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There are two critical lines that were crossed yesterday. The first was widespread savagery and violence by the junta on the day of Ashura. This breaks a profound taboo, violates the integrity and core meaning of the religious festival, and places the regime symbolically as the enemy of Shia Islam. This has offended not just the urban elites but the pious poor and rural population. Unrest was all over the country yesterday:

The decision by the authorities to use deadly force on the Ashura holiday infuriated many Iranians, and some said the violence appeared to galvanize more traditional religious people who have not been part of the protests so far. Historically, Iranian rulers have honored Ashura’s prohibition of violence, even during wartime ... Protests and clashes also broke out in the cities of Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz, Arak, Tabriz, Najafabad, Babol, Ardebil and Orumieh, opposition Web sites said.

The second was the calculated assassination of Ali Mousavi, the rightful president's nephew. This creates a martyr connected to the leader of the Green Movement, and provides a cycle of more mourning and potential for unrest. That may explain the following troubling news:

A relative of Iran's opposition leader says the body of the leader's nephew has been removed from a hospital without the family's permission, a day after he was slain in an anti-government protest. Reza Mousavi said Monday that the body of his brother, Ali Mousavi, was taken from a Tehran hospital, possibly by authorities seeking to deter mourners from organizing more protests around his funeral.

With each violation of basic Muslim norms, the regime is revealing itself as a military junta, using religion purely as a means to retain power. Which is what always happens in theocracy. Total power does not feed faith; it destroys it. And then that corrupted faith wages war on its enemies.

There is more at stake here than simply one country. We are seeing the two great forces of our time - fundamentalism and freedom - fight for humanity's soul.

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