form of Islamutopia and the liberation of Iranian women from the oppression of the previous government.

In 1970s Iran, this resurgence of an Islamic imagination is that very resistance to the “closure” Moylan describes, and an imagination that, to use Moylan’s words, “[operates] within the ideological, both helping it along and pulling against it” (19). As we have seen with Khomeini, his Islamutopia worked with the “universal time” (Adbib-Moghaddam’s term) it was born into while acting to change the current conditions. Islamutopia, then, alongside the Iranian Revolution, is not some radical otherness that emerged from a discontinued past or continuity but was always already awaiting to burst forth from within the modernization of Iran. This is what Adbib-Moghaddam means when he describes the ontology of Islamic thought grapples with. He writes:

The utopia of a better tomorrow and the overbearing ontology of today have always been in a dialectical relationship to each other. Revolutions simulate how the former could look like, but they cannot escape the determinations of the temporal sequence they are born into. In the Iranian case this means that the rebirth of Islamutopia has been concomitant with the penetrating presence of Western modernity. I found this exemplified in the terminology and constitutional structure of Iran which are constituted of both modern (Western) ideas/institutions and Islamic ordinances. (149)

As Moylan explains, which is the case with the Islamic Republic in Iran, there can be no “homogenous” utopian imagination—it can never be fully realized without “serving the instrumentalization of desire carried out by the present structures of power (28). The conclusion Moylan draws is that “there can be no Utopia, but there can be utopian expressions” (28). If this is the case, then most certainly there would be utopian undercurrents beneath Khomeini’s Islamutopia, both supporting and resisting this vision.

While oil is certainly a point of conflict between Euro-American interests in Iran, so is the degree to which Iranian women are oppressed. To be sure, the hejab, or veiling and unveiling, became the most divisive points in pre- and post- revolutionary Iran. I argue that the symbol of the hejab is co-opted by both the pro-revolution and anti-revolutionary movements for imagining liberation, but with no regard to the actual lived utopian impulses of women. This is a critical point to make because, while there is a seemingly “universal” utopian impulse within Iran, this Islamutopia, as many critics have argued, was negligent towards the actual emancipation of women. Hence, the demonstration of over one-hundred thousand women across Iran, March 8, 1979 in response to Khomeini’s decree to re-veil women. Indeed, Foucault asked “what are Iranians dreaming about?” in response to increased criticism against Islamutopia, but he did not consider what Iranian Women were dreaming about. This criticism must be made to avoid an uncritical, and apologist account of Islamutopia, as made by Adbib-Moghaddam and Foucault, respectively. As Haideh Moghissi notes,

[I]n the name of anti-imperialism these intellectuals turn a blind eye to the consequences of such utopian experiments for people living under fundamentalist rule; and little by little, these discursive slippages and confusions and outright abandonments have cost much to the region’s women (and men), as they struggle for a more human and democratic system, a quality of intellectual freedom taken for granted in the West. (vii-viii).

To be sure, both the Shah regime and post-revolutionary Iran utilized force and detention to unveil and veil Iranian women, which, in many cases, foreclosed the futurity or ontological possibilities of women.

The hejab has been key in the construction of Iran’s national identity since Reza Shah Pahlavi’s reign. To convince the West that Iran had been transforming into a modernized and secular state, Reza Shah outlawed the veiling of the woman’s body in all public spaces. After the revolution, in both public and private spaces Khomeini decreed that woman must appear veiled. Zahedi notes that “Through imposed unveiling and reveiling, these regimes have constructed an ideal image of Iranian women and in turn of Iran as a modern or an Islamic country” (75). Whether women were to be veiled or unveiled, the choice was never theirs, and in both cases women faced severe economic and political penalties for not adhering. Even if the motive is to showcase women as “emancipated subjects” in Iran, the opposite was true. For Zahedi, the debate of veiling produced an “abstract body” to serve as the vision of Iran’s national identity— either its adoption of Euro-American modernity or its resistance to Euro-American hegemony (81). Zahedi elaborates:

The shah’s undemocratic rule had prevented women from establishing their own organizations, questioning gender roles, and developing gender consciousness. What is more, conservatives and some secular men and women had continuously criticized feminism and feminist ideals as Western imports irrelevant to the lives of Iranian women. Conservative clerics had a vast network of mosques through which they were able to propagate the importance of traditional roles for women. Secularists supporting women’s causes glorified the revolution as the ultimate means of advancing women’s causes. For them the first priority was to unite for the revolution. Women’s issues were considered secondary and left to be addressed by the post-revolutionary regime. (87)

The point I wish to emphasis here is that woman, even in the advent of self-determination of Iran in the larger picture through Islamutopia, were never granted their self-determination. Indeed, it is the sight and site of a woman’s body where the contentions and debates of Iran’s “backwardness” or “progressiveness” takes place.

Operating underneath Islamutopia is another utopian impulse: the liberation of women, the securing, finally, of their self-determination. Adbib-Moghaddam argues that Islamutopia dialectically functions with the ontological reality that surrounds it—hence Islamutopia is not an effort to return to the past. Then how do we grapple with the fact that Khomeini’s vision, if we deem it as truly Islamutopian, desired the re-veiling of women? Why did the hejab become one of the focal points of the revolution? What would a “feminist” Islamutopia look like? Finally, if Foucault celebrates Islamutopia for its spiritually charged politics, which restores the contingent possibilities of revolution, then why was there never any space opened for the emancipation of women? This line of questioning might appear as obvious, but it is one that must be made considering the literature’s lack of attention in addressing the role of subjugation of women in realizing an Islamutopia.

While feminist critics located in the West—rallying behind Simone de Beauvoir—spoke on behalf of a globalized womanhood, there were Iranian Women Protesters, demonstrating against the post-revolution policies of Khomeini. Unfortunately, the West often chose to depict these women as helpless, requiring rescuing from the clutches of “fundamentalism.” For example, two respondents to Foucault, Claudie and Jacques Broyelle, wrote passionately, “Today there are little girls all in black veiled from head to toe; women stabbed precisely because they do not want to wear the veil; summary executions for homosexuality; the creation of a Ministry of Guidance according to the precepts of the Quaran; thieves and adulterous women flogged […]” (247). This recounting of the everyday violence experienced by women in Iran discloses an ignorance towards the history of Iranian women as active subjects of resistance and imagination. The Shah regime was not shy in administering systemic violence to encourage the unveiling of women. In addition, while it is true that Khomeini called for the veiling of women in public spaces, he did not call for the complete covering of women such as with a chadora.

No matter how well-intentioned this criticism of Foucault is, it can be faulted in two ways. The first, it reduces Iranian women to tropes of bare life. Here, I follow Cathrine Bestemen’s criticism of bare life tropes (58): it cannot account for women as active subjects in their own resistance, as living modes of life that are not that of basic survival, and as thriving in alternative modes of life that do not fit the Euro-American paradigm. This is, I argue, an orientalist depiction of Iranian women. In her seminal work, Women and the Political Process in the Twentieth-century Iran, Parvin Paider explains this orientalist representation as such:

The orientalist analysis of political change as it affected women was built upon the above premise and consisted of at least three dimensions. First, the notion of Muslim women as oppressed; second, the construction of oppositional dichotomies of tradition and modernity to explain political change; and third, essentialization and reification of women’s history. Orientalism propagated the notion of Muslim women as slaves. (5)

The second way this criticism of Foucault can be faulted is the gendered exceptionalism that is implicit in these responses, which utilize the dichotomies of tradition and modernity. To make sense of this, I am borrowing Jasbir K. Puar’s definition of sexual exceptionalism from Terrorist Assemblages. The point I would like to make here is that the West positions itself as the sort-of utopia to which not only Iran should be modeled after but also serves as the methodology of critiquing Iranian politics. Puar argues that “exceptionalism gestures to narratives of excellence, excellent nationalism, a process whereby a national population comes to believe in its own superiority” (5). Indeed, this criticism of Iran has the purpose of distinguishing the West as politically and socially superior—as the ultimate “progressive” space. The most important facet of any exceptionalism is hypocrisy—at once exceptional for its progressiveness, yet also an exception to the criticism it wields against its political opposites. Haideh Moghissi emphasizes that “the hypocritical policies of Western governments, such as Reagan’s Iran-Contra affair and the arms sale to Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, whose regime US officials condemned for its violation of human rights,” especially the rights of women, is “used ideologically to isolate and contain adversaries of great powers” (3-4).

Yet, the protesters were fully capable of not only speaking for themselves but deciding what role Islam has in their lives. Indeed, Iranian women, in pre- and post- revolutionary Iran, had been dreaming of what their utopia would look like. In one statement, protesters wrote:

We women perform our social obligations for the nation alongside the men, and at home are responsible for the education of the future generation. We are fully capable and are quite aware of the need to maintain our dignity, character, and honor. Though we have strong convictions concerning the need to maintain women’s dignity, we also believe that a woman’s honor is not dependent on a particular form of covering. Rather, women’s clothing must be left to them according to tradition, customs, and the needs of the environment. (“Statement by Iranian Protestors” 245)

As a result, we can recognize a parallel utopian dreaming: that of an independent Iranian nation, as well as independent women. These protesters supported the Islamic Republic, but they also protested for their self-determination. Adbib-Moghaddam describes that Khomeini’s Islamutopia borrowed elements of modernity such as nationalism—so too did the Iranian women protesters engage with both modernity and Islamutopia.

The pushback against the Iranian Revolution by the West was based on a narrow understanding of Islam. Further, the West’s concerns are often encoded with a latent paternalism: you are unaware of what is good for you—allow us to dream the utopia on your behalf. However, Islam is more than just a “religion,” it is a dialectical endeavour—a conversation between an ontologically based critique and the transcendental object that represents Islamutopia. As such, Islam is not a static or fixed, but reinterpreted through the movements of history and the shifts in context. The unabashed critiques wielded by the Left to condemn the resurgence of Islam are misinformed, reductive, and condescending. Indeed, the intellectual left often neglected to account for the agency of the Iranian people who adopted this Islamic mode of critique to upheave the Shah authoritarian regime in the first place. If Adbib-Moghaddam’s claims are true, then this conversation between ontological Islam and Islamutopia will necessitate the further opening-up of the future.

Nevertheless, what we bear witness to here through Moylan’s description of utopia is a double enclosure: the West’s own ideological condemnation of Iran as well as the ideological restriction of Iranian women’s civil liberties, economic freedom, and employment, which they were fighting to keep, which is a utopian impulse, running parallel, it itself that must be document. In other words, the Iranian revolution and its aftermath offer a dynamic and complicated portrait of utopian yearnings, that cannot be homogenized. Finally, it is important not to engage in missions of rescuing Muslim women from Islam, but to recover, delicately, their utopian imagination. The Euro-American feminist does not possess the responsibility to dream on behalf of Iranian women.


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