As Neda Soltan lay dying in the streets of Tehran last week, my mind turned to the memory of Jane McCrea, the young woman whose death is credited by some historians with helping the Americans defeat the British at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. Having been killed and scalped by British-allied Indian scouts in upstate New York just before one of history's most significant battles, McCrea became something of a frontier martyr and symbol of freedom. Her death served as a rallying cry for freedom among the American revolutionaries. We can only hope that the tragic death of Neda Soltan will similarly inspire those seeking regime change in Iran.
Neda Soltan, 26, had the misfortune to step out of a car as the government forces in Tehran worked to regain control of the streets and to squelch dissent in the people of Iran. In doing so, Neda was shot down, and died in the arms of a friend as a nearby colleague captured the images on video for all the world to see. Within hours, her death became a galvanizing image to display the oppression of the theocracy of Iran. She instantly, like the twenty-five year old Jane McCrea more than 200 years before her, became the defining image of young protesters demanding freedom. Now known as the Angel of Freedom, Neda is the international symbol of Iranian resistance. However, the challenges Iranian revolutionaries face will be even greater than those faced in our own Revolution.
Too few Americans understand that Islam has no category for what Americans usually call “separation of church and state.” Efraim Karsh has rightly noted the fusion of temporal authority and religious authority in the Islamic world view. The two categories are collapsed into one and have been since Islam's inception. Mohammed founded his own state and empire. He did not need to create a church. Islam is political in its very nature, not by accident but by design. The measure of whether a state is truly Muslim is the degree to which sharia law prevails.