First, Rich, I’m glad the reformation happened, ok? I do think it was, in the historical sweep of things, a move toward liberalization. Even though many, many, many protestants were not and are not liberal.
Second, I suspect one of the reasons why a “protestant” reformation could work in Iran is that they are also Persians and so they have a stronger national and ethnic identity to draw from other than the usual pan-Islamic Arab nation stuff. One can ratchet-down ones Muslim-ness and ratchet up ones Iranianness as part of a “protestant” effort to reform Iran. If things work out at all, Iran will not get a “Muslim Martin Luther” it will get an Iranian Martin Luther.
Third, the assumption that the head of an Islamic “Catholic Mosque” (as opposed to a Catholic Church, get it?) would be a fire-breathing zealot is a flawed one, I think. A central Islamic authority, respected by all Muslims, would need to be flexible and accomodating, not fire-breathing. This is ultimately the nature of large insitutions representing heterogeneous constituencies. The problem with Islam today is that fanatical murderers can make the same claims to Islamic authenticity as moderate and decent Muslims. A Catholic Mosque could not only self-police, it could be held responsible. It could give voice to moderates who are now shouted down or murdered by local thugs and cultists. Islam doesn’t need more sects — the Wahhabis are what you get with more sects. Islam needs more uniformity, more maturity, more discipline. The Soviet Union became less of a threat when its leaders realized they had a lot to lose and that their responsibilities extended beyond merely exporting revolution.
And last, if it turned out that an Islamic Pope were a real bad guy, that would be clarifying as well. Then we really could call this a religious war and deal with it on those terms.