Islamism & Freedom of Thought



In the last 24 years of IRI, some Iranian pro-Democracy activists abroad, who were also activists for democracy in Iran in the years of Shah's regime before 1979,  noticed that there is something different in mobilizing forces to support Iranian people's democratic movement.  It seemed like part of the democratic and progressive opinion leaders were supporting Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), rather than opposing it.  What is commonly referred to as IRI lobbyists is a wide spectrum of groups and individuals, who in one way or another have been treating IRI as an underdog.


The work of a pro human rights organization called MEHR, and how most of the Iranian press sites censor the news of MEHR's activity for creating a pro-human rights Iranian voting block in the U.S., shows it more and more that the influence of the IRI lobbyists is not something accidental. 


One may ask, how is it possible that many democratic-minded and progressive thinkers support a reactionary regime like IRI and are even unaware of their political stand, even thinking they are apolitical? 


Well, there is a precedence in recent history, and that is the unpaid supporters of Communism and Soviet Union in the U.S.  Even decades after Stalin's purges and half a century after the dictatorship in Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe, there were many intellectuals ranging from journalists and university professors to movie directors and concert conductors, who would show Soviet movies, stories and other propaganda, as progressive alternative to the West, and anybody who opposed any of it, was labeled by them as imperialist and Zionist, and they called the opposite views as US propaganda.


Islamism and IRI is a similar phenomena.  This is why the Iranian democratic movement abroad has been basically paralyzed in its opposition against IRI.  I think in a way, the plight of real anti-IRI Iranians abroad, is similar to what some progressive Russians like Solzhenitsyn faced, when they fundamentally opposed Communism, and they were labeled by progressive forces of the West as reactionary anti-Communist for a long time, and only Russians with a sympathy for different flavors of Soviet Communism were considered as friends by the democratic and progressive forces of the West.


In fact, the pro-Democracy Russians inside Russia did not count much on what happened abroad and were very clear in their desire for a Western alternative to the Soviet Union and did not allow the progressive movement of the West to define their platform or else they would end up with something like New Left, a reform in Communism, rather than a real alternative to Communism..


I think the situation of Iranians is very similar.  Most of the Iranian people inside Iran oppose the IRI and want a Western-style alternative to IRI.  They can care less for the legal opposition of IRI, which is the IRI reformists and some of the leftists.  The IRI reformists are the fascination of those Iranians abroad who are like the past Soviet supporters, mostly due to a wrong theory of Cultural Relativism in their analysis of IRI.


It is actually amazing that the Iranian democratic and progressive opposition abroad is trying to get a Nobel Prize for Hashem Aghajari, although they know that even at the time of death edict against Aghajari, he had an interview in Dec 2002, where he still supported Khomeini's legacy; and at the same, his organization OMIR, supported the Khomeini's death fatwa against Rushdie. 


Actually many of these democratic and progressive forces abroad did not condemn Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie, even being abroad.  It was because of the same reason of cultural relativism which made IRI look progressive in their eyes.  The same way recently some leftists supported Saddam, and the past intellectuals indirectly supported Soviet Union. 

I am very sad when looking at the state of Iranian democratic and progressive movement abroad. It seems to me that our movement even after 24 years of IRI, still does not care for freedom of thought.  A few days ago I had a discussion with a friend of many years who justified the censorship of a paper, and was accusing me for fighting them about censoring articles, when he knew well they had censored an article because it was strong wording against IRI reformists, even though they publish abroad.


They are now supporting the candidacy of Aghajari for Nobel peace prize.  It is just sad to see our democratic and progressive forces to justify the curtailment of freedom of thought and support a person who interviews together with his organization that still announces curtailing Salman Rushdie's freedom of thought and legitimizing death fatwa for him for his thoughts, while even when Aghajari had gotten a death sentence to curtail his own views of Islam.  Aghajari is like Bukharin of the Islamists who justified the cruelty of Communism while thinking his own case was an error and not the rule of Communism. 


It is regretful that people who are our democratic opposition still make decisions about freedom of thought or about censorship based on political considerations.  This is what many liberal Islamists did about IRI at the time of the IRI Cultural Revolution and regretted their error years later when the stick hit them too.

Freedom of thought, freedom of expression, condemnation of censorship and standing up for all similar rights rather than accusing the victims, and working to have these rights recognized by all who care for democracy, is the most critical need of Iran and Iranians.  Salman Rushdie was the first victim with clear deah fatwa by IRI leader Khomeini for his thoughts, and if Iranians had stood up in his case, we would not have had murder of Forouhars and others.  Killing for one's thoughts is wrong no matter what the individual's thoughts are.

If one justifies censorship by whatever justification, it means they have not understood what this grave error has done to our society for 24 years and still counting.  The same thing that happened in Chinese Cultural Revolution and Khomeini's Cultural Revolution is being repeated by these groups in a different way.

There is no good censorship. There is no killing of freedom of thought for good cause. Mao's Cultural Revolution and Khomeini's Cultural Revolution are condemned and those who supported these movements to kill free thinking made a grave error even if they did it for "good" cause.

daro divAre beham rikhtashAn bar saram mishekanad*

Their wrecked doors and walls is breaking on my head..
(A poem by Nima Youshij after the 1953 CIA coup observing the broken toodeh party that had

wasted 12 years of semi-democracy in Iran and all it had left behind was broken-down people and



Sam Ghandchi, Publisher/Editor
Oct 10, 2003






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