Zoroaster and the Ayatollahs

Iran's culture wars between its Persian imperial past and Arab Muslim influence have been raging since long before the 1979 revolution. 

Issue: Jan-Feb 2011

 CULTURE IS hard to define and even harder to change. Beneath the surface solemnities of politics and the exigencies of economics lurks the intricate web of habits and rituals, practices and privileges, that we call culture. In its overt manifestations, culture may seem a docile tool, or perhaps an efficient vehicle for political change. In reality, culture has the capacity not only to survive upheaval in the halls of power but also to gradually and inexorably alter the nature of governance, molding politics in its enduring patterns. More than once in Iran’s history, after the country was vanquished by outsiders—from Arabs to Mongols—the culture of the conquered survived and eventually molded the customs of the victors to its own pattern.

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