Is the West’s war on Islam -- and the Islamic movement in particular -- now reaching a significant new level? That is certainly one conclusion that might be drawn from the intensification of its political, diplomatic and propaganda war on the Islamic State of Iran in recent months. The West has, of course, been at war with Islamic political activism for most of recent history. The Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1978-79, and the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, have perhaps been the flashpoints for the most intense phases of this war. Yet throughout the period since 2001, while the US has unleashed its military might on Iraq and Afghanistan, and launched a witch-hunt against sympathisers and activists of the Islamic movement around the world, Iran has been an island of relative calm in the midst of the storm. One reason for this has been the fact that Iranians are predominantly Shi’a, which makes it difficult to tar them with the al-Qa’ida brush, although allegations of links between Iran and al-Qa’ida have occasionally been made.
Many Islamic movement commentators have long suspected, however, that Islamic Iran is in fact the US’s main long-term target, and that everything else that has occurred in recent years is, in the bigger picture, no more than a precursor for the main act in the drama. That is not to disparage the struggles and sacrifices of so many brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world -- often in far more difficult circumstances than those facing Islamic Iran -- but merely to recognise the broader picture of contemporary history. The fact is that the Islamic movement in Iran achieved in 1978-79 what Islamic movements elsewhere can only dream of for the time being, and that Iran is today the only truly independent Muslim state in the world, and the only Muslim society whose people control their own destiny rather than being subject to the hegemony and influence of the world’s Western powers. This situation is intolerable for the West, not least because it disproves the Western claim that it is impossible to be successful in the modern world without accepting Western hegemony.
Since 1978-79, the powers in Washington and other Western capitals have known that Islamic Iran cannot be allowed to survive. Their attacks on Iran have followed multiple strategies, often simultaneously, from their sponsorship of Saddam Hussain’s war again Iran in the 1980s and their subtle support for anti-Shi’i sectarianism in the Ummah, to their support for the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MKO) terrorist group and their encouragement of various political groups within Iran, which they hoped would be anti-revolutionary in effect if not intent. Some of the directions in which Iranian society has evolved during this period have raised worries among supporters of the Revolution that Western strategies may be working, and Iran may be drifting from the ideals of the Revolution. The election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as president last year, albeit in a very tight contest, both allayed some of those fears and dashed any hopes the West had that Iran would slip quietly back into line. The current intensification of the West’s attacks on Iran, on the pretexts of its nuclear programme, its support for the Muslims of Iraq, and its support for the people of Palestine, is a response to Ahmedinejad’s election, within the framework of a longer-term strategy for destroying the Islamic state.
One feature of the last two decades has been an element of disillusion with Iran in the Islamic movement. This has been caused partly by unreasonable expectations in the first place, and has also been influenced by Western propaganda against Iran, sectarian tendencies within the Ummah, the rise of the salafi/jihadi trend within the movement, and --by no means least -- mistakes that Iran has made in its own policies and its dealings with other Islamic movements. Many of the grounds for this disillusion were entirely understandable; it is often said thatIran has become just another modern Muslim nation-state, dealing with the West and pursuing selfish and pragmatic policies rather than principled ones.
This, however, is unfair and unduly harsh. What many activists fail to recognise is that none of these factors justify a total rejection of Iran. The fact that Iran remains a unique experiment with establishing an Islamic polity and society in the modern world is confirmed both by the West’s enmity to it, and -- more positively -- by its principled position on Palestine. It is true that in some areas of concern to the movement, Iran has taken a pragmatic view based on the need to maintain good relations with other countries, particularly those seen as providing counterpoints to the West. Its relations with Russia, despite Russia’s crimes in Chechnya, and India, despite India’s occupation of Kashmir and persecution of Indian Muslims, are examples that Crescent has highlighted before. Under the circumstances, such pragmatism may be regarded as understandable, if regrettable. Iran’s position vis-a-vis the zionistoccupation of Palestine and the state of Israel, however, has never been less than crystal clear.
Imam Khomeini’s understanding of Israel as a racist and imperialist creation in the very heart of the Muslim world -- as opposed to on its frontiers, as in the cases of Chechnya and Kashmir -- has been firmly maintained throughout the last 27 years, even as Arab Muslim states, and even some Palestinians, have been seduced by talk of peace processes and two-state solutions. It is not political pragmatism but Islamic principle that has made Iran the leading supporter of Hamas today, at a time when Hamas is under intense pressure to change its stance after its victory in Palestine’s elections. It has not gone unnoticed in Palestine that Iran, an Islamic but non-Arab state, has far outdone Arab countries since the elections in supporting Hamas and Palestine. The conference on al-Quds and the Rights of the Palestinian People held in Tehran last month (April 14-16), hosted and chaired by Gholamali Haddadadel, the speaker of the Majlis, and addressed by the Rahbar, president Ahmedinejad, and foreign minister Manoushehr Mottaki, among others, was merely the latest expression of the Islamic state’s total commitment to the Palestinian cause and the liberation of al-Quds, despite the fact that that is the one cause on which pragmatism would most serve Iran’s political interests. This is a reality recognised by Hamas leaders and other Palestinians at the conference, despite the fact that Palestinian Muslims are predominantly Sunni and have been subjected to intense sectarian propaganda against Shi’is and Iran.
Iran’s understanding of the broader historical picture regarding the Palestine issue, and their principled position on the issue, and the Palestinians’ understanding of the nature of Islamic Iran, despite the pressures on them, should be lessons for all Muslims the world over in how we regard the Islamic State of Iran. Islamic Iran’s position on Palestine confirms that it is indeed the leading edge of the contemporary Islamic movement, and that its leaders have nothing whatsoever in common with the self-serving governments and elites of the Muslim nation-states. Now, more than ever, the Ummah needs to recognise this reality and stand with Islamic Iran, as Iran is standing with the Muslims of Palestine. The consequences, should we fail to do this for ourselves and Revolutionary Iran, do not bear thinking about.