Sunday, June 26, 2005

From the Koran to quantum physics

Iran is changing. A society once closed to the outside world has acquired a hunger for knowledge and a thirst for cutting-edge ideas. The number of publications by Iranian scientists in international journals has quadrupled over the past decade. Young people in particular want more Kuhn and less Khomeini. And they voted overwhelmingly against hardline candidates in last week's elections.

But what about the clerics who have led Iran since 1979? How comfortable are they with modern science and technology? Do they oppose it? Can they learn to live with it? Do they believe it should be "Islamicised"?

Western ways of thinking and doing have long held a fascination for Iran's religious leaders, from before the Islamic revolution of 1979 that deposed the Shah. When the Shah banned Ayatollah Khomeini's speeches, for example, his supporters distributed them on audio cassettes in the hundreds of thousands. Similarly, desktop publishing was eagerly adopted to produce glossy magazines extolling the virtues of post-revolution Iran.


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