There has been an air of excitement in the Ummah since the presidential elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The older generation of Imam Khomeini’s friends and followers, this writer included, are uplifted by the fact that “one of us” – a Revolutionary – has become the president of an Islamic state that was, during the incumbency of the last two presidents, losing its Islamic character while promoting its nationalist and sectarian inclinations. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from what we know, is closer to a muhibbi-Imam than any of the others who were on the ballot. That is not to deprecate the other candidates who no doubt also count themselves as followers of the Imam; but what distinguishes our brother Ahmadinejad is his lifestyle, his down-to-earth demeanor, and his record of selflessness, from the tumult at the jebhat (the war-front) to the turmoil of Tehran’s traffic. This is a brother who has been in the service of the people as a corollary to his service to Allah (swt). Our hearts beat with his and we can only offer whatever is in our capacity to see to it that he remains undaunted in what is going to be a massive task to put the engine-of-state back into its revolutionary gear.
We do not want to be overly pessimistic about what lies ahead. Diagnosing some of our internal illnesses does not mean that we are bound to succumb to their pathology. But unfortunately there are even enemies of Allah in the Prophet’s mantle. That is to say that there is a religious class of ‘pious Muslims’ in Iran, and among supposed supporters of Iran outside the country, who are anxious to dismantle the Islamic state; they are relying on the hawzah and biding their time. These are the “Shi’i-first” sectarians who present themselves as followers of Imam Khomeini (ra) while spreading sectarian venom in private meetings and oozing sectarian grudges in public. They come from a tradition of hate such that if they hated zionists as much as they hate “Sunnis”, Palestine would have been liberated long ago. They function under deep hawzah cover, and their reach is so long that many people confuse them with the true followers of Imam Khomeini. These types of sectarians had to come up for air the year Imam Khomeini, may he rest in heavenly company, passed away. They hinted at their bitter and deep-seated hatred for “Sunnis” and everything that defines “Sunnis.” Since then, they have been busy around the world, emphasising the ‘contradictions’ between “Shi’is” and “Sunnis.” Many of these types found their way into Iran’s foreign ministry, and no small number of them have become “cultural attaches”, or found work in non-governmental Iranian institutions. As a result, relations have chilled between the masses of “Sunnis” and the masses of “Shi’is” from North America to South Africa and from minority-Muslim communities to majority-Muslim countries. Meanwhile,Iran’s official ship of state has been sailing in the company of governments such as those of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other members of the Organization of Islamic Conference. Between them, sectarian religiosity and secular diplomacy have placed the Islamic State of Iran in dangerous international currents.
We will not go as far as to say that some officials who are responsible for this outcome should be charged for any crime, but we will say that these types of diplomats and scholars should be rooted out of the institutions of an Islamic state whose Islamic character is now widely questioned. The “tag-along” revolutionaries of 25 years ago, who took their children to anti-Israel, anti-America, and anti-Saudi demonstrations and marches, are today exchanging jokes and laughter with their new-found Saudi colleagues. These “brothers”, who belong to the same age-bracket as President Ahmadinejad, are trying to open up back-channels with US and zionist officials through their “Shi’i” contacts. Some of these brothers look at brother Ahmadinejad and see themselves as they were twenty-five years ago, and they do not like what they see. This is partly because they do not like who they were 25 years ago, but sometimes also because they are aware of the change in themselves and do not like what they have become. It is because of this personal conflict in themselves that they did not vote for him. Those unofficial officials of the Islamic State who send their wives to the United States to give birth so that their sons and daughters can become American citizens can hardly bear to see the proof that their fall from grace was not unavoidable. These are the sorts who, put in control of funds and finances, see to it that none of this “bayt al-mal” money goes to building bridges with other Muslims and the mustad’afin. A lot of dirt has accumulated in the cogs of the Islamic State’s institutions; someone has to be willing and able to clean up the mess.
While the diplomats and the divines were doing a hatchet-job on public relations with the mustad’afin and the muslimeen, they were perfecting their PR skills in public meetings with European officials and private ones with Americans. The result was that Iranian diplomats and officials developed a diplomatic character while losing their revolutionary soul. What can be said about the members of a diplomatic corps that has been beating the path of a “dialogue of civilizations” while being utterly incapable of a dialogue on nuclear technology? The nuclear scientists of the Islamic state have come a long way in developing nuclear power for national defense, and the erstwhile foreign minister and his colleagues are not capable of conducting a foreign policy that can preserve this scientific achievement.
The challenge facing the new President of the Islamic State is to tap on the sincerity and solidarity of all parts of the global Islamic movement, and associate Islamic Iran not with the oppressive governments of pro-Western Muslim nation-states, but with the struggle of oppressed peoples around the world. This is the only way that Iran can put itself back on the course determined by its people over a quarter of a century ago. The fact that the Imam (rahbar), the majlis (parliament), and the president are all of the same political trend in Iran should make the challenge easier. But no one should underestimate the weight of the deep-rooted religious prejudices and the well-entrenched secular connections that continue to try to undermine the only sincere effort at establishing an Islamic state in the world today.
The Islamic Uprising in Iran a quarter of a century ago is too important and too special for Muslims to simply watch it wander from its original and true course. We remember all too clearly the impact this breakthrough had on Muslims everywhere. For the first time in modern history, Muslims had risen against a corrupt government and its imperialist and zionist sponsors, and were able to take control of their own country, and begin to show the rest of us how things should be done.
Of course, the road forward was not likely to be smooth. The sponsors of the Pahlavi regime could not be expected to sit and watch a people shape their own future on the basis of their Islamic faith and commitment. Throughout the last 25 years, America and Israel have been working to bring the Islamic government in Iran to its knees, with the support of their Western allies, Iran’s pro-Western neighbours and even supporters within Iran. Iran’s borders amount to some 8,000 kilometers; American troops are now based across six thousand kilometers of this border. This grim scenario has been gradually built over 25 years, and has passed almost unnoticed by most Muslims, and even most Iranians. There has never been any cessation of hostilities between the followers of the line of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), who refuse to compromise when it comes to the independence and sovereignty of the Islamic state, and the numerous other interests wanting to shape the state on their terms.
Part of our object in this new column is to look at some of the gaps that have developed since the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), many of which are rooted in earlier events, and how these gaps have caused serious problems about which we can no longer remain silent. But before we walk into this sensitive area, one point needs to be made absolutely clear. This is that none of the points we make are intended to express any criticism of Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the successor to Imam Khomeini (r.a.) as Rahbar of the Islamic State. Many of the points we make will be highlighting natural processes in the evolution of post-Revolutionary state and society. Others will indeed involve criticism of errors and failures in Iran, mainly on the part of those who have been responsible for aspects of Iranian government and policy at the executive level. It was inevitable that such errors and failures should emerge over a quarter of a century in an unprecedented and highly-pressured historical situation; unfortunately they have contributed greatly to what many now see as the Islamic experiment’s current stagnation.
Sometimes frank statements of truth can be bitter pills to swallow; we hope no-one will consider this column to be too bitter a pill. We say what we say only to express our honest understanding of the issues. If we are correct, we appeal earnestly to Allah to accept our humble words to our humble readers. If not, we request Allah’s forgiveness and correction from anyone able to do so; without, we hope, descending into personal issues or hidden agendas. Ameen.