My Take: Revolution 2.0 more secular than Islamic
Tehran, Iran in February 1979.
February 11th, 2011
02:53 PM ET

My Take: Revolution 2.0 more secular than Islamic

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

February 11 will be remembered as Egypt’s Fourth of July, now that Hosni Mubarak has stepped down from his 30-year presidency.

February 11 is also Victory Day in Iran: a national holiday commemorating the Iranian Revolution, which culminated on this day 32 years ago in 1979.

Ever since the rise to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini in the Iranian Revolution, the Iranian regime has hoped for its model to spread. Iran’s revolution would set off a domino effect in the region, seeding Islamic republics throughout the Middle East and the wider world.

That has not happened.

Although some of Egypt’s revolutionaries have given voice to Islamic hopes and dreams, the overwhelming majority of them have spoken instead of jobs and elections and corruption and democracy. Their rebellion has been fueled not by the tape-recorded sermons of clerics but by the tweets and Facebook messages of people such activist Wael Ghonim, who's on leave from his job at Google.

The first domino setting off today’s historic events was tipped over in Tunisia rather than Iran. This revolution began not with Khomeini but with a street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi, and it was advanced by the tears of Ghonim, whose emotional breakdown on television on February 7 reenergized the movement.

Anyone who pretends to know where this revolution will lead is as deluded as Mubarak seemed to be when he refused to stand down in his Thursday speech. No one knows what is in store for Egypt or the wider Muslim world. For today, however, this really looks like a very different sort of rebellion:  Revolution 2.0, as Ghonim has dubbed it.

Since 9/11, I have written dozens of articles trying to underscore the fact that there are all sorts of Muslims in this world.  Today we are seeing millions of those faces - from Ghonim, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed  El Baradei and members of the Egyptian military to unnamed celebrants in the streets of Cairo and, of course, the recently dead, already being elevated to the status of martyrs.

Some of these faces are doubtless hoping for the abrogation of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. And some will want to see greater Islamic influence in their new country. But at least for today - Egypt’s first Independence Day - Islam has taken a back seat to a very different sort of religion: faith in the power of an oppressed people to grasp after freedom and feel it fresh in their own shaking hands.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Egypt • Islam • Politics

soundoff (146 Responses)
  1. Kemp

    Revolution 3.0 is the one to watch for. Democracy brings hope, but it does not bring freedom. What freedom is there for people who cannot find work with which to sustain themsevles and their families? Any political system is not relevant if it cannot foster the conditions for prosperity. Democracy may bring short-term growth, until the concentrations of power once again threaten shared prosperity.

    February 20, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  2. Reno

    I saw the videos and pictures posted on "millions" protesting the Iranian government. There is one problem with it though. The pictures and videos were showing millions celebrating the anniversary of the revolution LOL. I guess the media is counting on the stupidity of its audience. Well... I tell you what, there is only one stupid party here and that is your journalists who dont even take time to lie smarlty. This really is a comedy show called" desperates-R-us." LOL

    February 16, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  3. Reno

    I don’t care very much to debate the nature of the Iranian revolution then and now but one thing that seems to be a hard fact is that their revolution of 1979 has left the west disoriented, delusional, and in a fixed state of constant fantasy about its nature and eventual collapse. T

    They made a choice and it wasn’t you, as shocking as it may have been to you. Deal with it and get on with your life.

    February 15, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • Reality

      "Iranian leaders have praised Egypt's revolution, but Monday when protesters in Iran took to the streets the government cracked down hard.

      Last week, the Iranian government rounded up activists after Karrubi and Moussavi called for supporters to gather at Azadi Square - the site of mass protests by Iran's opposition movement after the disputed 2009 presidential elections.

      Despite the security crackdown, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Tehran Monday.

      Patrolling security forces battled protesters with batons and tear gas for much of the day."

      February 15, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  4. Muneef

    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Alif. Lam. Mim. (1) This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil). (2) Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them; (3) And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter. (4) These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful. (5) As for the Disbelievers, Whether thou warn them or thou warn them not it is all one for them; they believe not. (6) Allah hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be an awful doom. (7).

    Al-Isra sura 17:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    And say: My Lord! Cause me to come in with a firm incoming and to go out with a firm outgoing. And give me from Thy presence a sustaining Power. (80) And say: Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished away. Lo! falsehood is ever bound to vanish. (81) And We reveal of the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy for believers though it increase the evil-doers in naught save ruin. (82) And when We make life pleasant unto man, he turneth away and is averse; and when ill toucheth him he is in despair. (83) Say: Each one doth according to his rule of conduct, and thy Lord is best aware of him whose way is right. (84).

    February 14, 2011 at 6:22 am |
  5. Muneef

    Well guess you can visit the following link and read the Quran the way you want in four translations;

    February 14, 2011 at 4:17 am |
  6. Egypt is free


    February 13, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  7. Egypt is free

    Egypt is free !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 13, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  8. Dan

    @ Magic: "No, the burden of proof of any claim is on the one claiming it."

    You fail to live up to your own words. You claim there is no God. Practice what you preach and give evidence for your claim.

    February 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • dma

      Give evidence of your god

      February 14, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  9. FJ

    Mike, you have been proven wrong and wrong again. Why do you keep up a losing fight?

    February 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  10. Mattias

    God Bless all Christians

    February 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • sam

      And bless all Muslims and Jews and the rest.
      Your Muslim brother

      February 13, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • lance corporal

      why shouldn't god bless every one???

      February 13, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      article definitely exposes America's educational system, the lack of knowledge of what is transpiring in middle east and in general....an educated idiot

      February 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Leif

      If God exists, then he blesses everyone.

      February 14, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • Emmitt Langley

      Why would the idea that this revolution is secular give us any comfort? Look at the number of people who have been slaughtered by secular regimes in the past...it's several times more than the number who have been killed by religious ones...Mao, Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and the French revolutionists we all secularists, but their reigns ended with the slaughter of millions of their own citizens...

      Having said that, this movement is not secular. If there was an organization called the Christian Brotherhood, you'd never buy that it was secular...how can an organization be both religious and secular...Muslim is not a race, it is a religion. Think people...for once...

      February 14, 2011 at 8:10 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.