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The concept of globalization has recently been the subject of a good deal of debates in Iranian academic area. Much of them focused on the ideas of globalization, globalizing, dual globalization, secularism, pluralism and other concepts which fit in this framework. These concepts are often referred to globalization; though do not constitute a united frame. Nevertheless, there is good reason for grouping them together, because they share some important elements of common background. There is a view that globalization especially in relation to identity is both vital and problematic in this period of high modernity in a multi-ethnics country like Iran. While this awareness is reflected among Iranian social scientists, their account of crisis of identity with respect of globalization is partially issue of concern in this chapter.
The main discussion about globalization in Iran revolves around two central ideas: firstly, the most of discussions imply to nature of globalization. What is globalization? Is it an imperialistic plan or project which has been directed by America and west? (Afrough, 2005; Rahimpoor, 2005; Kachuian, 2004; Piran, 2004). Or is it the process that embrace identity of Iranian youth and we should understand and manage it in our way (Tajik M. &., 2004; Tajik M. R., 2002; Zokai, 2006 , Hafeznia, 2006). Or, it is not only one process of globalization, but also is dual globalization, virtual and real worlds, in which dominated throughout the world. Vitual world embodies the virtual spaces that captured by mass media internet, Mobile, Telephone and other commmunicative media and real world that connect all people throughout the world by new rapid transportation (Ameli, 2003, 2004, 2009).
Second challenge, in this regard, revolves around juridical and academic discusion around some contraversial concepts in field of globalization such as human right, relativism and pluralism. Arjomand (2004), Iranian professor of sociology in State university of New York, approvely designated the main challenge to modern Islam, coming from the global political culture in the form of constitutionalism and democratization and human rights. Islamic revolution of 1979 has established a religious society in which laws and rules are grounded on islamic values and roots. The governers are concern about collapse of religious spaces by globalization and its secular forces. Then, the questions emerge in light of globalization: Does globalization undermine Islamic revolution of Iran? Or how, and which direction, globalization can move in Iranian milieu in general and among Islamic-Iranian youth in particular? (Tajik M. &., 2004; Tajik M. R., 2002; Zokai, 2006). These concerns are the most important issue about emergence of globalization in Iranian society. Scholars, philosophers and especially governments are concern, and even fear, about this newcomer that in first step captured many aspects of Iranian culture. Apparently, youth enthothiastically treats this unknown guest. And scope of penetration of this phenomenon is expnding day by day accelerately.
Morover, governments think to discrepancy between idea of globalization and religion in regard to 'human right' and 'separation of religion and government'. Religious pluralism also is important discussion in Islamic sphere that Iranian intellectuals and jurists actually cope with important role about establishing and critique of the theory.
One of the most trends among Iranian scholars in field of globalization is the study of process of globalization. What is the main process of globalization? Is it the imperialistic project that American and Western countries plan to exploit other countries? Is globalization a structural change among social, cultural, political and economic aspects or it is merely superficial changes? In Iranian academic atmosphere these questions are discussed in detail. The main question, first of all, is about the nature of the process: the process that we see in the country is globalization? Is that a natural process or Western project? Some social scientists believe the process of globalization essentially cannot take into account as anticipated plan or project in which some countries organize it, although developed countries strongly endeavor to control this natural process and also have more opportunity to take more advantages of it (Tajik M. &., 2004; Tajik M. R., 2002; Zokai, 2006 , Hafeznia, 2006).
There are scholars who believe globalization is a type of planed project that Western countries alongside with America organized for utilizing and exploiting other countries in the world. (Afrough, 2005; Rahimpoor, 2005; Kachuian, 2004; Piran, 2004). International organizations, economic corporations, and transnational institutes directly and indirectly are depended on few developed countries which cope with main role in process of globalization. These countries have dominated all economic, cultural and political spheres of international affair. Other countries, as majority of the world, only take a few portion of education, wealfare, health, technology and wealth of the world. Modern world with the global trends go forward to inequality.
Aim of this section is to introduce the implications that have been highlighted in Iranian acedemic era in relation to globalization. In fact, this is type of meta-analysis of globalization among indigenious commentators in Iran. The main subjects revolve around globalization or globalizing, globalization and identity, dual globalization, and pluralism in the global age. It can be argued two counter forceses: globalization and cultural convergence of the world by western instrumental rationality on the one side, and the counter-pressures from below by masses of citizenry against this instrumental rationality in industrialized nations, on the other side (Farazmand, 2002).
Globalization or globalizing?
The dominant wave in Iran, academic and official, takes into account the process as globalizing i.e. an American and Western project for exploiting the country. The main process is economic trend that developed to social, cultural and political areas (Kachuian, 2003; Piran, 2004; Afrough, 2005; Rahimpoor, 2005; Molana, 2001; Zahed, 2007). Globalizing has been tacitly driven by crisis of capitalism and is type of process of engineering for controlling and solving this crisis (Piran, 2004). Process of globalizing leads to powerlessness of states, and abandon of international corporations. Within developing countries, without powerful civil institutions, the international economic corporations and organizations captured the main economic vessels and take value surplus of the economy wholly. In this situation, people become poorer in light of process of globalizing (Ibid). This project is not restricted to economic sphere; it is going forward to cultural and political systems. There is no difference between ancient empires and globalizing essentially in regard to their desire to dominates sources of the country (Zahed, 2007).
Another narrative of globalizing is in relation to nature of this process take into consideration globalization as type of new lifestyle in superficial level (Afrough, 2005). Although, our consumption patterns, our behaviors, our architectures transformed to transnational forms, but our ontology and epistemology is not globalized yet. In real globalization, Afrough believes, globalization must change our epistemological and ontological perspectives, not merely superficial level of everyday lifestyle. Capitalism cannot alter to globalization because of view that its clearance is problematic. Capitalism essentially is type of omanism, enjoyism, and individualism. God, in capitalism, is dead and human being is center of existence, thus all of cultural manifestations transform to myth. Western man, with liberalism, secularism and omanism cannot claim to 'human right' (as global phenomenon). But religious man can claim to human right. Hometown of human right is religions (Afrough, 2005). In this view, paradoxical circumstance of globalization is derived from capitalism's contradictions. Although we can see the economic system turn to globalized system but the world culturally is not economized totally. Cultural movements in many countries are evidences of de-economization of the world. Their orientation explicitly is grounded on spiritual background. Moreover, the people should join to anti-global movements. The main way of reaction to globalization is arrangement of religious globalization. This version of globalization historically and ontologically is type of justified and popular version of globalization. There is no dialogue between civilizations, but there is a dialogue between religions. Today, we must show Christianity does not cover and support capitalism. Capitalism has forgotten two main premises of Protestantism: salvation and contentment (Ibid).
The main critique to this theory revolves around its main hypothesis that religious version of globalization 'historically and ontologically is type of justified and popular version of globalization'. Actually, Afrough did not introduce the religious version of globalization in his work, and then it is not clear what actually religious globalization is. He should explain what process can lead to this type globalization.
Religious globalization, it is to me, is sort of invitation of other religions to particular religion e.g. invitation of all religions to Islam. Practically, this type of globalization give rise to "clashes between religions" as Huntington (1993) predicted, not to dialogue of religions as Afrough implies. It seems there is no way to other religions convert to same religion, and then practically there is no religion version of globalization.
Another point is that Afrough (2005) believes capitalism looking for solving its contradictions with respect to globalization. In fact, when capitalism encounters with some problems; they decided to devise a plan, namely, globalization, for solving the problems.
It seems some reasons that capitalism and its forces cannot plan globalization for solving their problems. Firstly, globalization is type of social process in which embrace dialectic of all social agents and forces that are in the field, then many of forces would be play their roles in global spaces, then control of all the spaces practically seems impossible. Capitalist forces can pick up the wave of globalization and utilize from it by their developed industrial power, communicative media. On the other word, process of globalization is not one way process of Western countries forward to other countries. There are many trends that do not peruse capitalism or is not from western society to other countries as usual capital direction. For example, Ritzer (2007) looks at 'outsourcing' in which is type of economic trend from developing countries to developed countries.
Third critique to Afrough focuses on his suggestion about religious dialogue instead of dialogue of civilizations. Dialogue of religions, especially in Afrough's sense of divine religions, is not comprehensive perspective. It excludes more than half of the world that does not believe to religions. And last but not least, globalization is discussed as actual process, globalizing or globalization is something happened somewhere (Ray, 2007). We can organize discussion about dialogue of religions or dialogue of civilization in frame of globalization, but we cannot reduce globalization to dialogue of religions. How we can reduce strong economic trend of globalization that have been established over more than three decades, reduce to dialogue of religions. I think, globalization and dialogue of religions are two different processes which the former has been started since 1980 and the later seems ideal idea.
Third narrative of this approach discuss about 'nature of globalization'. Kachuian (2003), professor of university of Tehran, believes that cultural and social interaction and accelerating and compression of connectivity that western scholars called globalization, is not new circumstance for human beings. Although transportation accelerated today, but the structures does not changed yet. As we define globalization as 'compression of consciousness' as Robertson says; the structure of consciousness did not change, although lifestyle and course of action in many aspects of life is changed and social consciousness is increased with respect of globalization. Today, if an accident happen in other side of world, many people know about that, but the main elements of social life is like before. For example, Iran is great and expanded country. One who is living in Tehran, capital of Iran, and one who is living in Baloochestan, remote province of Iran, both of them have same civil right and obligation in the society. Both are living in common structure as Iran. Everywhere they want to go, can go without visa. Both of them involve same law and right. Both socially are same as Iranian. The question about globalization is that: do all people of the world have same law and rights and commitment as global society? Today, there are rigid boundaries between countries in which I, as Iranian, cannot do my job in Iraq or UK. I cannot go other countries without visa. In fact, Iranian identity, in global world, is different from Iraqi's identity. In sum up, if you find a social structure in the world in which all nations, Iranian, Iraqi, British and so forth are similar in regard to their rights and obligations, we can claim of globalization (Kachuian, 2003).Today, there are few social institutions that claim same social structure such as UN, LMF, and WTO. Do you think their functions about all countries are same? Or do you think their rights and obligations about all people of the world are same? These institutions are foundation of globalization. As result, all process we see is globalizing that Western and American countries planed for dominating on the world. They produce war and attempt to peace their-selves. They planed certain political process with respect of democracy for directing process of globalizing.
Quemin (2006) implies to incomplete process of globalization in the world. He believes that "in spite of increasing internationalization, the different indicators we have considered here make it quite clear that the territorial dimension certainly has not disappeared. Although artistic events have spread around the globe, this has not led to a displacement of the most important zones, or even to any real sharing between centre and periphery, the latter comprising all those countries that are not a part of that double geographical nucleus that, still today, is constituted by a few countries of Western Europe, on one side, and America on the other" (p.546).
I can add the implication to developing countries is exacerbated than developed one because of view that the countries are slowly involved global phenomenon.
The main critique to Kachuian revolves around result of their prologue to project of globalizing. The prologue is about the different right and obligations of different people around the world. The prologue is about different rights of countries in regard to global institutions such as UN, LMF, and WTO. Then, insofar as the developed countries plan to globalizing, they organized democracy. We can imagine the process in reverse. They plan to democracy then globalization happened. And the process happened something different that they thought. It sounds different claims about the process can be realized but need to more evidences.
Actually, as Kachuian implies, there is no perfect and comprehensive process of globalization that cover all of social and economic spaces. Undoubtedly, there is no claim that international organizations have no bias, but the system seems as global phenomenon operate around the world. For example, although UN as representative of operation of human right may has some bias toward the developed and industrialized countries, it is some human rules and norms that majority of countries on the world accepted them and it can promote level of humanity in the world.
One of the key concerns about globalization regards to its impacts on identity elements of Iranian youth. Discourses of crisis of identity seem the main discourse among sociologists and psychologists in Iranian academic sphere. Thus, here is indicated some implications about identity.
There are two main elements of identity-making among Iranian youth: global or modern and national identity elements. This categorization can be analyzed into two levels: internal origins of identity elements and external origin of identity elements (Hafeznia, 2007).
Internal origin of identity elements includes four dimensions in which have constructed the main part of Iranian identity elements:
Farsi (Persian) language: Persian language undertakes foundational functions among Iranian culture. All of Iranian history, poems, arts, and other records, before and after Islam, inherit to new generation by means of Persian language.
Mythic trends: The most important part of Iranian identity revolves around heterologous ritual; archaeological, mythic trends that sound all three categorization can be explained in Iranian ancient or archeological identity. In this regard, Iranian myths, traditional rituals especially Norooz, archeology, art, epic especially Ferdosi' s Shahnameh are important elements of Iranian Identity as Iranian believe and love them mostly. For example, Norooz is an Iranian new year that begins from first day of spring every year. Norooz is symbol of creation in Iranian myths.
Ferdosi is Iranian epic of ancient empire of Iran. Iranian people mostly love the personalities of the myths and put their children name in terms of names of characters within Shahnameh. It narrates Iranian history from 2000-500 BC that is about glory of Iranian empire in the world. In sum up, part of Iranian identity undoubtedly is grounded on Iranian ancients before of Islam.
And external origin of identity elements includes:
Religion: Most of Iranian populations are Muslim, and most of Muslims, 90 percent, are Shiah. Then, Shiah is un-separated part of history of Iran, and consequently important part of Iranian identity (Hafeznia, 2006).
Modern culture: Iranian has been familiar with western countries since 1828 when western merchants had come to Iran for commercial relationships. There is about two century close relationships between Iran and the West. Iran has been adopted many modern technologies, educational system, political system by the West. Although Iran has never had colonial experiences, Iranian social, cultural, political and economic systems deeply intermingle with modernity and modernization. Thus, important part of Iranian identity has been constituted by modern course and culture.
Diversity of identity: Iran is multi-ethnic country. Diversity of ethnicities like Fars, Kord, Lor, Azari, Baloch and Arab is the most important characteristics of Iranian populations.
These factors are important elements of Iranian identity. Other categorizations of Iranian identity mostly embody the same characteristics. For example, another categorization of Iranian Identity focuses on three main aspects: archeological Identity, religious identity and modern identity (Soroush, 1996; Shariati; Kardan, 1991). Azad (2005), professor of university of Tehran, implies that in the new social and political climates, the Iranian society and culture made a new concept of themselves. It can be said that this is a cultural definition of them-selves. It has not defined in terms of its enemies and legacies. Modernity, nobilities, religiosity, nationality, and multiculturalism are five main dimensions of Iranian Identity. Each of these dimensions presents some part of its identity (Azad Armaki, 2005).
Globalization and Iranian Identity
The concept of 'identity in Iranian society' is central to much contemporary sociological analysis especially with respect to expanding modernity and globalization in the context. This concern with identity is symptom of a crisis that manifests itself in two ways. Firstly, there is a pervasive sense that the acquisition and maintenance of identity has become both vital and problematic under high modernity. Computer, internet, magazine and other mass media control and cover all times of people especially youth in the country. Secondly, while this awareness is reflected in many substantial studies of contemporary society, their accounts of identity vary widely and are often radically under-theorized and incapable of bearing the analytical load that the contemporary Iranian situation requires. The question of identity has been mostly launched out of their background in Iran.
Identity is essentially located in external-internal dialectic of self/other relationships. On the one hand, identity place in the psychic structure of individual and on the other hand, identity places in the inter-subjective structure of everyday life-word. Dialectic of social and psychological elements of identity permanently takes shape set of integrated meaning, which demonstrates us and society: who we are? (Erikson, 1968; schutz, 1972; Jenkins, 1996). Identity is constructed by means of internalization of some meaning in terms of interaction of self in social contexts. Self in modern era is encountered with new position which never was like that. Modern organizations, institutions, transportation, mass media bring about radical transformation into self-identity. The new sense of identity is a new presentation of self in relation to new forms of lifestyle in global-modern world.
Zokai (2006), an Iranian researcher, implies to direct and indirect experiences of cosmopolitanism among students in which they have internalized cosmopolitanism as their identity elements, though they also believe to their national identity (Zokai, 2006). He looks at the cosmopolitanism as developing the local and national identity elements. Although youth belong themselves to global society, they maintain their particular aspects of culture in which belong to their town and neighborhood (Zokai, 2006).
Hafeznia (2006) believes that the modern world is different from Iranian identity in regard to their epistemological perspectives. Modernism concentrates on individualism, rationalism and humanism, meanwhile Iranian culture revolve around 'immortal life', 'religious myths', and 'monotheism' (p.13). Because of this challenges and differences, there are crisis of identity with respect to globalization among Iranian youth. Drawing upon his research, he claims that there are significant correlation between process of globalization and decline of national identity elements among students in universities (p.19). In fact, process of globalization lead to weakness of national identity in their research. It sounds the conceptual framework of this study is questionable. Hafeznia claims that Iranian identity is different from Western in regard to their differences about two different elements of identification. Modernism concentrates on individualism, rationalism and humanism. That means individualism, rationalism and humanism as a modern culture, have never been in Iranian culture. Although, these elements are sweller in Western culture than other places, rationalism especially is grounded on Islamic-Iranian philosophy explicitly. Belief to 'immortal life', 'religious myths', and 'monotheism' is not merely belong to Iranian culture and identity. Divine religions mostly believe to them. In addition, I cannot understand, why if one believes to 'immortal life', 'religious myths and 'monotheism' cannot believes to individualism, rationalism and humanism. For instance, what is paradoxical implication of rationalism and monotheism or immortal life?
Tajik (2004), professor of University of Tehran, also believes that Iranian people have encountered with challenges and crisis of identity in regard to process of globalization. He implies to Iranian people as bounded and boundarized people encounter with spaceless world; these pure-identity faces encounter with plural and hybrid identities, these time-space human beings face to timeless-spaceless world. Consequently, globalization collapses the boundaries and question about their cultural backgrounds such as norms, values, religions and habits. This consciousness is types of relativism of socio-cultural worlds. In this situation, it is difficult make orientation forward to particular world and acceptance of monism. Today, globalization mostly is the structure of social reality then particuralism and nationalism is limited into the structure (Tajik M. R., 2002). On the other side, Azad (2005), in his research on Iranian youth found that it is not true that the Iranian society is in the process of breaking because of globalization. It is in the process of rich culture because of reinterpretation of itself through the new social and cultural circumstances (Azad Armaki, 2005).
The key point, in this regard, is that attempt to homogenization and universalization in the world is associated with heterogenization in favor of policy of identity. In fact, there are two remarkable forces in era of globalization: homogenization and heterogenization. The project of globalization sometimes threaten identities in regard to different policies and strategies (Ghorbani, 2007, pp.410-420). There is variety of forces in Iranian background which encounter with process of globalization. National and religious forces are the main one that is in challenge with global forces. Power of religious forces is considerable and more effective because Iranian governments and people strongly support religious forces.
Global society often takes shape universal culture along side with diversity of particular cultures. We are encounter with particularism and universalism with respect to Iranian background (Heydari, 2007). The question is how and why these forces take shape? What is the main cultural gap in relation to Iranian society?
Shayegan (2007), Iranian researcher, believes that we, Iranian, place in between "modernity and tradition". We are between "not yet" and "no longer"! We could not digest modernity yet, after two century. On the other side, we can come back to tradition 'no longer'. This oscillation between modernity and tradition, bring forth us to two different dual identities, life in water and land! The problem is that how we can manage our paradoxical identities in era of globalization? (shayegan, 2007, pp. 337-339).
Actually, the cultural problems of Iranian society, after we encounter modernity, are not covert for anybody. We need to scrutinize on the problems and typify them in explainable types. It sounds there are attempts to focus on the problem and find out solution. One of the attempts is "theory of religious pluralism" that Soroush (1999) established for filling gap between modernity and tradition in general, Western and Eastern or Christianity and Islam in particular.
Crisis of identity in Iran is problem of youth, more than other groups of populations because of view that they are internalizing their identity elements. They are permanently proving themselves sometimes with respect to deny others. They always made questions their identity (Manteghi, 2007, pp. 405-406). With respect to vulnerable personality of youth, they are susceptible for changing their identity elements in their identification's age.
In sum up, debates about identity, globalization, modernity and other relevant concepts are flowing in academic and juridical field in Iran. Center of discussion is religion. The scene of war actually is between religious world and modern and global world. In background of Iran sounds there are mixed and intermingled trends about globalization and identity.
The main discussion, in future of cultural frame, revolves around social and individual identity. The question is what are our perceptions of self and other in future? There are two parallel integrated worlds that construct our identity in future. The main changes in the future of world are competitions between virtual and real worlds (Ameli S. , 2002). The first world, real, includes geographical territories, nation-state political system, national-industrial system and historical-environments. The second world, Virtual, includes pure industrial system, out of native-state order, post-modern structure, partial, ultra-time/place. Future of the world depends upon interaction between the worlds. Education, financial, cultural systems are produced and reproduced by real and virtual worlds.
One of the most characteristic of the era is transnational forms of lifestyle in which limitations of geographical place is disappeared by mass media industry.
The new paradigm involves development social spaces from real world to virtual world and concequently from real society to virtual society. These intermingled worlds interact with each other and product new spaces for new activities. These worlds are in competition contiutially (Ameli, 2004).
Interrelationship between two worlds gives birth to opportunities and threats. Explosion of information may conclude incapabiltiy of managing the social space that result to anxiety (Ameli, 2004). Human being become agitates because of inability to understand and manage indefinite and liquid information which present and represent at the moment. Individuals, in era of dual globalization, are aliened in light of new unknown spaces of virtual words. By the way, in new virtual spaces, communication depends upon the professional and specific commons, tastes, interests, and same demands (ibid).
Identity elements of future are type of hybrid identities in process of secularization and de-secularization. The process also involves simultaneous culture in which identity takes shape and simultaneously reshapes new identity (Ameli S. &., 2008). In future, we are not involve of many different identities. Answer to "who are you" revolves around different definitions of self and other. Age of transition, from real world to dual worlds, is age of crisis of identity. New worlds, virtual worlds, alongside with real worlds are origin of 'various globalization. At first, globalization is affected by compression of communication in real world by rapid transformation and secondly globalization is influenced by compression of communication in virtual worlds by new communication technologies. Here the western countries are pattern of other countries. Of course, in age of globalization, elements of ultra nation-state such as religion, races, environment, human right and gender empowered than before.
On the other side, development of virtual communication gives rise to decreasing intercultural sensitivity (Ameli, 2009). In this regard, one of the main factors of increasing inter-religious and inter-ethnic sensitivity is lack of social interaction in which "dual globalization" can improve it.
Another advantage of dual globalization, in this theory, revolves around development of virtual city alongside with real city in era of globalization. Virtual city is type of new form of city which takes shape beside real city. Virtual city not only spread out spaces of real city but also help to solve some considerable problems such as traffic jam in real cities. Virtual city planning is type of rethinking about metropolis with respect of internet communication. In fact, urbanization, in light of virtual city planning pays more attention to virtual spaces of city alongside to real spaces. In virtual city, information services unlimitedly are for citizens 24 hours. Virtual city defined out of class status and class distinction to low middle and high class territory of city.
Globalization and pluralism
Idea of pluralism is in relation to nature of values, good and evil, and diverse or various resources of values. There are many good and bad, moral and non moral values which are incommensurable. These values are not also measured by common criteria (Kekes, 1993; Galston, 2004; Bellamy, 1999; Kateb, 1999). Isaiah Berlin (1973) connoted that every culture pursue incommensurable ends in regard to different perspectives. In this regard, they undertake different answers to question of 'universe' and particular (quoted from Kateb, 1999).
The question is that: dose globalization wants to cover all cultures and civilization upon a global umbrella? Yes or no, appropriate approach should answer to diversity and plurality of cultures throughout the world. In this view, globalization is type of culturalization of everyday life (Sinai, 2006). Thinking to globalization, in cultural level, means that individuals emphasize on cultural differences in nature. Similarly, globalization has two faces: on the one side it focuses on shared cultural elements of human being such as religions, humanity and the other side there are diversities, dissonances and pluralities (Sanai. 2006, p.110).
We should appreciate differences and diversities among different cultures in the world as a reality of global age (Masoodfar, 2002). New cultural trend, especially among youth directs them to risky society, liquid identity and cosmopolitanism (Zokai. 2007). Place is not frame of identity like previous ages. Because of this, nation-state as a unit of policy is not unit of analysis anymore. It does not embody economic, social, political and cultural processes. (Tavasoli G. , 2004). Discourse of globalization in terms of nation-state contrasts with market, then it produce contradictions in process of globalization.
Jalaipoor (2004), professor of university of Tehran, believe that civil relationships constructed the main characteristic of modern society in which is independent from nation-state. The main crisis of modern societies does not emerge from crisis of social relationships, although it is one types of crisis of modern society. The main crisis has deriven upon swelled state in which state captures all civil spaces (Jalaipoor, 2004, p. 65). Discourse of cultural diversity, in age of globalization, revolve around decentralism and decrease state-centrism trends. Sinai (2006) emphasize that weight of political forces in Iran trends to democracy, pluralism and globalization (p.134).
Religious pluralism is one of the most controversial discussions among Iranian intellectuals and jurists over two decades. The most debates, in this era, revolve around "theory of religious pluralism" that AbdolKarim Soroush introduced in his book "Stright paths". Theory of religious pluralism brought forth many advocators and critiques among Iranian intellectuals and jurists and students. However, here briefly has been implied to the main concepts and implications of the theory, drawing upon Soroush and some critiques in which made questions some aspects of the theory of religious pluralism. It sounds to understand pluralism and also look forward the future of discourse of pluralism; discourse of religious pluralism takes into account the key role. Although pluralism among most of Iranian intellectuals and jurists is acceptable belief, discussion of religious pluralism compatibly enrich field of pluralism and globalization.
There are differences between pluralism and religious pluralism in regard to discourse of truth. Pluralism without religious perspective does not follow discourse of truth. Discourse of truth refers to look for truth of something among many things. This trend is in relation to religious discourses. Each religion takes into account truth of its discourse and falsehood of other religions. There is no discourse of truth among other aspects of a culture except for religions.
Theory of religious pluralism
Religious pluralism involves two bases: first, it believes to diversity of understandings of religious text e.g. Quran, and second it believes diversity of interpretations of religious experiences. Holy books are multi-layers and complex. When one reads it and find out meanings of first layers, second layer is found more complex and difficult for understanding and so on. Then, step by step, reading the holy books become more difficult and there are different understandings from the text. Thus, each commenter implies to some aspects of verses of Quran that is different and sometimes opposite of the first one. Quran in this view declared that "some verses of Quran will be understood age of end of history" (Soroush, 1999). That means the holy book is multi-layers.
On the other side, there is diversity of 'interpretations of history' of religions. Christian, today, indicates type of interpretations of history of Christianity. Islam also is type of interpretations of Islamic history of religion. These interpretations are different and divergent in regard to their different understandings of religion. Commentators sometimes do not agree with previous interpretations and bring new comments and command in light of holy books. Religious cognition and knowledge has been arisen by these divergent and different interpretations. Then, we are not encounter with pure interpretations of holy books among divine religions (Soroush, 1999, pp. 1-5).
Soroush (1999) believes that the God was the first one who implants seed of pluralism by sending different prophets and holy books. Each prophet has emerged in certain society, certain language and culture. Pluralism emerged from here. Moreover, multi-dimensional interpretations are result of multi-dimensional history.
Soroush (1999) quoted from John Hick, Western philosopher, that truth (0f god) arises from different and divergent faces and manifestations that bring forth different religions that all are in truth paths. In fact, existence of different paths of truth gives rise to different religions. Thus, we should see the world as a set of straight lines forward to god that are alongside with some parallel lines to god as well instead of the world as one straight line and many distorted lines.
Molavi, well-known Iranian poet and Sufi, about secrets of different religions, believes that there is no distortion, no conspiracy, no blasphemy (although all of religions may encounter with these threats), but it is type of immersion of truth into truth (Soroush, 1999, pp11-14).
Soroush (1999) in "stright paths" implies that all religions, even each sect, believe that they have pure understanding of truth, and others unfortunately distort from the main line. We fortunately embrace all the truth and god has chosen us and the rest of billions people of the world will be salivated if they convert to our religion or what extent they are in common with us in regard to understanding and practices of our holy book. Pluralism arise when people discard their illusionary and selfishness in regard to their claim about reference of truth and salvation.
Another character of pluralism can be seen on "adjustment of truths". All truths construe in one constellation. If there are some truths in our religion, then these truths is compatible with another truth in other religions. Thus, religious intellectuals should explore and decipher matrix of these compatible truths among unique religious constellation that origins from god.
There are no pure things in the world. Quran implies to this issue in "Rad, Verse 17". Divine religious are genius but understanding of human beings always is mixed of truth and falsehood. Indeed, if one religion or sect was pure and rests of them were false, intellectual would elect pure one. But, there is no pure race, no pure language and no pure religion (Soroush, 1999). Dust of history give rise to obscurity and vague in religious purity.
Cause and reason in pluralism
The most people's religious beliefs, throughout the world, are unreasonable. They mostly accept their religion because of their background e.g. their parents and their nationality that are grounded on causality. I am Muslim, because I born in Iran among my Muslim family. You are Christian because you born in Western country among Christian family. You had been might Muslim if you born in Iran among Muslim Family. Our faith mostly is imitation and heritage rather than reasonable publically. It depends upon our environment, substances and other causal situations. It depends on social, cultural, economic and political features. Then, with this level and character of faith, we are not deservingness of brag and boast upon other religions; rather we should keep humility and modesty.
God guidance and pluralism
If we take into account billions of populations of the world and claim that only Shiah are in "stright path" and other religions and sects are misguide and impiousness; how we can explain the "god guidance" in which is one of the most important name of god in Quran. The god has sent many prophets with god messages, then all they are defeated and were unsuccessful in their missions unless Mohammad could give birth to salvation of few Shiah in his mission! On the other side, Satan was successful more than prophets because most of people could not achieve salvation and went to way of devil. But if we take into account era of god guidance broader, many people of the world are in paths of truth in their perspective. In this landscape, we can touch pluralism.
Pluralism and relativist
The most controversies with pluralism arise from this claim that religious pluralism gives rise to relativism. Dominance of causality and weakness of reason, in modern epistemology, from Francis Bacon to Marx and up to now, give rise to emergence of "relativism". Today, role of reason has been ignored and all of phenomenon is explained by means of their causalities. When there are no reasons, relativism will be emerged. Typification of reason is different from typification of cause. The former is grounded on cultural, social, economic and political features of phenomenon. Meanwhile, the earlier is based on logical apparatus of mind. In field of our everyday life, daily affair, causality is very important. But in field of religious cognition, reason is prior to cause. For example, it is not proper and convinced reason that I am Muslim because I born in Iran. It is cause.
Anyway, there are two types of religious pluralism; causal pluralism and reasonable pluralism. Causal pluralism is type of post modernistic pluralism in which brings forth relativism. But, reasonable pluralism never cause to relativism. Relativism claims that the diversity of social, cultural, economic and political circumstances cause to different religions. Here, there are no discourses of truth. In this view, all religions are constructed socially by medium of mindful innovations of prophets. But, reasonable pluralism is claimed that all of discourse of truth among different religions is truth. Each religion embraces part of truth that is confident for guide their advocators forward to salvation.
Critique to religious pluralism
Religious pluralism has been driven many critiques among religious intellectuals in Iran. Kadivar (1999), Iranian jurist, believes to serious problems of theory of religious pluralism in regard to inner-extra religious perspective. Kadivar implies that because of different capacity of human beings in regard to different time-place entailments. God has sent different prophets in order to guide different people with different capacities, different substances, different territories and different time. In this regard, latest religion is prior to earlier one. Islam is prior to Christianity compared to Christianity is prior to earlier religions and so on. Then, there are no equal reasons for equality of religions in regard to pluralism. On the other word, religious pluralism is incompatible with faith and certainty. Theory of religious pluralism cannot distinguish between truth and falsehood.
Kadivar (1999) criticize theory of religious pluralism with respect to "god guidance" as well. One should take into account god guidance project along side of liberty. God donates to people wisdom and liberty for recognizing truth and falsehood. They must try to find out 'stright path' of guidance, if they cannot explore their way, they are deservingness of god rage. God guidance is not destiny forward to paradise, but it is type of address. Man should find his true way.
Ayatollah Sobhani (2006), another Iranian jurist, criticize 'religious pluralism' with respect to different aspects. His first point is in relation to title of Soroush's book, 'stright paths' in which Sobhani believes that the title is contrary with verses of Quran. Quran realized only one path of salvation when implies that "this is my stright path. You follow this way, not others (Quran, Anam, 153). Pluralism is acceptable, if its meaning refer to peaceful life of different religions. There is no way of salvation for other religions unless they convert to Islam (Sobhani, 2006, p. 16).
Discussions around religious pluralism are controversial dialogue among Iranian intellectuals and jurists. There are advocators and opposites among both groups in regard to religious pluralism. The most important points are that most of commenter believes to pluralism in other aspect of social and cultural lives.
Globalization flows in Iranian academic area continually. The key point of the process, in Iran, is its compatible or incompatible features with Islamic values and culture. Islamic governments and society naturally concerns about newcomers to their territory. The main issue of globalization is about emergence of secularism, omanism, relativism as paradoxical culture against Islam. Some scholars believe the trends are against Islamic values, and others look at the process reversely. As whole, it sounds globalization is the wave throughout the world which is compatible with different ideologies. Many Muslim countries like Egypt, Malaysia, UAE, Turkey and so forth pick up the wave and are utilized from its opportunities, and likewise they keep and protect their values and culture as Muslim.
Another point about globalization in Iran revolves around level of process of globalization in Iran. Some scholars believe that the process is type of superficial trends that flux into lifestyle. Although individuals deal with global phenomenon in their everyday life, they also believe to their main aspects of culture.
Another discussion of globalization can be categorized on traditional debates of transition of Iranian tradition to modern society. In fact, Iranian society enters to global and modern world meanwhile it also is concerns about traditional culture and locality.
Globalization in everyday life also involves Iranian beliefs about pluralism. In fact, they are concerns about threats of globalization in light of its epistemology and ontology for Islamic movements and trends. They think globalization may collapse peoples 'religious beliefs like modernism. On the other side, other scholars look at globalization as 'particularization of universal and universalization of particular'.
Studies about globalization in Iranian academic and official fields are flowing. There are many conventions, seminars, and national and international conferences about different aspects of globalization. There is a National Centre of Globalization Studies in Iran that head of the centre is a deputy of prime minister. All of these implications indicate very important emphasis on globalization in the country. And there are well structures of developing in-depth studies about globalization which cover different angels of the phenomenon.
In sum up, globalization is newcomer in Iranian society. People, governments, and intellectual have different perspective to this guest. Some of them look it pessimistically in light of their concerns and others are optimism and pay more attention to its advantage. Directions of orientations indicate positive reactions to globalization, although we should not ignore anti-globalized orientation in the context. Moreover, flow and flux of globalization invoke more challenges and debates within academic area.