Sunday, August 10, 2003

When the grandson of the father of Islamic revolution asks a superpower to invade his country, you know that--how do I put this--things are seriously fucked up. And that's why Thomas Friedman interviewed Sayyid Hussein Khomeini (father of guess who), who fled to Iraq in protest of the political situation in Iran. I don't like him using the term 'liberal Muslim.' You hear 'radical Muslim' 10 out of 10 times and you never hear 'liberal Muslim'. Call them true Muslims, devout and true believers even if it makes you opinionated. This is not political correctness, this is the truth.

To the point. Religion and totalitarianism. It doesn't go together: the ayatollahs of Shiite Islam, the Wahabis of Saudi Arabia and the Talibans of al-Qaeda stand for the same thing: religious totalitarianism. For them, there's no difference between state and religion.

For example, Khatami is using Islam as a poltical cover. He has promised great reforms, but has delivered little to nothing. In Islam, the ruler or the caliph works to best of his capacity. The Quran says, "The believers are told to follow God, the Prophet and the ruler above them." In this injunction, it is implied that the ruler has to follow God and the prophet. If the ruler does not follow God and the prophet, the people are not obliged to follow the ruler. In fact, if he is oppressing people, which is against Islam, the people have an obligation to stand up to this ruler even if he is a Muslim. This is from the saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to stand up to a tyrant and speak a word of truth as one of the best forms of jihad.

There are those who call for secularism in Iran. Is that against Islam? I think not. Rationalism, secularism, democracy, and human rights together within Islamic society has never been tried and therefor we don't know whether it's possible. Islam is applicable in all places in all times. The problem is: Which Islam? Is it the anachronistic legalism of a scholarly tradition which declared the "door of individual interpretation" closed a millennium ago, the ethereal Islam of the mystics, or perhaps Islamic modernism, "fundamentalism," liberalism, conservatism or traditionalism? Proclaiming, as many contemporary Islamist groups do, that "Islam is the solution!" is really no solution at all. Slogans don't repay foreign debts, build housing and infrastructure, feed the hungry, spark investment, regulate societies or solve foreign policy disputes. The problem of Muslim decline, seized upon by the secularists with such alacrity, is a real dilemma that must be addressed. The answers, unfortunately, are not ready-made.

Iraq will soon tell. (Afghanistan is an Islamic state but I can't judge when the state only includes Kabul.) Shiite cleric, Sayyid Iyad Jamaleddine comments on religion and state:

"We want a secular constitution. That is the most important point. If we write a secular constitution and separate religion from state, that would be the end of despotism and it would liberate religion as well as the human being. . . . The Islamic religion has been hijacked for 14 centuries by the hands of the state. The state dominated religion, not the other way around. It used religion for its own ends. Tyrants ruled this nation for 14 centuries and they covered their tyranny with the cloak of religion. . . . When I called for secularism in Nasiriya (in the first postwar gathering of Iraqi leaders), they started saying things against me. But last week I had some calls from Qum, thanking me for presenting this thesis and saying, `We understand what you are calling for, but we cannot say so publicly.'

"Secularism is not blasphemy. I am a Muslim. I am devoted to my religion. I want to get it back from the state and that is why I want a secular state. . . . When young people come to religion, not because the state orders them to but because they feel it themselves in their hearts, it actually increases religious devotion. . . . The problem of the Middle East cannot be solved unless all the states in the area become secular. . . . I call for opening the door for Ijtihad [reinterpretation of the Koran in light of changing circumstances]. The Koran is a book to be interpreted [by] each age. Each epoch should not be tied to interpretations from 1,000 years ago. We should be open to interpretations based on new and changing times."


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