To End IRI Needs Ending Islamism in Iran and Beyond
Most Iranians know that we want a democratic secular republic but one cannot remove IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) and replace it with a secular state without ending Islamism in Iran?
To clarify what I am noting, let's remember the situation in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Block. Was it possible to remove the Soviet Republic and replace it with a democratic secular republic *without* ending Communism? My response is *No*. We know Czechs first tried to reform Communism in 1968 and they failed, and when the time came for the Eastern Europe and Soviet Union in the 90's, the pro-Democracy movement was very clear that it was heading for *ending* Communism and *not* reforming Communism, replacing it with so-called "Communism with human face" or the like.
Let me explain my point a bit further. Both 1968 Spring of Prague and the movement of the 90's were *reformist* movements but the major difference between the two was the fact that the latter was for *ending Communism*, whereas the former' s sense of "reforming" the republic meant *reforming Communism*. Although those like Alexander Dubchek were still present in the 90's, but the likes of Vaclav Havel who were the movers of the 90's, did not think of reforming the republic as reforming Communism, and for them, in contrast, reforming the republic meant *ending* Communism.
The above is a very important point, especially when looking at Iran news and what is happening in Iran when instead of "Communism with Human Face" we have heard of "Islamic Democracy". In other words, there are those headed by mellimazhabis who have thought all these years that reforming the republic means *reforming* Islamism, whereas for most secularists, reforming the republic has meant *ending* Islamism.
A true reformism in Iran has been misunderstood by various forces that have claimed to usher in the so-called Islamic Democracy oxymoron, which has proved over and over again to be a dangerous mirage, which only prolongs the life of IRI by saving it at critical moments that it could fall.
From the first days of 1979 Revolution, Mohandes Bazargan and his government were to create such an illusion of Islamic democracy, when in reality the Khalkhalis were running the show. Bazargan's party, Nehzate Azadi, basically split from Jebhe Melli on the issue of supporting Islamism, decades before the revolution. Most members and even leaders of Jebhe Melli were practicing Muslims, so definitely the separation of Nehzate Azadi leaders, such as Mohandes Bazargan, was not because of not being allowed to practice their religion as a *private* matter. But they separated because they wanted their religion to be a *public* matter in their new political organization. In the years after the Revolution, they advocated reforming Islamism, when seeing that the Frankenstein monster of Islamic Republic, that they were instrumental to create, was taken over by the powerful mollahs who speak for Islam.
Later on, Rafsanjani played with the idea of "reformism", as reforming Islamism, and attracted a lot of Iranian intellectuals, when the appalling end of Iraq War had made it very hard for IRI to continue its rule. And after him, Khatami showed the ultimate of this so-called reformism, when he had Khalkhali sit on his side, claiming to be a reformist. For them, reformism means reforming Islamism of *the moment*, and at the time, even Khalkhali was not happy with the Islamism of Khamene'i and Rafsanjani.
Today, the last bastions of "reformism", as reforming Islamism, are the mellimazhabi forces. And as usual whenever they get a few concessions from the so-called hardliner rulers, they will forget about their reformist claims. The Iranian secular forces should be very clear as to what we want. Although we mostly want transformation of Iran in a reformist development, than in a revolutionary development, or thru a U.S. invasion., nonetheless, for us reformism does *not* mean reforming Islamism. We should be unambiguous that for us reforming the republic, to a secular republic, means complete *ending* of Islamism.
So even the most radical Islamist solution for reforming Islam, which is offered by the likes of Aghajari, as Islamic semi-Protestantism, is of no interest, and in fact, we should find such development as more of a distraction for secularism, than having any benefits for Iran's pro-Democracy movement, with more religion in politics, and even the possibility of religious war and a Baathi-Islamist state..
Let me clarify more about religion as a private matter. George Bush, the U.S. president is more religious than many of the mellimazhabis of Iran. But the difference is that he is the head of a party which has a political platform and not a religious one. In contrast, one belonging to a mellimazhabi (Islamist) party, has the obligation to Islam, which requires a state to stone adulterers (according to some Ayatollahs) and requires to throw homosexuals from a cliff, and requires to rape virgin girls before execution, and allows fatwa killing of morteds, etc.
Ending Islamism means that one can have any religion, but when participating in the state, or running for office, they cannot be a functionary of a religious organization, and their ideas on relevant issues will be questioned by their constituency. For example on topics of abortion, stoning, fatwa killing, etc. But if Islamism still continues and various Islamist parties run the show in Iran, as we see in Iran news today, they will make sure such separation of state and religion will not even get formed, let alone to judge them on that basis will be out of question, when they are running for office in judiciary, executive or legislative branches of the state.
In short, ending Islamism is inseparable from ending IRI and those who still raise the poster of Shariati in the students' demonstrations, thinking that they are trying to avoid isolating the masses, are doing a disservice to Iranian people. We need to tell the truth about the disservice of Shariati's mixing of religion and politics. Yes, mixing Safavid Shi'a with politics, was as bad as mixing the Alavi Shi'a with politics, that Shariati advocated. This is the time to put an end to Islamism in Iran, as we may not get another chance to do this long overdue work, and a democratic facade of mellimazhabis should not fool us.
Let's not be afraid to throw them to the IRI hardliners. If that is a possibility, they will go for it regardless of what secular forces do, but we should show them that being in politics means that they can be Muslims as a *private* matter, and if they really believe in democracy, the first step is to put an end to this oxymoron religious political party concept that started with Nehzate Azadi. Yes, the mellimazhabis and Nezzate Azadi, if sincere, should be the first to announce that an Islamist party was a wrong thing to do in the first place, which is why we are here today, and they should become a secular party, and help to end Islamism in Iran for good.
Religion should be just a private matter and Iran and Iranians have suffered enough from the mixture of Islamism in all its forms, from Khomeini to Nehzate Azadi to MojAhedin. The only way to reform the republic in Iran is by *ending* Islamism and *not* by reforming Islamism.
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher/Editor
IRANSCOPE Portal Iranian Site of Iran News and Iranian Culture
July 25, 2003