Cultural Relativists Misrepresent Iran Situation


Everyday I see a new article by so-called Iran experts justifying IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran).  They write in the Western press claiming that religious democracy is what the Iranians want and they call  this oxymoron as the so-called incorporating the "cultural and religious identities" of countries like Iran. 


Amazingly I see more such articles published in papers like New York Times, where the authors claim the Israel's democracy to be a model of such "religious democracy".  I do not want to discuss Israel's democracy and whether it is similar to this so-called Islamic democracy of Khatami, but it is ironic that the authors of same views, when I previously called Israel a democracy, called me by labels like Zionist, while they try to justify IRI as a religious democracy, using Israel as a model!


These authors claim that Iranians want religious democracy and not a secular democracy, and they go around the world to use Israel as a model of such thing in the Middle East.  They try to give the reality of the stronger visibility of government reformists like Jebhe Mosharekat in Iran, in comparison to secular forces like Jebhe Melli and Jebhe Demokratik, to prove their point.  But they masterfully neglect the reality that the secular forces have been suppressed for 24 years in Iran, while the various religious forces including the religious reformists ranging from Jebhe Mosharekt to sAzmAne EnghelAbe EslAmi of Aghajari , which are government reformist forces, have been free and are part of the IRI executive, judicial and legislative branches of government.  Even Nehzate Azadi and mellimazhabis that are outside of government have had more freedom than their secular counterparts like Jebhe Melli and Jebhe Demokratik.


Thus seeing the cover of religious democracy by forces that are not state-sponsored "reformists" is more a way to challenge the system using its own means, than being a desire of Iranian people based on some so-called Iranian cultural values which the cultural relativists claim.  There is a very interesting old article by Mary Midgley which best describes the fallacy of the viewpoint of Cultural Relativists, the paper is entitled Trying Out One's New Sword (please make sure to scroll down if you access that paper). 


In short cultural relativists have a low opinion of other cultures, although they show their position as if it is out of respect for other cultures.  Otherwise one following their logic could claim that the U.S. also should still have the British throne because culturally it is not much different from Canada, or the Russians should have modified Communism or Tzarism rather than going for a Western-styled secular republic, etc. 


One may wonder how could these authors, who are mostly university professors, miss all these obvious realities in Eastern or Western Europe, and still use such historical arguments to keep the third world countries like Iran, from moving forward to become an advanced secular republic, and keep justifying all the theocracy and despotism as anti-imperialism or as defending the indigenous culture.  Actually the real reason is that some of these people have been contaminated by the cultural relativist intellectual virus which is best shown in the above article about trying out one's new sword that I noted above.  Others are in reality the apologists of IRI and Islamism, and use cultural relativist arguments to legitimize their support of IRI as an anti-aggression political stand.


It is noteworthy that even many of the leftists who live inside Iran take very strong issue with the cultural relativism in no uncertain terms.  They clearly write what cultural relativism means in practice, and say over and over again that the Iranians want a secular republic, even being under the danger of IRI toture and murder.  It is a shame that those who are benefiting from IRI abroad, or those who are simply misguided intellectuals, are misrepresenting the aspirations of Iranian people abroad, using their flawed anthropological views that border on racism when viewing other cultures as incapable for secular democracy.


Iranian history has had less religion in it even compared to many successful secular republics of the world today and using religion as a justification to dismiss the pro-Democracy movement of Iran for a secular republic, is just a misrepresentation helping the Islamists and Islamism who have tried for 24 years with deceit and murder, in the 21st Century, to push a Medieval theocracy on Iranian people.  IRI for 24 years has exercised ruthless theocracy and violations of human rights inside Iran and terrorism outside Iran killing dissidents, while playing underdog abroad in diplomatic circles.  To name a few, one can mention the heinous murders of the Bakhtiar in Paris, Forouhars in Tehran and death threats to Salman Rushdie and even the killing of Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi just a few weeks ago. 


IRI has not allowed any non-Islamic party or group to exist or participate in the political life of Iran. I have written at length about some of the US policy confusions when some US officials call IRI as a democracy.  Let me just note here that Shi'a Islamism is trying to do the same in Iraq using freedom to kill freedom and the change of Iran to a secular republic can also help Iraq saving itself 24 years of what Iranians have suffered under Shi'a Islamism. Cultural relativists keep misrepresenting all these realities of Islamism and IRI depicting a rosy picture of IRI abroad, when none of them is willing to live in Iran under the rule of Islamists.  There was an interesting article by Shahla Azizi, an Iranian leftist inside Iran, who had published clandestinely at the time of Iraq War, and she also had noted the error of cultural relativism at the time of Iraq War.


Hoping for a Futurist,  Federal, Democratic, and Secular Republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi, Publisher/Editor
IRANSCOPE Portal Iranian Site of Iran News and Iranian Culture
July 29, 2003




1. Cultural Relativist/IRI Lobbyist related articles:


2. My other articles and online book:
















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