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That, Iranians may be. But such gentleness should not lead Western visitors to think support for the values of the Islamic revolution has run its course. Every day the Mahestan shopping mall just off Revolution Street fills with students from the nearby universities. The mall is popular with Basijis--the young volunteers who fill the ranks of government-sponsored demonstrations. When they grow up, they join the government and the Revolutionary Guards corps. The Mahestan mall sells mostly religious paraphernalia--Koranic software, recordings of religious chants, speeches from modern Islamic heroes like Khomeini, Ahmadinejad and Lebanese Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah--that constitute a kind of state-sponsored Islamic pop culture. Such a culture sustains the Basij movement, which is itself part of the way the government tries to channel a generation that grew up with no memory of the Shah into continued support for the revolution. "Basij is not an organization only--it's a spirit," says Mariam Saemi, 22, a student at Tehran University. "The purpose is to fight against oppression everywhere in the world. The reason we are against Zionism is that the Zionist regime oppresses people in Palestine, innocent kids and defenseless women. We will continue until we completely remove oppression."
Washington, take note.