The year 1979 was a game-changer in the epicenter for Radicals, Reformers and Revivalists alike.
- In January 1979, the Shah of Iran — not a Reformer, but certainly a long-time friend of the U.S. and Israel — was ousted from power.
- On February 1st, the Ayatollah Khomeini — the first true Radical of the modern era — returned to Iran after decades in exile and was met by millions of Muslims who greeted him as the possible Islamic Messiah, chanting, “The Holy One has come!”
- On March 26th, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat — the first true Reformer of the modern era — and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords at the White House, an historic peace treaty unprecedented in the annals of 4,000+ years of Jewish-Egyptian relations.
- On April 1st, the Ayatollah Khomeini declared Iran the world’s first “Islamic Republic,” putting the country under Sharia law and creating a Radical tyranny unlike any other at the time in the Middle East.
- By November of that pivotal year, Radical followers of Khomeini had seized the American Embassy in Tehran and began holding 52 hostages for 444 humiliating days.
- Also in November, Radical Muslim gunmen led by a man claiming to be the Islamic Messiah known as a the “Twelfth Imam” seized a key mosque in Mecca and triggered an enormous crisis for the Saudi government (Saudi troops eventually had to storm the mosque, leaving hundreds dead and wounded)
- In December of that year, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, a move that would lead to the rise of Osama bin Laden and the birth of al Qaeda, the Radical terror network, and later the dissolution of the Soviet empire.
- Curiously, it was also in December of 1979 that Warner Brothers and an evangelical Christian ministry called Campus Crusade For Christ released the JESUS film, a drama of the life of Jesus of Nazareth based on the Gospel According to Luke. It has since been translated into more than 1,000 languages and dialects, has been seen by more than two billion people worldwide, and has become a key tool used by Revivalists to reach Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Something was clearly crackling in the spiritual realm that year. The question now is: Where are we thirty years later?
A few observations:
- Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah, now lives in Maryland and is trying to build a global movement to overthrow the mullahs and ayatollahs and bring democratic reform to Iran.
- The Iranian Revolution is rapidly approaching its most dangerous moment. Its current leaders believe the end of the world is at hand, the Islamic Messiah’s return to earth is “imminent,” and the way to hasten the coming of the Twelfth Imam is to annihilate Israel and the U.S. What’s more, the current leaders of Iran are feverishly trying to build, buy or steal nuclear weapons and build alliances with three nuclear powers — Russia, China and North Korea.
- Egypt and Israel have a cold but stable peace. True, Sadat was assassinated by Radicals, but he did inspire a new generation of Arab Muslim Reformers throughout the region, particularly in Iraq. Unfortunately, current Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is by no means a Reformer. He is, instead, a “Resister” of almost any sort of positive change.
- Menachem Begin’s disciple — Benjamin Netanyahu — is about to become the next Prime Minister of Israel.
- Afghanistan is in the hands of the Reformers, though the Radicals of al Qaeda and the Taliban are battling hard to take it back.
- The Revivalists have a new tool for reaching Muslims with the gospel — the new film, “Damascus,” which will premiere at the Vatican on May 16th and spread throughout Protestant and Catholic churches in the Middle East this summer. I just met with the executive producer of the film and will have more details soon.
Bottom line: Thirty years after the Islamic Revolution began in Iran, and the Reformer Revolution began with the Camp David Accords, and the Revivalist Revolution began with the JESUS film, the battle for hearts, minds and souls in the epicenter rages on with increasing intensity. Watching all three movements is the Islamic “Rank-and-File,” the vast majority of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims. The Rank-and-File represent the vast middle ground of the Muslim world. They are going about their day-to-day lives without much of a desire to be Revolutionaries of any kind. But they are the audience to which the Radicals, the Reformers, and the Revivalists are speaking. If any of these major movements ever gains the majority — or even a working plurality — of the Rank-and-File, the entire world will be forever changed, for good or ill. Understanding these three Revolutionary movements — including the crises they are responding to and the answers they are offering — is of absolutely critical importance. Those who ignore these trends do so at their peril.
HEADLINES TO TRACK:
- MEMRI: Sunni Sheikh the Persian Gulf urges Arabs to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons “in order to strike terror in the hearts of our enemies”
- Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu’s weekend dilemma — how will he satisfy key Likud leaders with key Cabinet positions when he has given so many away to coalition partners (Note: Netanyahu is expected to present his new government to President Shimon Peres on Tuesday)
- Haaretz: Netanyahu struggles with paucity of portfolios for Likud