A California dinner without wine and women? Preposterous.
— President, Orange County World
A political earthquake occurred in Iran in spring 1987. An unknown cleric emerged from the shadows to challenge the Islamic establishment’s choice to succeed Ali Akbar Rafsanjani as the Islamic Republic’s fourth president. Mohammad Khatami was the mullah who smiled. He had been purged from his post as Minister of Culture and Islamic guidance because of his tolerance for diversity; now, after a twelve day campaign and a record turnout, Khatami won a landslide victory with 70 percent of the vote.
The smiling mullah appeared to espouse the same things as George W. Bush and Tony Blair ten years later advocated for Iraq (and Iran): “democracy and the rule of law.” By this he meant more freedom and less interference by the mullahs in the Islamic people’s lives. “Voting for Khatami was like falling in love,” a political scientist at Teheran University told Robin Wright of the New York Times.1
In his inaugural address to the Majlis, the new president said:
An Islamic government must be one that considers itself to
be the servant of the people, not their master. A govern-
ment’s authority is not realized by coercion or
arbitrariness, but by legal acts, by respect for right and
encouraging people’s participation in decision making.
People must believe that they have the right to determine
their own destiny and that there are limits to government.