IOPHRI - Faith: problem and solution - Meeting in the flemish parliament, Belgium on 20th of June.
The meeting was held with Ward Kennis, Member of Flemish Parliament of CD&V fraction and other members of CD&V political party and members of the International Organization to Preserve Human Rights in Iran.
Tribal tradition preexisting Islam
Before the apparition of Islam, in the Arabian Peninsula, an important quantity of ancient tribal traditions - mostly based on superstitions - were used to be believed and practiced between people of that area.
The Koran comprises a considerable number of verses in disapproval of these tribal traditions.
But even after the apparition of Islam and the revelation of the Koran, many of those superstitions rested alive and used to be practiced under the flag of Islam.
I can briefly introduce certain examples:
· Stoning to death
· Forcing women to wear the imposed veil as a religious obligation
· The circumcision of girls – during their childhood or in the moment of their birth-
· And a multitude of similar traditions - which existed before the introduction of the religion of Islam - which were abolished through the verses of the holy Koran
Hegira or historical migration
Prophet Mohammad left his native city - Mecca - to migrate to Yasreb, where he annihilated step by step the ancient tribal traditions in the frame of a new social infrastructure based on new social contracts. He changed the old name of Yasreb to Medinah - ville/ polis/ city. The word of Tamaddon - civilization - is coming from Madineh - civil society. It is important to know that the Islamic calendar does not start with the birth of Mohammad, (like in Christianity) or birth of the religion of Islam in Mecca, but by the constitution of the first civil society in the first Muslim-polis. This migration is significant, because it has been established in-between two historical points, from tribal traditions to social contracts in the frame of a civil society.
Absence of proper knowledge about Islam in the west
Unfortunately, there is any exact knowledge about the teachings of the Koran and the truth of Islam in the western societies, meanwhile the doors of the west are open to the eastern communities, by respect of democracy for the freedom of religion and opinion according to the charter of human rights. But because of the lack of accurate knowledge about Islam in the west, certain people have the possibility to import their archaic traditions into modern societies under the flag of Islam. The western people take the practice of the people who introduce themselves as Muslims for the reality of the religion of Prophet Mohammad. The majority of the political classes don’t pay attention to this fact that many of these tribal traditions are forbidden and rejected by the verses of the Koran. Some Westerners become angry towards Islam and for example burn the holy Koran thus pushing the whole Muslim community around the entire world to hate the West.
Islam and anarchism
Often, certain anarchists exploit this misunderstanding and spread hate and intolerance between the communities meanwhile hiding their real intentions behind Islamic pretexts. It is a dangerous trap against the civilizations. Nowadays Islam has become a pretext for these anarchists to attack “human rights values” and democracy. In reaction to these anarchists, certain people or political parties take a rigid and strict position in front of Islam and the Koran. In consequence, the anarchists can easily play the game of the innocent victim and accuse the western democratic societies to be lead by an anti-Islamic dominated tendency.
It is a vicious circle that can only feed up religious fanaticism and the fight between communities of the same societies.
The religious revolution in 1978 in Iran
I am an individual living in the west for more than 36 years and originate from a country in which the first “religious revolution” has happened 33 years ago. When I was a student at the university of Tehran and faculty of Law I was witness of the gradual growth of a young generation, which wanted to change the values of the society, to an Islamic ideology. They liked to have a flourishing independent and free country. They wanted to finish with the Pahlavi dynasty that was superficially Occidentalizing Iran. And for all of these wishes and hopes they were deeply influenced by the thesis of a certain Ali Shariati.
In that period Ali Shariati a young student in sociology obtained his graduation from the university of Mashad and received a bursary to go to Paris for continuing his studies in the level of a doctorate. It was a troubled social period. Communism was very active. Mao in China finished his revolutionary movement against Chiang Kai Shek with victory and Vietnam was in war against America. Algeria was in war for its independency against French colonialism. Most of the revolutionary movements were supported by the Eastern Camp - the Camp of Communism. Ali Shariati was deeply touched by the literature of Albert Camus. In the Muslim society of Algeria the revolutionary movement was mixed with Islam, and a new red ideology was born from the mixture of Islam and Marxism. Ali Shariati finished his study and went back to Iran and started to launch a campaign of a revolutionary Islam. Ali Shariati picked up the majority of the ideas of Lenin, and created a type of Jihadist- interpretation of Islam. Ali Shariati was critical to the western democracy, the western societies and the capitalist civilization of the occident. He launched the idea to create a non-democratic governmental system comparable to the dictatorship of the proletariat of Lenin. He named this model of a non-democratic system the dictatorship of SALEHIN, the righteous believers. This type of society is lead by a hierarchy of Muslim people under the supreme leadership of one person who is Imam.
Ali Shariati was regularly giving lectures in a very big conference place, Hosseinieh Ershad, in the heart of the Iranian capital Tehran. He brought this ideology in the minds and hearts of the Iranian young generation, which was searching for its identity. Ali Shariati was arrested by the secret service of the late Shah, and spent about two years in jail, but even in prison he was authorized to write-on his thesis and publish it largely through the most read news-papers. The Shah of Iran was a Muslim himself and respectful to Islam. The Shah felt constantly the menace of communism exported by the powerful northern neighbor, Soviet . Once a group of communists related to the Tudeh party tried to assassinate the Shah during a common lecture, and from that moment he had a phobia against communism, he declared an open and hard war against all clandestinely armed communist- organizations in Iran. It was because of this reason that he tolerated the activities of the Muslim believers in the different cities of the country. He tolerated the articles and speeches of Ali Shariati, because it was about Islam and in disadvantage of Communism. The Shah was not an expert to distinguish the difference between the religion of Islam, and a revolutionary ideology, which was hiding itself behind the name of this religion.
The mass of the young Iranian generation was deeply influenced by Shariati-publications, and found after his sudden death in London his promised Imam in the person of Ayatollah Khomeini in Paris. It was the beginning of a religious revolution in the world. Ayatollah Khomeini spent about 3 and half months in the suburb of Paris –Neuf-le-Chateau- before 33 years ago he returned to Iran and created a new religious governmental system under the title of Islamic Republic of Iran.
It is about 36 years that I have been staying in Paris, and now and here -in the west- I see that a similar scenario is going to be accomplished once more again.
So in my humble opinion, it is time for the western politicians – in order to preserve the values of democracy and social-freedom, to extract the lessons of history.
Islam and the human-rights charter
According to the human rights charter, each individual has the right to have his/ her own faith, belief, religion, opinion; and is right to express freely his/ her thoughts and world vision.
The western civilization is basing the social contracts upon this important principle. Therefore believers of the different religions have the right to practice their own religion in their particular worshipping places, such as the synagogues, Hindu temples, Buddhist centers, … the Muslims also can fetch the adequate authorizations in order to build up their mosques.
According to the Koran the mosques are the worshipping places to venerate only Allah, and nothing else. In the Koran certain conditions are mentioned to be gathered for making the construction of the mosques. If these conditions are not gathered in the personality and intention of the mosque- constructers, those places should not be considered as the mosques, and the Muslims are not authorized to do their prayers in those places.
Nowadays people hear in different countries certain cases that the speakers and preachers are giving certain fanatic-lectures to brainwash the newly converted people to Islam and to lead them on the way of anarchism. In front of these mosques, which are the instruments of the brainwashers and the fanatic manipulators, the social administrators in the western societies are silent. They think acting against these places is the equivalent of attacking Islam. It is not true. We get lessons from the Koran, which distinguish clearly between two categories of mosques: the zirar-mosques, which are built up to brainwash people under the name of Islam, and the real Allah worshipping places.
The Koran talks about a group of hypocrite people in the ranks of the Muslim community contemporary to Prophet Mohammed who constructed a mosque and invited prophet Mohammed to join the ceremony of inauguration of their so called worshipping center. But Allah did not give permission to the Prophet to inaugurate that place, but guided him to go there to destroy that false mosque. In this case, the Koran emphasizes the importance of the right and pure intention of the mosque builders. So, we understand that when there is somehow the non-transparent financial support behind the building of a mosque, it is not a real mosque, but a dangerous center menacing the free society and civilization. According to the Koran this category of centers can no longer exist.
“And there are among the hypocrites those who have built a mosque to cause harm to Islam and to promote disbelief and in order to cause discord among the believers, and to provide a hiding place for him who had already made war against Allah and his Messenger. And they will certainly swear, “we meant nothing but good in building the mosque. But Allah bears witness that they are certainly liars.
O prophet! Never shall you stand in that mosque for prayer. Certainly the mosque which was founded upon piety from the first day is more worthy that you stand for prayer therein….”
(Verses 107-108/ s 2)
The text of the Belgian constitution translated to Persian language
Western politicians need to discover Islam and the Koran, in order to know that taking position in front of the retrograde and reactionary behavior-values-ethic, is not opposing Islam.
It is important to remember the fact that more than 100 years ago, after the victory of the camp of progress and modernity against the despotism of the Qajar dynasty, the text of the Belgian constitution was translated to Farsi, in order to inspire the legislators to redact a democratic constitutional law for Iran as well. Certain religious fanatics took a negative position about that text. They warned – on behalf of Islam- the Iranians not to take the way of democracy –imported from the Western civilization- but to replace the Qajar dynasty by a pure and strict religious governmental system headed by religious authorities. The Iranian-free-thinkers and the laics of that period did not have the ability to answer to this objection, but fortunately the most important religious authorities of Najaf wrote a clear and clarifying answer to that fanatic thesis and rejected that objection. Ayatollah Naiini, the greatest Ayatollah of this period, wrote a book to answer that so-called Islamic critic. He explained in his book that the darkest face of despotism appears under the frame of a religious despotic system, which would like to impose a dictatorship on the country and justify its oppression by instrumentalising religion. Thanks to the explanation of Naiini the democracy won, and obtained the approval of the clerical power.
How to do?
In my humble opinion, it is not yet too late to preserve democracy and the democratic-societies from the attack of fanaticism by taking in consideration certain points:
a) It is necessary that the moderate Muslim population creates non-profit cultural foundations and organizations in order not to let the field open to the anarchists to talk on behalf of Islam and Koran. The democratic and moderated Muslim NGO's are necessary to exist and to organize conferences, symposiums, open debates, etc… to stop fanaticism from getting bigger by using a calculated and complicated method to propagate its ideology
b) It is necessary to publish an exact translation of the verses of the holy Koran according to the chronology of the revelation. It should be considered as an important work. Because the verses of the Koran have been revealed for teaching people and help them to develop gradually from ignorance to human values and civilizations. These verses should be read and studied as prophet Mohammad told them (to the people of his time), and not as it is accessible nowadays to anybody in the frame of a written book. The verses are canceling each other according to the steps of evolution of those to whom the religion of Mohammad is introduced. The most basic principle of the Koran is this principle of canceling, called Naskh. Naskh is an absolute and unchangeable principle in the way of God’s management of the world, according to the Koran. The Koran explains this principle by this manner:
“Whatever Verse We abrogate or abandon it, We bring a better Verse than that or at least the like of it”. (Verse 106/ s:2)
An example of the application of the principle of cancelling:
“And if you wish to marry them and you fear that you will not be able to do justice to the orphan girls then (marry them not, rather) marry of women (other than these) as may be agreeable to you, (you may marry) two or three or four (provided you do justice to them), but if you fear that you will not be able to deal (with all of them) equitably then (confine yourselves only to) one.”
Verse 3/ s4
Gradual cancelling of the ancient tradition
In the pre-Islamic period all over the Arabian Peninsula polygamy was practiced, and it was possible for men to have a harem with some women as slaves under their order.
The Koran fights this habit and proceeds to stop it according to a gradual method
- In the first step, the Koran encourages the marriage
- In the next step, the Koran forbids the harm,
- In the third step, the Koran fixes a limit regarding the number of women to marry with one man
- Finally, in the last step the Koran relates the polygamy to the impossible condition of dealing equitably, and precise not more than one woman, as man fears not to deal equitably
People fancying to practice polygamy, often bring as a pretext that part of the verses, which talk about four women, but the last one cancels those verses. Therefore knowing the Koran according to the chronology of the revelation is very important. Thus it is not possible to tell 'I do this and that' because it is said by the Koran. It is not enough that something is said or not, it is important to know if it is cancelled by other verses or not. This principle stops people who bring out of the context certain paragraphs of the Koran to give a religious cover and color to their desire of anarchism.
c) During the conferences organized by the moderated cultural Islamic organizations certain crucial ideas can be explained and clarified. During these conferences the lecturer can cite the exact verses of the Koran about important matters. They can tell that :
a. Stoning to death is not in the frame of the Koran as a Muslim penalty. It cannot have any place in the frame of the Islamic penal law. The Koran talks about this way of killing as a usual tyrannical method of oppression used by the despots and oppressors to terrorize people in general, and particularly the monotheists and freethinkers. Never any prophet or God-messenger menaced anybody to be stoned, on the contrary a lot of saints and prophets were stoned or despots menaced to stone them. But nowadays this sentence to death is usually applied as an Islamic penalty in certain Muslim countries such as Iran, Somalia, Afghanistan, etc…
b. Circumcision of girls during childhood is not at all mentioned as a religious obligation in any verse of the Koran, but it is usually practiced even nowadays among certain migratory Muslim people in the western societies. In the west, circumcision practiced on the young girls is a crime, because it is nothing else than the mutilation of a part of the human body.
c. For the Koran, the individual responsibility, free will, freedom of opinion, liberty to choose, … are important characteristic of mankind. The difference between man and beast is the human capacity to evaluate the contradictory values of the things and to choose the best one of them. Imposing uniformity to the citizens and forcing them to wear the same clothes or to follow the same manner is not in concordance with the precise verses of the Koran and it transgresses the soul of the revelation.
d. In certain Muslim societies – under the name of Islam – the forced veil is imposed to the women, and this tradition is usually applied among the women of the migratory Muslim population. In the western countries as well. The western authorities don’t want to take position against this costume, not to violate the sacred law of shariat, but this tribal tradition has nothing to do neither with the Koran nor with Islam.
e. In the frame of the Koran, uniformity of people concerning their faiths, thoughts, world vision, clothes, etc … does not exist. But the Muslim jurist consultants impose their own invented opinions upon the society, on behalf of the Islamic law.
According to the Koran, the most important enemy of anybody is his/ her ego. By accomplishing a sacred and constant battle against the ego (jihad akbar), the Muslim believer develops the human qualities such as tolerance, generosity and chivalry.
These serial courses and conferences can create a new educated generation between the Muslim believers in the western societies.
It can keep the western societies in harmony and coordination between faith and modernity, and respect for the human rights values. It can help the society not to fall down in the trap of civil division and contradiction. It can help the society to bring the pretext of Islam out of the hand of the anarchists. It can help the society to avoid the dangerous development of fanaticism under the name of Islam. It can be the best example of a civilized and modern Muslim society for the whole Muslim community in the entire world.
By: Dr. Seyed M. Azmayesh
At the same time, IOPHRI organized an exhibition in the Flemish Parliament, Brussels, from 11/06 till 11/07/2012
This exhibition which was hosted by the ALDE Group in the European Parliament in March earlier this year is organized from June 11 till July 11 by the International Organization to preserve Human Rights in Iran in the Flemish Parliament with the support of MP Ann Brusseel (Open VLD)
The exhibition is highlighting and describing the Persian history as well as the reality of the last 33 years. The focus is on the religious and ethnic diversities in Iran, which are being surpressed and harrassed by the regime of Ali Khamenei. At the same time the exhibition would like to point out the necessities of the present time for the future and invites the visitors to express their ideas, wishes, hopes and expectations and integrate them in the exhibition.
For this exhibition Amnesty International gave her cooperation and is drawing the attention to the women’s rights in Iran and especially to the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh and Narges Mohammadi who are sentenced to 6 years in prison only for defending the human rights of other victims of the regime.
Both women are mother of two small children.
Ward Kennis, Member of Flemish Parliament and Dr. Azmayesh of IOPHRI