Rowhani for Net profit

September 02, 2014 - 1:19:07 am

The Iranian leader’s take on the Internet is a reflection of his modern outlook.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s gentle reprimand to his country’s clerics to be tolerant towards the Internet shows his sagacity. For historical reasons, Iran has been clubbed with the conservative-theological world that includes countries practising governance based on the broad tenets of faith. 

Then, there are countries like North Korea and Cuba, which have been besotted with a political culture of isolationism that informs their policy of not opening up to the world. China, on the other hand, follows a middle-of-the 

road policy. 

Rowhani’s telling Iranian clerics to let the younger generation move with the times shows his intention of following a progressive agenda in the nation often criticised for toeing an anti-Western line. 

The Internet was invented in the West and all other modern developments in information technology that have built up a suprastructure of convenient online media being used by businesses and tens of millions of people, were developed due to the inventiveness of liberal-democratic societies. Such societies use their culture and permissive mores to nurture human resources that produce goods and ideas backed by a solid research and development infrastructure. 

It’s not that the clerics of Iran are thinking regressively or their anti-American proclivities have got the better of their senses. It is a problem of all conservative societies that they see social change as retrograde, at least initially. At times, introduction of new technologies and systems have been seen to promote a divisive agenda or be used in propaganda.  

Social groups — here clerics — are more sceptical of heterogenetic change, meaning change coming from outside their societies. They may be partly tolerant of orthogenetic changes, which develop inside societies as a result of innovations. 

It’s hard to change mindsets nurtured over centuries. But it’s not impossible to bring about change if it is managed well. The management of change is a responsibility of all leaders — business as well as political. Here Rowhani has tried to use his position to impress upon religious leaders the importance of a vital socio-technological development. 

Earlier this year, Pope Francis praised the Internet. “The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good. A gift from God,” he said.

The Iranian president, known to be a relative moderate, has largely endeared himself to world leaders to promote his country’s interests. He knows he has a difficult job ahead. He shouldn’t sound too liberal to grate the conservative elements. And he shouldn’t be seen to be too outdated to be unable to break Iran’s international isolation•