The answer to the extremism prevalent in Muslim communities around the world will not come from any allegedly “enlightened” or “moderate” set of religious scholars, but from the average Muslims’ changing attitude towards religiosity. Historical precedents have indeed shown that the religious establishment has often to play catchup with the people in this matter. In the meantime, however, establishment figures, motivated by a variety of ideological and parochial considerations, will often lead the fight against modernization using the pulpits and whatever social, economic and political institutions under their control.
Iran will never give up its nuclear program. To them, having nuclear capabilities and a few warheads and missiles on the side is meant tom inoculate them against foreign dabbling. Iranian officials believe that, unlike Saudi Arabia whose breakup will come largely due to mismanagement on part of the ruling establishment, the only way the Iranian establishment they could face serious domestic troubles will come as a result of clandestine activities supported by Western governments. Having nuclear weapons will prevent that possibility, so they think, even as American drones and intelligence operations are busy destabilizing Pakistan, which has long been a nuclear power.
Much has been written over the last few days about the anti-Islam rant of Bill Maher and Reza Aslan response to them. See here, here and here. Personally, I think that the approaches adopted by both sides are rather problematic. This is why.
Dictators can often get way and for long time with treating their people like subhuman entities; so long as they can provide the basics, their people, for a variety of reasons, might tolerate their oppressive ways. But when they cannot even provide that, those hurting will begin to fight back, to reject, and they can bring the house down in time, no matter how violent the crackdown against them is.
The competition that America and Western Europe are facing on a global level from Russia and China, and the local level from a host of countries including Iran, India, Korea, Brazil, etc., is not meant to change the nature of the game, that is, the game of power projection through military and economic might, including operating viable nuclear programs, exercising control over energy sources and routes, involvement in arms production and sales, and engaging in imperialist actions under different guises and while offering all different sorts of justifications.