When reporter Nima Khorrami Assl asked a group of Iranians in Dubai about “what they thought has been the most important yet unnoticed societal development in the country over the last couple of years, they unanimously singled out the increasing appeal of Christianity amongst the Iranian youth, especially women,” he wrote in The Majalla. Many Iranians credit the large number of conversions to satellite TV.
By Nima Khorrami Assl
11/28/2011 Iran (The Majalla) – Last week I was in Dubai where I managed to talk to a group of Iranian holidaymakers about the current socio-political situation in Iran. To my utter disbelief, when I asked them what they thought has been the most important yet unnoticed societal development in the country over the last couple of years, they unanimously singled out the increasing appeal of Christianity amongst the Iranian youth, especially women. Eager to know what they considered as the key factor behind this, they again managed to surprise me by blaming Farsi1 TV channel. “If you want to know why many Iranians are converting to Christianity, watch Farsi1″, I was told.
So I took their advice seriously and committed to watch Farsi1 for one whole week. After the first night though, I immediately realized why those Iranians saw a direct link between the content of Farsi1 programs and the accelerating rate of conversion to Christianity in Iran. Today, Farsi1 is arguably the most popular TV channel in both Afghanistan and Iran. Nevertheless, none of its programs has an Islamic element.
Instead, almost all its series and soap-operas, excluding the South Korean ones, tend to introduce and/or advertise, albeit indirectly, Christianity. One soap-opera that did catch my eyes is El-Clon which is aired at the primetime. It is a story of a Colombian man challenging his clone for the love of a Moroccan woman. And as the story evolves, it is shown how free Christian women are compare to Muslim women who tend to get emotionally abused in the hands of their Muslim husbands who are supposedly adhering to the tenants of the Quran.
To begin with, it ought to be noted that Christianity is not a new religion in Iran. It arrived there 500 years earlier than Islam and in fact there was a viable Christian community in Iran whose members fled the country en-masse after the 1979 Islamic revolution fearing intimidation and prosecution. What is fascinating about the contemporary surge of Christianity, therefore, is the rapid growth of the “house church movement” in the face of massive government’s crackdown and brutality to the extent that it now seems to constitute a serious challenge to the official ideology second only to the challenge posed by the Green Movement.
This, in turn, begs the question of why so many Iranians are turning away from Islam and instead find comfort in Christianity. Is it only due to the content of satellite TV programs – a Western-led cultural war according to the Iranian officials – or is there a more fundamental reason behind this social/religious development in a predominantly Muslim country governed by an allegedly Islamic government?