Free Thoughts on Iran
Front Page | About FToI | Authors | Archives | Comment Policy | Disclaimer

bra.gif Is Iran rich?! | Main | Democracy: The Fundamental Features and Flaws ket.gif

August 04, 2003

Separation of "Mosque" and State
Hossein Khiabanian  [info|posts]


“Big Change”. Everybody is talking about this big thing. Perhaps most people think of it as a change of government, but then what kind of change? Is it going to make state and “mosque” separate (and I don’t want to think about what is going on in Turkey as our future) or some sort of republic in which parties could bring religion to office? And is the latter really different from what we have now?

About 90% of Iranians are Muslim, and probably a lot of them demand Islamic laws, one way or another. Babak Seradjeh put it nicely in his post that still people’s political demands are uncertain. I think cultural demands are even more uncertain. A new government may bring freedom (that’s the hope), but is this freedom going to be respected by all layers of Iranian society? Probably the ideal government for intellectuals and non-religious people would ensure unlimited freedom as in North America, but is the mass population ready for this kind of change?

Consider these for example: will an official religion exist in the new constitution? Will punishments still be based on Islamic rules—what will happen to the principle of an eye for an eye (Qesas) or will adultery stay a crime? Even consider simple things in every day life. Will Hijab be mandatory? Even if not, will this freedom be respected every where? What about sexual freedom? The list goes on and on.

My point is that nobody likes the current constitution (especially judicial system introduced in it), but how much do we (intellectuals per se) want religion incorporated in the new constitution, and how much will mass population agree with us?

yahya at August 4, 2003 08:25 PM [permalink]:

The situation in Turkey is often unfairly judged in Iranian circles. It is true that military has lots of power in Turkey, and there are human right violations. But we can not overlook the fact that there is much more social freedom in Turkey due to their secular government. Their economy is doing much better compare to Iran considering that they don't have any oil resources. Their version of secularism is excessive, and it shouldn't be our role model, but we have to be a little bit more fair to their achievements.

anonymous at August 4, 2003 11:27 PM [permalink]:

Turkey !? Social Freedom ? !Ja Ja ... there is freedom there. freedom to f[BEEP]! freedom to be gay ! but freedom to change? NO ! There isn't. Even in United States. the electral College works to stop any unwanted party to act! Why Communist Party in United States cannot work ?! So let's dare to think different?
About the question, unfortunately we solve our problems by omiting them , named revolution. Unfortunately , I think we are not facing a sort of Sexual Revolution as 1968 model in France , but an Anti Religous Revolution.And that is my nightmare. because it cannot resuce us . it cannto salvate us . I do think Some clregies will be responsible for that disaster.And I will do my best to stand against such a revolution. Reform in it's essence cannot be differentiated from revolution . Those who differentiate between them are either opportuinists ( in the reform row ) or killers ( in the revolutionary row). Oh! there are so many things we need to discuss and learn !

Saoshyant at August 5, 2003 01:14 AM [permalink]:

Hi there,

This is Saoshyant from Lahore. I am following many weblogs of the Iranian communities and would like to extend to you my congratulations for this lively website.

One question that comes to one's mind is that how much a society that is deeply religious can really become secular and by the same token truly liberal, even if that society adopts a secular liberal democratic model of constitution. While I concede that political scientists and constitutional law scholar may find the idea of a constitution that is in fact religious from the outset paradoxical, I beg to ask how much a society like the United States that has the highest number of church attendants is less religious in its daily life than an explicitly religious constitutional state, like Pakistan or Iran. What about two-tiered systems like Israel, that retains both a non-religious system of courts and a religious one (which mainly deals with issues of matrimonial claims and inheritance).

If can contribute to this dialogue at all, I would like to pose the following question: how much religious societies can truly become secular? We the Parsis of the Indian subcontinent tend to see Iran as a religious society even though many Iranians who live abroad and the upper middle class Iranians living in Iran do not want to concede that. I lived in Toronto for years and have visited the ancient Persian land many times and through many encounters with Iranians abroad and inside Iran have arrived at this anecdotic conclusion that Iranians face a huge identity dilemma since the time of the Reza Shah's harsh reforms. Reza Shah’s reforms forced Iranians to put more emphasis on their Persian past and embrace Westernization (well whatever you would define that Westernization I cannot address that at this point but certainly a more conservative one by today’s standards). Iranians have to become more aware of what they are and decide how they want to make a leap of faith towards what they want to become. I would pose the following challenge: How many of today's Iranians would truly tolerate homosexual freedom and equality, not to mention the legalization of their marriage, right to adopt children, and inheritance by virtue of cohabitation? Would not they show the same or similar reactions that the Vatican or the US President are showing?

Remember, homosexuality in many ancient societies is not welcome, even in a generally diverse and secular constitutional state like India. I raised it both as a current issue and a trying test for those of us who are calling for liberal elections and secular form of government but lag behind in the substance and actual ramifications of truly practising such values.



anonymous at August 5, 2003 02:31 AM [permalink]:
An Answer to Soshyant Dear Soshyant,if ever you came to see your answer on this comment line again , I am here to answer you.. and of course I am not still one the members. I like comments more than the quote ,as I like margins more than the texts ! As answers, to me the difference between secularized and non-secularized society is not like the difference between moderinism and fundamentalism. To me fundamentalism and secularism are both sides of the same blade! both agree that there is no coincidence between heaven justice and human justice.The presence of their system is tragic! In tragedy also you have to decide between your moral side and logical side. you kill the other by blade of logic and your moral side kills you because of the Guilt you feel. Well I am Shite, and I believe in Principle of Justice.I think that principle is offered to the world to prevent such a tragedy. To me there is a coincidence between heaven justice and human justice, not even between them but beyond them , therefore it opens up me to listen, to tolerate, not tolerate to ignore but tolerate to accept. So to put my answer in short term secularism IS another side of a fundamental narration of religion.Both side agree that heaven justice and human justice cannot be compatible,so one must rule ..either the Sovereignty of Church, Mosque, King, as the representative of God, whoever or the Sovereignty of People, logic, capital , whatever. Both side have forgotten, conscience,human and ..... I feel tired now ! About homosexuality ,this is much more a bitter story, even the term homosexuality is a western term,Love cannot be reduced to sex!! That's it. Even if you publish 100.000 scientific papers, they cannot legitimize it ! Homosexuality has a sort of Greek-culture oriented riseup against Latin-oriented structure based suppression system of West. But as the west forgot, without Christianity , both sides will die. And as it seems we are going to forget, that there is a truth which is beyond Fiqh and Irfan , read it religion and theosophy.... Homosexuality is in itself western as well,and of course you must expect a sort of fundamental reaction against any western ideas, thanks to third law of Newton! As the last point , Identity of Iran is in it's deepest side a sort of ethical ,religous identity. Zoraster offered to the world a simple principle , principle of light! That light of Knowledge in Prometeus torch , enlightment torch , engineering torch and even Bahais light of knowledge comes from what he offered! On the other hand , he planted iran like he cultivated cedar as a tree ! We have forgotten to plant trees, and have also forgotten our roots. Opposite of being Iranian is not being Pakistani, Arab , or Indian! It is Aniranian, Irani is the one who believes in Wise Thought, wise Speech , wide Behaviour, and wisdom is graspable by your conscience. you see this identity is not based on Race,Blood but on a thought, on a concept! Whatever... That is how iranian identity is related and gives itself a sort of rebirth by islamic identity.That is the thing which gathered 27 nations together in Achamenid Empire by Cyrus The great. You must know a lot about Corporate Identity , a policy that was invented by english Imperialism to separate the Fruitful dialog iranians and indians had with each other, based on that they could suppress the consequences of the indian riseup of 1867 , they tried to used a sort of reductive pattern of identity instead of int ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Saoshyant at August 5, 2003 02:59 AM [permalink]:

Dear Anonymous,

I wish you were a bit more tolerant, in debate, than it appears. I grant you the benefit of the doubt because I do not know when you say Shiite what kind of a Shiite you are. Your propose "a" narrative of Shiism that is informed by "a" narrative of Zoroastrianism. Would you mind if I inform you that your type of argument is inherently fundamentalist even though you seem to be critical of it. This is the kind of dilemma of identity that I am pointing at and you seem to be painfully struggling with. There is no one ultimate narrative of Zoroastrianism, nor is there any ultimate narrative of any type of idea that humans propagate as true. This is the kind of truth that I subscribe to. You are inviting me to get back to my roots. This is very self-righteous. How do you know that I am not adhering to my roots by virtue of what I am, a Parsi. Would not it be similarly self-righteous and fundamentalistic indeed to claim that you know what the real roots are? Was it not what the conservatives in Iran claim that they are the guardians of the real roots?

Dear Anonymous, real roots are subject to a tolerant negotiation of what we hold dear in our collective memory. Cultures change throughout the history and unfortunately they change often violently. When Zoroastrianism was declared the State Religion in Iran, anIran meant someone who is both non-Persian nor Zoroastrianism, this was a horrible act that divorced us from our tolerant Parthian and Acamenian tradition of a Confederation of the Persian Empire. Cyrus and his descendants never tried to impose the worship of Ahura Mazda, they called the Empire: Persia and the 23 States. I am so sad that I see the first introduction of State Violence through the religion was in fact through the initiation of the Zoroastrian religion as a fundamentalist faith. This marks the first incident when Iran became a fundamentalist religious state. All challenges to this unjust imposition of religion on all aspects of life and politics was not left unchallenged but what was the result? The suppression of Maani and massacre of the Mazdakis.

Dear Anonymous, homosexuality has been praised in many parts of the Iranian poetry. I know you would say it depends how you would translate or interpret the poem but some poetry or writings like those of Rumi and Obeid Zakani as well the histories written by many ancient historians show that sodomy was a very widespread throughout the Iranian history as well as during the Safavieh and Qajar period.

Why Iranians do not want to become mroe tolerant of themselves? Are those who rule Iran less Iranian than those who are being ruled (inside or outside)?

By raising the example of homosexuality, which you tried by rejecting it as a Western practice and disregarding its practice and mention in the Iranian poetry and history, I am challenging all Iranians with a question about their identity. Are they ready to accept that there is no one and nobody who would have the ultimate authority to self-righteously accuse others of being less Iranian? Are they ready to abandon this tradition of cultural "takfeer" that was unfortunately first introduced, according to my narrative of the Sassanian history, by the Sassanids? Are Iranians ready to accept that there can be multiple and contradicting ideas of Iranianness and they have to first become united in this very truth that they are afraid to question how truly tolerant they are towards each other?

anonymous at August 5, 2003 03:57 AM [permalink]:

My saoshyant.... my lost bitter , sweet born.....

Well I couldn't believe you would come here and answer me , you echo of the call of existence we registered here was so meaningful for me.
I don't know what kind of Shiite I am , I don't know even that if I am pro- or against Faqih's sovereignty. I don't know even where I am from . My childhood, my dreams are lost by these attacks, by Mongols, by arabs, by american and was refound by Zen, by Zoraster, by Mohammad... even by Bahais, which at least I don't claim to be one of them ...

I don't know what kind of shiite I am , but if something could help you label me better I should say I love Sohrevardi, as I love Shariati, as I love seeking - it is not bad to label others, I will paint you in return ,so let's play ...don't dislile me !

Anonymous at August 5, 2003 04:30 AM [permalink]:

An answer and an invitation

Dear Soshiant , let me play for just one last time, and let me use your name as an excuse to invite the authors of this site and every one who thinks about life, about humanity to stop a nightmare to happen.

I love life... I never claimed that I own the truth ... I don't even claim that I know where the truth is.. But I claim very humbly ,with my last drops of hope that I believe there is a truth.... that I seek the truth as humbly , as modestly , as honestly as I can ..This I claim...

Don't read my invitations as a sort of selfishness.. I don't know whether I invite you , or I invite myself ..or I invite the authors of this website... the reference of this pronoun ' you" is much more tolerant. than you could blame it as arrogancy.

And remember , what I invite you is a sort of feast .... an open feast ... toward Paradise... toward the Pardis that is mummified in the carpets we have.

I invite you , as my brother , as my blood. as my neighbor to have a site together and I invite all Azeris, all afghanis... all , iraquis.. all turks. who are tired of these oil oriented identities to make a website together. Only together, only united we can stand, we can prevent the bloodfeast that is prepared for us..

I wanted to answer every detail of your discussion, to answer how zoraster as other messengers were worshiped and their flow was mummified and killed in books so holy, I wanted to remind you just to think how old this arbitrary term homosexuality is, that love cannot be reduced to sodomite , that in my literature, our literature, what is discussed is pure love , and love is liberated from sex, although sex could be useful medium , but is not the only medium.. I wanted to tell you do not read Zakani's poems only as sodomite literature , but hear the bitter call of resistence against what had ruined our region... But I am tired of answering anymore.with the same reason I don't publish any weblog... because I have seen how many... forget it ...

Give me some hope.. show me your friendship, just show me that there is still something named humanity in you, invite me ... embrace me ,feed me , support me , publish me .let's together do this.. this is the only way we could stand this bloodshed, together, united.tolerant as you say.something I don't have and you have more ,so have mercy and give it to me ! please ! I beg it !

Az a last bitter joke. One friend told me you know why arabs could conquer us .. he answered himself : because we had clergies and they didn't have ! A bitter answer..

One last thing, I DO Recognize an ultimate narration of Zorasterianism , as Islam as,Hindu,because in my way there are only two religions :

Religion inviting to BIRTH

Religion inviting to DEATH

That is all. We cannot kill life,love, freedom, and God, But we can kill in the name of God, Freedom, love , life.

I am tired of writing and actually I am looking for an excuse to stop writing ,beat me , blame me and I will stop, but remember , love , life , truth won't stop , it will flow, so forget me ,hate me but not them !


hajir at August 5, 2003 06:22 PM [permalink]:

Back to the topic...

Dear khiabanian raised a few questions about the relation between religion and state in a democracy.

1. Secularism doesn't mean religious values are ignored. Religious values live in the minds and hearts of religious people (who in return vote parties to power). Secularism is tolerant even if it is run by turkish generals and that's why we see an islamic party took power in Turkey.

2. Religion by defention cannot be tolerant and any system based on or related to (constitutionally) religion is oppressive.

3. Homosexual rights, Sexual freedom and other issues can be handled "on time" as secularism and democracy progress. Americans, after three centureis of democracy, NOW are discussing Homosexual marriages. We cannot solve these problems before establishing a political system that values freedom and equality. We cannot solve problems that have not come up yet in our society. Don't rush and let democracy take its time.

4. Religious people are afraid of secularism because they think it is gonna mislead their women, children and country! But if such people can live in America or Europe, why can't they live in a secular Iran?

anonymous at August 5, 2003 07:17 PM [permalink]:

Hajir do you come from a technical university ? Onjly a technical oriented , positivistic engineer dares to declare such verdicts about religion , society and offers very simple solutions ...
1. Secularsim is not ignoring religious values so what a secularized bank do when religion is against any interest rate? You do know that it wasn't George Bush's help, the generals in Turkey had grilled these islamists 7 times with lemon water. The dialectic between religion and Politics or earth values is in spirit the contrast between ethics, conscience and logic ... so just for one time do not reduce it to a religous class or whatever and reobserve

2.Is this your narration of religion? Every belief is oppressive? So belief in Humanism is oppressive.... Well this is your argumentation!!!. Belief is the origin of the religion.Don't you think it is better to differentiate between religious class, religion and tradition , maybe it could help us better .

3.delegating the controversial issues you named cannot be solved by refering them to time and hope that it can work ! It can be solved only by confronting them

3.It is not only religous people frightened by the direction of ruling system . people with open conscience are more worried.

elnaz at August 5, 2003 08:27 PM [permalink]:

I wanted to talk about a few points in Hajir's comment.
I understand that Democracy is for the people so it should have the properties of people. If the country is religious a politician can't expect to go all the way against people's religious beliefs and hope to regain their votes. so there is a degree to which you can separate religion and state. But the separation of church and state is another issue. It separates the body of the government from the religious authorities. It doesn't mean a, say churchgoer practicing catholic can't be a statesman it just means for example he can't attribute the state's financial resources to his church because he thinks they are doing a fine job. It means that the laws he passes shouldn't make life harder for people with other religions or even the atheists, and as I understand it, it also means that the most general laws like constitution or the fundamental structure of government shouldn't be based on any religion. I know it's a delicate issue and it's not clear cut but at the same time I guess there are situations in which you can easily determine the system being flawed. Hossein's example was Turkey. I know that an Islamist party is in power right now but I also know that if you are a Muslim woman in Turkey you can't wear a veil and go to public schools or if you are an army officer(and army of course is part of the government) you don't have right to practice your religion. Turkey is supposedly a democracy but the intense power of army has affected the practice of democracy in it.

Another thing was that you mentioned that even in America there have been centuries passed before these issues of sexuality could have been discussed. I somehow agree with what you said but it doesn’t mean that centuries would pass before Iranians start these discussions (remember Iranian women got the right to vote not more than forty years after their western sisters). It’s not 18th century any more. I know that things shouldn’t be rushed but I think probably these questions will be faced not very far down the road so there should be a mechanism that enables the society to answer them (may be something as trivial as unlimited freedom of speech).

hajir at August 6, 2003 02:27 AM [permalink]:

elnaz said:

"I know that an Islamist party is in power right now but I also know that if you are a Muslim woman in Turkey you can't wear a veil and go to public schools or if you are an army officer(and army of course is part of the government) you don't have right to practice your religion."

Very true! Turkey is still in its primary stages of democracy. But those who are defending "religious democracy" what have to say about the mandatory Hijab which all women must wear not only in universities but on the streets too? Is a woman wihtout hijab allowed to be elected to power in such a system? My point is that the democracy of Turkey "has a chance" to make progress and at most ten years from now the hijabis also can go to public universities a so called islamic democracy (whatever heck it means) "cannot" make a similar progress and allow women to go to university without hijab.

This is a serious problem that religion doesn't allow reforms! If hijab is mandatory, it is mandatory at all times and places. If a religious democracy withdraws from its position on hijab, alchohol, sexuality and islamic justice, then it cannot be called religious!

I agree that homosexual rights will come up in our society quite soon and it won't take centuries. But it's not the priority. I assure you the new-born democracy of Iran will not discuss homosexual marriages untill several years passes. On that time the elite will discuss the issue in its context. We shouldn't worry about it from now. As the discussion proceeds in west, we have to follow and learn from it so that we can make a correct decision later on.

The priority is to campaign for a well designed constituion that guarantees human rights, freedom of individuals, freedom of speech, separation of mosque and state, freedom of religion, women's rights according to international conventions, etc.

elnaz at August 6, 2003 03:23 AM [permalink]:

In response to Hajir, I think I'm saying mostly the same thing. I said that the way to make things work in Future is to guarantee unlimited essential freedoms in the constitution now.
I know that religion naked on power doesn't let reforms happen and that's why I'm totally pro separation of religion authorities and state.

About Turkey again one quick comment: their situation is much better than us. But that's not entirely because they are really good at practicing democracy. I believe part of their success in the past few years is because of their attempt at getting into EU.
I don't want Iran to be another Turkey because of two reasons. First, I have had encounters with Turkish people not just in US but even back in Iran (my aunt married to a Turk) and we had a few friends there too. And I gather from my own observations which I don't claim them scientific in any ways, a lot of Turks are dreaming about an Islamist government(whatever that is as you put it) which I believe is the backlash from the current situation.(the same as the attitude towards religion in young Iranians being a backlash from our government)
Secondly, Turkey is not a successful democracy at least it hasn't been till now (after all not every secular republic is a successful stable democracy, look at all these horrible cases in Africa for example or Latin America). Army is too powerful there and I don't know if army generals are willing to change the situation. But I still don't know may be as you said they’re on the right track.

At the end, I think what Hossein meant was that yes, we want a secular government with ultimate freedom, but is it any close to what ordinary people want and if not, is there any way to satisfy both sides without closing the door to progress so that in 50 years our children don't end up saying the same things we are saying right now?

anonymous at August 6, 2003 04:04 AM [permalink]:

It seems the audience of this website are western governments to be convinced that we are good , elite students to be installed for key posts in the future....Well Congradulations!!! I wish to honor us and rule us , the uneducated, the common !

I hope I would have mistaken, I hope Hajir is just insisting on his idea because he is angry with the dillema and challenges we face...I wish!

Is a woman without Hijab allowed to be elected for presidential campaign ? Well , is a naked woman allowed to be elected in West, Does a communist have the permission be a member electral college in United States?

Democracy cannot be Neutral,democracy has a direction ! As technology does, however systematic you design it...that system itself cannot salvate us ..that is why we add something to it. social, liberal, or religious...

We need to think about the directions , as we need to think about the mechanisms as well! Both are needed..if we don't think of people's right in the name religion .We will fail, if we don't think of the direction we go in the name of democracy . we will also fail ...through history we seeked directions through system of beliefs, we named them religion, ideologies , principles,even in geometry you base all the argumetations on principles, a sort of agreed contract or whatever...

We must learn to face this ... we can not ignore the direction of democracy , the un neutrality of democracy in any name, even in the name of secularism,we cannot escape from it.... we cannot run away from it .. if we do, it will face us stronger even!

And we need to learn . we all need to learn to find a narration of religion that is compatible with democracy.. Otherwise we will fail...

We also need to learn that a religious democracy doesn't necessarily mean liberal Islam ! or arrogant democracy.... we need to listen to each other.... Only from listening to the one who opposes us we can do something , we can improve ourselves.

I invite you to the simple principle... principle of dialog: that there is another entity in the world . that doesn't think in the same way as you do, and he might have a bit of truth, that bit that you miss.

I feel this site is established mostly by technical graduated students...I congradulate them for this website,for tolerating me but I feel that a sort of positvistic scientific system of thought have stopped many of them to feel, to dream see ! I wish I was from humanities .... but I am not even a sociologist, even a marxist, I am not even a clergy ... so let me be anonymous, as anonymous as human

I will go , you can feel happy solving , leading my coutry. I wish to see establishers of this site in Key posts,in Key places, as they are proud to be technical enough.. and I do wish they wouldn't make the same mistake the clergies have done , in the name of technical democracy or liberal democracy , This I wish most !

God be with you all

Coward at August 6, 2003 04:59 AM [permalink]:

It seems to me that anonymous has some some mistaken concepts

He asks people about dialog, yet he attacks them accusing them of having a hidden agenda. He asks people to consider the bit of truth in others, but s/he does not want to do the same for others, s/he is mad that some Iranian students do not think like her/im and do not support her/is ideas, and feel isolated. S/he does not have the strength to discuss his ideas and listen to the opposing ideas without judging the people and not just the ideas. S/he gets so emotional that sees a conspiracy behind this exchange of ideas.

My advice to her/im: Be strong in expressing your opinions, you do not need to convince anybody about them, just express them without the fear of being rejected, just express them without the joy of getting accepted.

Just express your thoughts, free of any consequences, free thoughts.

Do not fear this cowardly poster, no need to get angry at me, no need to attack me. No need to get defensive.

Be proud of who you are. The common, the uneducated, the non-clergy, the anonymous. Have proud in what you have, your name, your identity,
your education or lack of it. Be one, one of many, one of Iranians, one who speaks out.

Be here, with us, with others, who speak out, but none say the same, but listen to each other, as every one of many knows, there is a bit truth in any one, so the many listens, and each one ponders to find that bit of truth and echoes it back to many. The truth will be spoken by all ones, and by the one of many, and the many bits of truth spoken reveals the truth. Many speak the truth, the truth reveals many in its many words, its many manifestations, its many contradictions, its many unknowns, its many joys and pains.

Just be there, be with God and God be with you.

Let the truth be spoken.

Alan K. Henderson at August 9, 2003 04:33 AM [permalink]:

Threats to religious freedom are often couched in terms of a religious sect taking over the government - as happened in Iran and Afghanistan. But what is often overlooked is that under theocratic governments the government tends to change church doctrine more than the church affects government policy. Whoever wants to follow the official state religion as it was before the government remolded it becomes an enemy of the state. (Do a Google search on "Thomas More" for an example.)

Has the Iran government behaved in this fashion, allowing political scheming to modify or ignore portions of Sharia law or other Islamic scriptures?