Iran's Mullahs Are In Serious Trouble
In what has become a decidedly odd twist to the protests engulfing Iran after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, protesters have introduced a new “sport” to the Iranian people: “knock-a-turban”.
Young men and women, who are the vanguard of the current anti-Ayatollah revolution, film themselves walking behind older men clad in traditional Shiite garb and then gently knocking the turbans off the men’s heads. While the men stoop to pick up the headdress, onlookers laugh and make jeering sounds.
Coming so soon after Iran’s parliament demanded harsher steps from the Iranian police and the Iranian judiciary, this unabashed mockery of Iran’s Shi’ite clerics represents a decided escalation of the protests against Islam’s theocratic regime.
When people mock something or someone, it shows more than just a fundamental lack of respect, although regime supporters are quite right to point out that the attacks are disrespectful.
As the knock-a-turban protests gain popularity on the streets and on social networks, regime supporters say that just like removing the hijab, it shows disrespect to religious men.
That form of protest is an “assault on the citizens who wear clerical clothes and walk the streets,” an Iranian describing himself as “activist, politician, journalist,” Saeed Shariati, tweeted. Further, he argued, some of the assaulted turban-wearers may even support the protesters’ cause.
What regime supporters fail to realize is the disrespect is the point.
The “knock a turban” fad in fact is similar to a call for similar behavior by none other than the late Ayatollah Khomeini. During the 1970s uprisings that eventually toppled the Iranian monarchy, Khomeini called for protesters to forcibly remove the headgear of clerics who supported the Shah’s regime, as they were “unworthy” to wear the accoutrements of Islamic clergy.
Turban-knocking, Mr. Zimmt notes, precedes the current fad by many decades: While in exile at the Iraqi holy city of Najaf in 1970, the Islamic Revolution’s founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, urged his adherences to forcefully remove turbans from the heads of Shah-supporting clerics, whom he considered heretics unworthy of donning the religious symbol.
While it is a stretch to argue that the current protesters are making similar accusations of heresy, the basic message of “unworthiness” is the same as during the 1970s protests.
Consequently, this theatrical tactic of a largely harmless assault on Islamic clerics is a direct assault on the Islamic Republic’s moral authority. It strikes at the very foundation of Iran’s theocracy.
If this continues, it means that younger Iranians do not consider the clergy worthy of moral leadership of the country. It means that younger Iranians do not take the clergy seriously—that they no longer take the Islamic Republic seriously.
If the “knock a turban” activity continues, it represents an existential threat to the mullahs who rule the country. Once someone no longer commands respect, soon he will no longer command at all.
All Facts Matter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Alternatively, please consider leaving a tip through Ko-Fi. Thank you always for your support.