Published at Iran's View.
were a faithful and pious Muslim and if I were to take a look at the
state of the religion of Islam and Muslims today, I would be extremely
worried. And even though I am not a Muslim faithful but an Arab secular
Christian woman, I can still worry for my Muslim sisters and brothers
and the religion of Islam. This is not a selfless concern. The future of
minorities in the Middle East depends largely on the state of the
Muslim religion, which is the religion of the majority. Also, the Muslim
religion and its people are part and parcel of my cultural background,
of who I am as an Arab Christian, as much as Muslims of the Middle East
are culturally shaped by their presence as pieces in a mosaic of
religions and sects, which the region never ceased to be, until al Qaeda
and its most notorious branch, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,
ISIS, came to be.
as an Arab Christian, I was educated not on the holy Qur’an, but on the
religion of Islam and its History. I grew up seeing Islam as a religion
of conquest and enlightenment in the Arts and Sciences. I grew up
seeing Islam as a forward progressive religion. Of course, as in every
religion, I could perceive some extremism here and there, some
backwardness, but these seemed marginal, or so was my perception during
the late seventies, early eighties, until al Qaeda and its most
notorious branch, ISIS, came to be.
911, I have been asking myself: what happened to Islam? More so since
the emergence and mainstreaming of sectarian killings inside Iraq after
the 2003 US invasion and the recent mass displacements of religious
minorities by ISIS in the Middle East, the largest since the Ottoman
answer this question one must understand what happened between the late
seventies and the early eighties and how the struggles born out of
these years came to their conclusion as the iron curtain fell on the
Soviet bloc ushering in a short era of revigorated and unchallenged
American and western imperialism.
these decisive years, we witnessed an Islamic revolution in Iran that
rose against western imperialism while another Islamic movement in
Afghanistan came to be subsumed, and consumed, by the goals of western
imperialism. We also witnessed a war on Iran from the West, with Iraq as
a proxy, meant to challenge to the nascent Islamic revolution of Iran.
These events, which will lead to a profound misunderstanding inside
Islam, took place after the strong anti-imperialist sentiment in the
Middle East, in which Palestine was the main conduit, was sidelined
through a partial peace between Israel and Egypt. The Palestine struggle
was buried by partial peace and the Palestinian resistance lost the
support of most Arab states. This was going to lead to the still-born
Oslo peace process and the slow asphyxiation of the Palestinian
struggle, while Israeli settlements flourished as they continue to do
eighties end with the triumph of western imperialism. But in the Middle
East, the Islamic revolution of Iran stood in the way of this triumph,
albeit weakened and its society profoundly wounded by the Iraq war.
After the end of the Iraq-Iran war and Ayatollah’s Khomeini’s death, the
Islamic revolution of Iran had survived but the country was going to
spend the next decade rebuilding itself amid a climate of increasing
hostility, unilateral and multilateral sanctions.
Islamic revolution inspired many and in many ways in the region.
Islamist groups and Islamist movements rose in Saudi Arabia, Egypt,
Syria and Lebanon. Only few survived and those who did, like Hezbollah,
did so because they understood the spirit of the Islamic revolution of
Iran, as it stood, as an Islamist insurgency, first and foremost,
against western imperialism. Hezbollah resonated with the populations of
the Arab world because it revived the Palestinian struggle and the
struggle against western imperialism. At the same time, Hamas was born
to challenge the occupation of Palestine, based on a non-compromising
attitude toward the occupation, but with a different spirit marked by
the context of inter Palestinian rivalry heavily weighed by outside and
competing regional influences.
is why Hamas and Hezbollah, two groups moved by the same goal for many
years, find themselves today at odds because the forces that have been
pulling Muslims apart since the event of the Islamic revolution of Iran,
not only are still at work today, but they are now aided by scores of
terrorist Takfiri groups claiming to be working for Muslims and Islam.
Islamic revolution of Iran had clearly designated the anti-imperialist
struggle as the defining project of modern Islam. But the Islamic
revolution of Iran was not the only Islamic movement renewing the search
to redefine Islam in modern times. However, the Islamist groups who
came before it and most of those who were inspired by it sought a return
to an era of Islam before western imperialism to find the tools to
challenge western imperialism.
Thus, the nostalgic return to Islam
resulted in ambiguity toward the West. I am thinking here specifically
of the Muslim Brotherhood. The ambiguity is in confronting modern
western imperialism with conceptual tools that existed before this
imperialism. This is at best a flight strategy, at worst, a
legitimization of Wahhabism, the gangrene that’s been eating at the
heart of Islam. Ambiguity exists also in the fact that running away from
modernity prevents these movements from ever understanding imperialism,
replacing understanding with mystification, leaving modernity to exert a
fascination on their entire ideological conceptual apparatus without
ever being able to understand it.
is a tragic misunderstanding, by the insurgent Sunni branch of Islam,
of how to conduct the struggle for relevance against western imperialism
and renew the search to redefine Islam in modern times. Western
imperialism, in its essence, is about the superiority of science and
technology. By choosing nostalgia and pre-imperialist conceptual tools,
insurgent Sunni Islam could then only fight western technical
superiority and the way of life it implies with increased barbarism.
Hence, al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Islamic revolution of Iran, on the other side, has sought to fight
western imperialism with the elements of its alleged superiority;
technology. But contrary to other Muslim countries that had sought
nuclear technology as a way to achieve military superiority, like the
West, Iran sought nuclear technology only for civilian purposes and as a
right to achieve equal status, to oppose to western imperialism the
right to dignity. Because western imperialism sees itself as superior in
status, it refuses dignity to others, to subdued countries, and it does
so mainly through technology.
no matter how much Iran seeks nuclear energy for civilian purposes and
technological research, the West can still be suspicious of Iran’s
intentions. The recent deal concluded between Iran and the P5+1 adresses
the question of suspicion by claiming that the requirement for trust
was replaced by evidence and verification. Moreover, and away from
gauging the intentions of the Islamic republic, the West should
celebrate Iran’s quest for civil nuclear technology, under verification,
on the basis that anything else than progress, including technological
progress, will lead to barbarism. Of course, one might argue that
technological progress has its own load of barbarism. European
colonialism, and later American colonialism, in Africa, the Middle East,
Asia, and in the Americas, have many features of the barbarism we are
witnessing from groups like al Qaeda and ISIS today. But that’s the
problem with all technologies, they raise our living standards while at
the same time becoming tools of the fundamental Human condition that
aspires to God but has the instincts of a beast, so that without Ethics,
technology or not, barbarism is always lurking behind the human
condition. However, technology gives us at least the promise of lifting
us from the condition of barbarism with the hope for a better life.
renouncing, or more exactly, never wanting nuclear technology for
military purposes, despite having the tools and the know-how for nuclear
technology, the Islamic republic of Iran chose progress and Ethics over
barbarism. It chose to confront western imperialism with both western
superiority tools, technology, and its own tools taken from the moral
handbook of the Islamic revolution. This is how, Iran’s negotiators
unrelentelssly referred to Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa against developing
nuclear weapons. Recently, Iran’s president Rouhani repeated
this in a different form by affirming that Iran will never use its
technological knowledge against other countries. This is how, to calm
suspicions and ends unjust sanctions, Iran committed on July 14, 2015,
to an unprecedented list of demands and inspections, effectively halting
any potential imaginary nuclear military program. This ‘renouncement’
comes at a time when Iran is seen as a major player in a region shaken
by various threats, conflicts, warfare, displacements, ethnic cleansing,
barbarism and terrorism.
could then Iran relinquish a nuclear military program when it needs it
the most? That’s the question that was put forward recently by Vali Nasr.
His answer is that pressured at home, the Islamic republic is
relinquishing its regional standing to focus on its political survival
at home. Nasr opposed in his argument the Islamic revolution survival at
home to its regional standing.
argue here that Nasr’s argument relies on the falase western perception
of the Iran Islamic revolution and the false dichotomy between the
internal and the external context.
lot has been said about the internal pressure after the 2009 events in
Iran and the idea that these events led Iran to enter the negotiating
arena endures today. But it is based on many false assumptions and there
is plenty of evidence for this. It was the US, in the first place, who started the process of the negotiations. Concerning the 2009 events, many studies
attempted to validate the claim that the elections were stolen by
Ahmadinejad but to no avail, Ahmadinejad was the choice of Iranians in
2009 and there was no elections’ fraud as alleged by western media. The wikileaks cables
even show it was the US who was pushing the fraud narrative, contrary
to the reality on the ground. Concerning the 2009 events too, there were
many false assumptions concerning Iranian youth and how they were
against the Islamic revolution but a western study
shows that these assumptions were false and Iranians youth, in great
majority, even those who are critical of the government, have integrated
and internalized the Islamic revolution’s conservative values.
the dichtotomy between the internal and the external context, this
dichotomy can be proven false, especially in the context of ISIS, which
Nasr recognizes as a threat to Iran. In the context of ISIS, the
survival of the Islamic revolution of Iran equals the survival of Islam
in general. Because that other branch of Islam which chose barbarism
over modernity, as ISIS, its promoters and its mentors do, is taking
Muslims on a self-destructive path from which there is no going back.
Within the new context of ISIS, there will be victims to protect and
dignity to restore to all Muslims so that it is through its Islamic
revolution and particular Islamic message open to modernity,that Iran
will exert its regional influence and this cannot be done without
opening up and getting rid of years of ostracization and sanctions.
course, opening up is a risky move for the Islamic revolution of Iran,
but it is also an ideological move, it is about Islam, defending Islam
against itself by spreading a different kind of islamist message. It is
also about rightfully assuming the leadership the Islamic republic of
Iran deserves in the region and the world.
did not relinquish its regional influence, isolating its revolution
from the world to better save it by accepting a deal on its nuclear
program. On the contrary, the Islamic republic of Iran will be exerting
its influence differently and even more greatly on Muslims and the
Islamic message, simply because in the context of ISIS, the survival of
Islam will depend on the survival of the Islamic revolution of Iran, and
one might argue that the survival of the Islamic revolution of Iran
will depend on the survival of Islam as a whole as a religion well
entrenched in modernity. This is the problematic we are facing now in
the Middle East, and this is what makes reactionary rulers fear Iran.
the beginning of the Arab Spring, there was panic among reactionary
Persian Gulf rulers that the Islamic revolution of Iran model was going
to spread in the region, as this commentator noted,
so they unleashed al Qaeda and ISIS against revolutionary and
anti-imperialist political Islam as embodied by Iran. This is why, after
the nuclear deal, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif sought to address
these fears through a series of visits and diplomatic initiatives to
Arab and foreign capitals.
light of what preceded, one could argue that it is not internal
pressure that forced Iran to the negotiating table, but rather a
regional context threatening Islam as a whole that convinced the Islamic
revolution of Iran that the only way to positively affect Islam and the
region, and therefore save its core mission, was to get rid of the
imposed isolation and sanctions.
is why, in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015,
one more attack among too many perpetrated by an Islamist insurgency
gone bad, and while the only initiative the world could expect from Iran
was the initiative around the nuclear talks, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
Iran’s supreme leader, launched his own dialogue with the West on the
Muslim religion and the Islamic message. #LetterForYou
was addressed to the western youth and the world, through social media
as an attempt to explain Islam away from al Qaeda/ISIS stereotypes.
Khamenei’s letter to the western youth has deeper meaning. It is the
continuation of the Islamic republic of Iran’s policy of openness, which
complements the nuclear deal.
opening a dialogue with western youth on Islam, Khamenei’s letter seeks
to extend the respect and normalcy gained from merely negotiating as
equals with the West to all Muslims and the religion of Islam. Khamenei
explains that he chose to address youth because it is too late to
correct misconceptions about Islam among adults in West, especially when
these misconceptions have been forged also in the West.
has to save Muslims from themselves. The West is not going to do it.
The Islamic revolution of Iran has achieved resistance, survival,
dignity and respect. It is best positioned to take on the task. And this
task starts and ends with an honest conversation about Islam. This is
the deep meaning of Iran’s supreme leader letter to the western youth.
After the nuclear deal, the Islamic republic of Iran is up to counter
the message of barbarism with true knowledge in all domains, in the
domain of technology as in the domain of religion.
mission is of the utmost importance today. If you followed the nuclear
deal and you didn’t pay attention to ‘Letter for you’, then you didn’t
understand the most important thing about the deal: a dialogue of
civilizations on the basis of mutual respect and dignity against the new
barbarisms that threaten Islam.