Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Iranian Meaning of Hizbullah

Anyone interested in transnational Islamist political movements or the politics of the Gulf countries, especially the Arab ones, should read Laurence Louer's Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf. I won't be able to finish it right away as I return it to the library tomorrow in advance of moving, but it has lots of information on major Shi'ite political movements and how they manifest themselves within different national states.

This isn't a major point within the book, but it may explain some of the references to Hizbullah in the current Iranian crisis:
"'Hezbollah' is initially a Quranic term meaning the 'party of God'. After the revolution, it became a recurring concept of Ruhollah Khomeini's speeches to designate those truly committed to the defence of Islam and the Islamic revolution. The term was then appropriated by vigilante groups constituting a loose network of volunteers supported by some individual figures of the regime and claiming to act in order to safeguard the revolution against its enemies. While, in Iranian parlance, the word 'Hezbollah' designates the hardliners in general, it can also refer to structured pressure groups, often used by the regime to intimidate or even assassinate this or that recalcitrant person. While many self-describe as 'Hezbollah', many others often prefer to speak about them as partisans of the 'Imam's Line', that is those who keep faithful to the heritage of so-called 'Imam Khomeini'. This is the case, for example, of those who perpetrated the attack on the American embassy in Tehran in November 1979. Over the years, the label 'Imam's Line' has been preferred by the vigilantes because 'Hezbollah' came to have a pejorative connotation in an Iranian society weary of revolutionary language and favourable to a more relaxed implementation of the Islamic ethic."

I don't know if the term's appropriation by vigilante groups refers specifically to the Ansar-i Hizbullah, or is a more general phenomenon.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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