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The political function of religion

The Political Function of Religion in Kurdish and Perso-Iranian Nationalist Confrontations after the 1979 Revolution

During the early years (1979–1982) following the 1979 revolution, because of the prevalence of a traditional society, religion was politically more functional. Religious discourse became hegemonic and most groups, including secularists, were forced touse such a discourse to promote their politics. The Persian politicians used Islam to make Perso-Iranian nationalism dominant over others, while non-Persian politicians appealed to it to gain their ethno-national rights. Using Qualitative Content Analysisto analyse the scattered texts of speeches, interviews, messages of the Persian and Kurdish leaders published in different publications at the time (which are available in some archives and databases), this article describes how they use religion in their confrontations. The findings show both marginalisation and resistance against it appealing to Islamic discourse. Ignoring those parts of Islam that are not in their interest, the Persian nationalists use Islamic brotherhood and unity to reinforce Islamic identity over Kurdish identity in order to marginalise the Kurdish nationalist movement, as well as to mobilise ordinary people against the Kurdish forces. Conversely, the Kurdish nationalists resist, and demand equality as Muslim brethren. In this regard, while religion has uniting, mobilizing and legitimating functions for the Persian government, enabling it to pursue nationalistic aims and to justify relevant measures, it also partly has a legitimating one for the Kurdish opposition.


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