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April 22, 2004

Ebadi Aims for Re-educating True Islam
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]
Dr. Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi accepts an honourary degree while President Stevenson of SFU applauds her. Courtesy of SFU.

Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate, was in Vancouver, Canada this week for a series of events. She received, along with two other fellow Nobel Peace Laureates, the all famous Dalai Lama of Tibet and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, an honourary doctorate of laws from Simon Fraser University [archive: video]; the three laureates were then joined by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Prof. Jo-ann Archibald of University of British Columbia to take part in a round table discussion [archive: audio, video]; yesterday Ms. Ebadi also appeared at SFU's Morris Wosk Center for Dialogue to give a lecture as part of SFU Nobel Leactures series and answered questions from the audience afterwards [archive available soon].

I was lucky enough to win a lottery ticket to the last event, which was held in an impressive conference room. She spoke through Prof. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak who provided a very good instant translation. She wore a stylish, patternful, blue dress and trousers that added to her gentility of movement and vivacity of speech.

In her lecture, Shirin Ebadi reiterated her belief in the compatibility of democracy and Islam. She advocated an interpretation of Islam that allows for the implementation of universal human rights. She went on to draw examples from the history of Islam, at some length, that support such an interpretation—from the appointment of the african muslim, Bilal of Abyssinia, as the chief caller to prayer by Prophet Mohammad, to his calling her daughter, Fatima, the mother of her father (Umm-e-Abiha), i.e. all muslims, to recalling that Mohammad had a jewish wife who remained jewsih all her life. (This refers to Rayhana Bint Zayd, one of Mohammad's concubines—not really a regular wife—who was a booty taken from the jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza after they lost a battle to the Prophet.)

She attacked the dictatorial Islamic governments that "use" the name of Islam to justify their own agenda. In those countries "religion has become governmental, not government religious," she said. "These governments take away the courage for fighting from their people," she said, "since people fight earthly rulers much more willingly than their ancestors religion. Against these dictators, religious intellectuals have made a united front independent of their nationalities. They take inspiration from the spirit of holy Quran. This is the Muslims' promise of freedom." She said this front does not have headquarters, organisation or leaders. "Its place," she noted, "is in the mind and heart of every muslim who wants to achieve democracy while keeping his/her ancestoral religion and does not accept suppression, nor any invalid word." "True Islam is a religion of peace," she said. She expressed a great need to cultural change, including political culture, and put emphasis on reteaching muslims on true Islam's instructions. "We muslims think once we can read over Quran's text, our knowledge of Islam is complete and we are a jurist [...] even muslims do not know what true Islam is," she claimed.

In the question-and-answer that followed her lecture, Dr. Ebadi answered, as briefly as possible, questions ranging from the current conditions in Iran, the situation in Iraq, the fate of the peace movement around the world to the prospect of her proposed road to freedom for muslims. She reminded us of the difficult task of a defender of human rights in Iran, pointing out the ananymous death threats she has received upon being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, and revealed (for the first time to my knowledge) that she has miraculously escaped two assassinations so far.

When asked in a couple of questions how and whom by she wanted true Islam to be retaught in the Islamic world, while neither westerners nor even muslims themselves know what it is, when there is no freedom of expression or press, when the eduacation is controlled by a government that is not willing to listen to her or make any changes, she proposed to do so by travelling to libraries, at home, "in our own minds by thinking," and by scholars of Islam, "who by the way do not necessarily need to be muslims." She said she has learnt a lot about true Islam by reading books by non-muslim scholars.

She also commented on the French government ban on headscarf in educational institutions, calling it a violation of human rights, "since an 8-year-olf girl," who cannot imagine to stand up to her father and does not have enough financial resources to go to an expensive private muslim school, "will be denied her fundamental right to eduaction, only on the basis that she is born in a muslim [fundamentalist] family," the very eduacation that could free her from the darkness of fundamentalism.

I found her views of democracy and human rights very clear and in fact very close to my own [see Traps to Avoid in Improving Democracy, and a few (1, 2) of my comments under Ebadi Reconsidered]. When an attendee asked her not to advocate democracy so much, since for instance "democracy may come to Iran, but by then the US has already held Iraq [Iran?]," she responded: "There is a saying that democracy is the best and the worst thing. I believe it can be made into the best." She stated that she is an advocate of democracy and human rights, which have to be cocenetric; that the boundaries of democracy are defined by human rights.

In fact for the first time I started to understand why she is so strongly in favour of a new interpretation of Islam, why she starts all the time from Islam and tries to draw the conclusion that one could incorporate human rights and democracy within its settings, instead of a non-religious starting point: Although very problemic in facing mainstream hard-line versions of Islam currently dominant, which are also to a good extent violent just to add to these problems, this approach has the merit that it can speak directly to the masses of muslims. There is no realistic hope that the bulk of mulsim societies like the Iranian society, with a 98% muslim majority, will ever relate—or even respond poistively—to a non-religious approach. I think that she in fact embodies this reality in herself, as a self-declared "religious person" who advocates democracy and human rights.

All in all, the session went extremely well and although communication was a bit slowed due to the translation process, the occasional pauses allowed for a more effective way for the message of the Nobel Laureate and her audience to get across the borders of culture and language. While I was listening to Shirin Ebadi's proposed programme, it occured to me that such figures of hope, strength and sheer activism as herself are so much needed for Iran's future. So, although I found myself bewildered by her line of logic about Islam, and relatively doubtful of the sucsess of her proposals regarding the teaching of a peaceful, liberal interpretation of Islam, I admired her clarity and steadfast resolve. Perhaps what today's Iran most needs is not the best route to freedom, but an incursion of activism into all possible routes towards that glorious goal.

Comments
Nasser at April 23, 2004 02:55 AM [permalink]:

Whenever I listen to Ms Shrini Ebadi’s remarks, I just feel so stunt. I can never understand from what point of view, she advertises the compatibility of Islam with democracy. I am sure that she has never studied Islamic lessons anywhere. She talks as if she is dominant all over the Islamic conceptions and perceptions. What she is doing is just disguising the nature of Islam, in a way to demonstrate its compatibility with democracy. In reality and technically Islam has never been compatible with liberalism. I am wondering whether Ms Ebadi has ever read the SOURE NESA and opinion of Islam over women. Or the fact of stoning and lashing of people who have committed adultery, or the explicit order of Islam that Muslims must never let any non Muslim govern them, or 10000 other similar orders which explicitly illustrates that Islam is not compatible with democracy. I suggest her to study some Islamic stuff before indicating that the true Islam is reconcilable with liberty or democracy. 10000 people annually study in Hoze, devoting their time studying Islamic teachings, and they all say what Mollas are saying. They are all similar to each other advertising similar notions and perception over Islam although slightly different.

Vahid at April 23, 2004 05:58 PM [permalink]:

Thanks Babak, for your prompt and nice coverage of Shirin Ebadi's visit.
I really like her point of view. I think finding an interpretation of Islam which is compatible with human rights is very useful. This approach is not exculsive and it could help moslem nations. I think of it as," lets review the traditions, through away the bad parts and keep the good parts."

An Iranian Student (AIS) at April 24, 2004 04:23 AM [permalink]:
I saw the video of their speeches. The only ones who made a bit of sense were the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, and what they said was more or less banal and obvious...and silly! Ebadi as usual were wrong in most of what she said. For example the 20 century is actually one of the best centuries for mankind. Yes there were many crimes commited in it, but so is all the rest of human history. The difference is that in most other times this was seen as inevitable and part of the natural order of things. In 20 Century two very dangerous systems of thought, Nazism and Communism, were defeated IN THEIR PEAK OF POWER, which has NEVER been the case before. In it we saw women emancipation, the rights of minorities becomming more and more accepted and racism for the first time become a common taboo. It is exceptionaly hypocritical of her as an Iranian to say this, when in past centuries tyrants here made hills out of eyeballs and massacre was a usual fact of life. It is also extremely hypocritical of here to give an example of Islam's tolerance in the case of Bani Qorayza, where he commited genocide and took that woman as wife by sheer force. But enough of that , this was not surprising given her previous extremely shallow 'performances'. Actually the Rabbi, whatever his name was, was even worse and talked almost nothing except meaningless mumbo jumbo, so that might be a solace. Although 'heart' vs 'Mind' is supposed to be meant as a METAPHOR, after listening to some of what was said, I wonder if they really meant that as one. So it might be good to remember that heart is just a mechanical device that pumps blood in vessels, and the that the center of emotions is in the brain as well. Actually emotion is closely linked to intellect and memory. The examples of evil cunningness they gave proved nothing but the fact that in those cases intellect was missing or twisted in some parts, ironically in most cases because of a culture that cherished the same kind of 'melodramatic' nonsense. It might be useful to remember that Germans for example were known as the quintessence of romanticism. (And yes, a Robot that can do all that a mother does can also feel and express genuine emotions and love. maybe they ought to see the Matrix again ;) But I have a point with the Babak Seradje here, He writes: "...this approach (of presenting Islam as something it never was and never will be) has the merit that it can speak directly to the masses of muslims. There is no realistic hope that the bulk of mulsim societies like the Iranian society, with a 98% muslim majority, will ever relate—or even respond poistively—to a non-religious approach..." and also "Perhaps what today's Iran most needs is not the best route to freedom, but an incursion of activism into all possible routes towards that glorious goal." (which is utter gibberish, to be honest!) You are I persume yourself also one of the 98% of muslims like me I suspect. May I ask you how come you could have thought and understood modern concepts of freedom etc. without the likes of Ebadi to package it in a form the other 98%-1 could not digest other wise? What makes you and me so special? This, my friend, was pure arrogance on your part. I think we really should stop treating ourselves as above the rest and start paying some respect to the 'avaam' by talking honestly to them as intelligent audiences. The fact that they have allegedly not 'absorbed' secular reasoning is because almost nobody gave himself the troubl ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Babak S at April 24, 2004 07:15 AM [permalink]:

Dear AIS,

I cannot claim I have the torch of enlightment in my hands but I shall try to expand on what I meant by saying what you quoted from me. Hopefully I will make it somewhat less of an utter gibberish.

The dilemma is that one does not know with what kind of matterial one is working when thinking about the bulk of a society, especially in Iran with no reliable and independent social probe. You are in fact just more optimistic, and may indeed be right, in assuming that if one preaches the concepts of freedom from a non-religious vintage point, a religious society like that of Iran will, hopefully sooner than later, absorb and internalize them. Yet, that is just that—an assumption. You and I, mind you, are only two isolated instances of that bulk. Do you think nobody around you was never exposed to the kind of arguments and material that has made you think and see the way you do now? True, the information and resources (or in fact the lack of them) do play an important role, but many of those people, who don't think like you, decided to do so because of some strong psychological attraction to the opposite. The existence of these sort of attractions is what I had in mind.

For example: Iran is not on the vangaurd of humainty now. She is not pushing the limits of human experience, not any more. We are far behind other societies, and that has the unfortunate consequence that people would try to keep whatever they have left that gives them a sense of identity, even if that means to keep their prejudices and ancestoral religion, whatever that means and implies. I have seen many among my acquintances who despite a very liberal façad show a deep prejudiced core, almost unconciously. Somehow they resist accepting to partake in spreading and cherishing the blessings of the free society they live in abroad, with no obvious good reason. The reason, I believe, is that they can't and don't see that freedom as theirs. They do not accept it since they think it is foreign, on a very personal level.

What I stated above was that I [think I] understood where this desire to blend Islam, as part of Iran's culture, with the ideas of liberalism comes from. The result, I would like to think, is not what we know as Islam today but something totally different. True Islam, which is Ms. Ebadis' favourite name for it, is just a euphemism.

Let me express this in somewhat different terms. A society is a statistical entity. The degree of acceptance of the concept of freedom in its secular form in the Iranian society, for instance, has a distribution over its population. Thought this was, those who accept it to a high degree (you and perhaps me!) do not have anything special. I do not see any arrogance on my part in thinking that way. Although I give you that there are mechanisms that influence this distribution, such as the availablity of secular expositions of the concepts of freedom, etc.

All that said, I did not mean to say that I am against a movement to spread the culture of democracy and human rights from a secular standpoint, which in my view is the natural one—I did express my doubt on Ms. Ebadi's programme. That needs a lot of activism, exactly of the sort Ebadi has shown us she has.

Hazhir at April 24, 2004 02:01 PM [permalink]:

Interesting and timely post Babak!
I have been thinking about two questions, the first of which you may have some idea about, upon seeing Ebadi in action, and the second one may be better answered by AIS:
- Babak, do you think Ebadi truly believes in flexibility of interpretation of Islam (to the extent that it can really accommodate human rights as defined with a more secular view), OR she claims that as the only pragmatic rhetoric to avoid alienation of masses of Muslims in the process of democratization?
Another question, which I think is central to the discussion of AIS on your post, is whether and to what extent such alienation can happen? i.e. if we push democratic views without regard to people's religious beliefs, is it possible that they become more fundamentalist?
My hunch on the second question is that it does happen to the extent that warrants trying to create human-rights-friendly interpretations of Islam. I think the experience of Iran (and maybe Egypt from my poor knowledge)is a good case to highlight such alienation, if we remember how clergy used Shah's white revolution to build-up religious fervor.
Now a question to AIS: Assuming that my hunch is valid, do you still find Ebadi's approach worthless?

An Iranian Student (AIS) at April 25, 2004 06:53 PM [permalink]:
Babak S and Hazhir, Here I try to make my points more clear so I hope to be able to relay my thoughts to you at the same time! Babak highlighted correctly that what I say is an assumption. (By the way, how do you write in italics? Have meant to ask thid for sometime now, but forgot!) But isn't that obvious? In a sense any idea is an assunption. the whole point of these discussions is to try to refute the opposing ones. So I think this part doesn't add anything new to our discussions. You mentioned a very important point. the fact that many so called enlightened and/or secular people or more 'modern' people among Iranians still hold to a core of not so enlightened beliefes. Thsi is really true in my opinion as well. But why was that so? You seem to think this is because of an attachment to religious or traditional worldviews, and that therefore new concepts should be expressed in such a way that would prevent that 'core'(!) from rejecting it totally. If I amy use a (very bad) analogy of viruses (or anti-biotics to keep the moral sude correctly ;), something that has enough familar genetic code to fool the cell and enter it and then alter it from within! This is now adays a very popular idea. I do not agree. If you look at Iran's modern history, you'll see that that approach was the predominent one. The number of people who dared to criticize the roots of our problems including Islam itself were very very few. And most of them were brutally murdered. In most cases whether the nationalists, the communists , the right or the left, everybody was trying to choose a path with (in their views) the least number of obstacles. So most of the movements tried to appease Islam and ther inhuman traditional values in the hope of relaying their 'other' ideas to the masses. I think this is precisely why this endevaour failed so badly in 1979. In their apporoach they had to give away the internal logic and consistency of what they were defending. That is what was percieved by 'the masses' as hypocracy or of the existence of hands the behind the curtains.e hypocracies and inconsistencies of the regime's conduct towards religion and shiitism. A hypocracy that came from exactly this line of reasoning, IMHO. Hazhir you mentioned the clergy and Shah. One reason they were so succesful in attracting people was that they pointed th It seems there is soem level of difficulty that can't be averted but must be confronted head on. Yes, many people still lack, despite the superficial secularism, the neccesary core. To me that is precisely the consequence of this very approach. Think about it. If Islam is antithetical to secular modern ideas, and it is easy to show this, just look at the Quran, then any approach to modern thought through Islam will fail to touch that traditional 'core' you talked about. You gave an example of two people being exposed to the same things but one being affected and the other not.In the general case, this is of course a very complicated thing. There are difference of character or taste.... But in factual topics that is not necessarily so open or complicated. People have had different experiences, differnt upbringings, different versions and/or doses of dogma. In SUCH CASES, cases were reasoning is possible, whether a given argument is effective depends on whether it addresses the level that the audience has problem with the topic. For example if you are reasong for or against liberalism versus socialism, and the person exposed to t ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
The Pagan at April 27, 2004 10:35 PM [permalink]:

She couldn't be worse! "The superior power watching over you ..." gave me the creeps by taking me back to the 1984 atmosphere. With a rabbi, a bishop, and the dalai lama being present, who is she to advocate people about "God"? It was an absolute disgrace! An altruist sitting there telling people to always remember "God"? Am I missing something here? I used to think that her being somewhat hypocritical is the result of what might happen to her back home, but she is overdoing it to the degree that it is becoming rather obnoxious.


And Hazhir, in answer to your question I can quote from C. H. Cooley: "Prudence and compromise are necessary means, but every man should have an impudent end which he will not compromise."

Babak S at April 28, 2004 05:18 PM [permalink]:

Dear Hazhir,

Your first question is quite intriguing. I have been thinking about that too, and I have to say having seen Ebadi close-up did not help very much to arrive at a definitive answer. The important thing is, anyway, that she talks about the compatibility of Islam and democracy quite passionately, and calls herself explicitly "a religious person." It's hard to swallow that all this is a pretence; there is simply no sign telling otherwise. So, all in all, yes, I have come to think she truly believes in this compatibility. The only loophole is that what she calls Islam is perhaps nowhere close to what muslim scholars, clerics, or even the majority of practicing muslims themselves consider as Islam. That's why she thinks (her version of) Islam should be retaught to muslims!

AIS and The Pagan's remonstrations are quite understandable. She puts just too much emphasis on Islam for our liking. This was indeed very apparent befor the Dalai Lama, Tutu and the Rabbi who sounded quite irreligious in fact compared to Ebadi! I have this to say, however:

1) It seems to me that Ebadi's "impudent end" is human rights, not Islam. I see it this way: she is born and brought up a muslim, so she cannot really help it, but she has made a very concious decision to be an advocate of human rights, as a universal measure for all. She takes pain to tell us that true Islam is something other than what is now practiced, but she easily finds "true" human rights as what it is, say, as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2) I feel the understanding that Ebadi shows of the principles of human rights is enough ground not to worry too much about her passion for Islam. She might be wrong in thinking that Islam and human rights can be juxtaposed in any practical manner, but in thinking so she is trying to make Islam fit the measures of human rights not the other way around.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at April 28, 2004 11:47 PM [permalink]:

"she is born and brought up a muslim, so she cannot really help it..."

Excuse me, what are you saying? What is the good of a brain of it can't decide for him/herself what is good or not. If she 'can't help it', then she does not qualify as a human being.
If what you say is true, then it can only mean that an Islamic upbrining really and irrevocably distorts the mental abilities of an individual. I don't think this is what you meant, is it?!
Besides, if her mental capabilities are so low that she can't help but follow a 1400 old pile of superstitions, why is he given a Nobel prize and heralded here and there, I'm curious to know.

As to your second point, what her "deeper" intentions are downbeneath is really irrelevant. What she is doing is providing a lot of noise whose onle effect is to hide the real consistency and powerful worldview that lies behind the concept of 'human rights', and to present it as a pathtic hypocritical propaganda rhetoric.
As that other super-idiot buffoon Ali Shari'ati once remarked. the best way to defeat an idea is to defend it wrongly.

Niayesh at April 29, 2004 12:20 PM [permalink]:

AIS and Others,

“If she 'can't help it', then she does not qualify as a human being.”

Who are you to decide if somebody does or does not qualify as a human being? I guess, next step would be to deny her ‘human rights’!

The fact is that, despite her “low mental capabilities”, she has helped the human rights (specifically women’s rights) in Iran more than any of the illustrious commenters on this website.

The fact is that Islam, at least in view of many, is NOT a “1400 old pile of superstitions”, but a fluid set of ideas which change with our perceptions of right and wrong. Of course, this is not specific to Islam. All religions change their interpretations with time.

On the other hand, trying to uproot a religion in a society is the recipe for religious wars.
Throughout history, many people who have not been happy with old religions have put together new ones. I don’t see why what you are suggesting is any different, and why it would not defeat its purpose by creating more violence and bloodshed. In my view, Shirin’s prescription of gradual reform seems much more promising.

Babak S at April 29, 2004 01:08 PM [permalink]:

Dear AIS,

I think the problem with your argument is that you assume Ebadi is following the 1400-year-old religion. The way I see it, she is trying to change it, to change the perceptions of its practitioners, and in sum to create a new religion that goes, fortunately or unfortunately, by the same name. Even if not successful, it's a programme well worth trying, and it could at least lead to a new sect of Islam.

I don't think you really addressed my two points above, the essence of which was that she is not trying to change any of the principles of "human rights," nor the "consistency and the powerful worldview" that lies behind them.

Months Later at April 29, 2004 09:19 PM [permalink]:

Babak S at April 28, 2004 05:18 PM :

Dear Hazhir,

Your first question is quite intriguing. I have been thinking about that too, and I have to say having seen Ebadi close-up did not help very much to arrive at a definitive answer. The important thing is, anyway, that she talks about the compatibility of Islam and democracy quite passionately, and calls herself explicitly "a religious person." It's hard to swallow that all this is a pretence; there is simply no sign telling otherwise. So, all in all, yes, I have come to think she truly believes in this compatibility. The only loophole is that what she calls Islam is perhaps nowhere close to what muslim scholars, clerics, or even the majority of practicing muslims themselves consider as Islam. That's why she thinks (her version of) Islam should be retaught to muslims!

Babak S at November 6, 2003 09:33 PM :

Senior Grad: You pose a challenging question. Yes, indeed when practicalities come into play, and they always do, it does not matter for a given moment what we think of the compatibility of Islam and democracy. Sufferings of people sit in the foreground and the "theoretical" concerns in the background.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at April 29, 2004 11:43 PM [permalink]:
Babak S, "I think the problem with your argument is that you assume Ebadi is following the 1400-year-old religion. The way I see it, she is trying to change it, to change the perceptions of its practitioners, and in sum to create a new religion that goes, fortunately or unfortunately, by the same name." You see, the trouble is that when she speaks of Islam she is not talking of a new religion..., but she IS following the 1400 year old 'tradition'. If she WERE trying to change it or improve on it, she would have addressed the TROUBLE SPOTS and said 'look, we have a problem here, This and that thing aren't valid anymore. Instead we should follow this and that route..." Is she doing that? Nope! She seems to consider herself the defender of True Islam , which HAS ALWAYS BEEN VERY MODERNA ND HUMANE blah blah blah, in the face of ignorant infidel westerners who are fooled by biased media blah blah blah. (And with that stupid frown on her face and her 'khanoom moallem' teacher like tone in addressing the audience, she is doing the parroting of this similar fashionable nonsense without a touch of innovation, I have to add!) Of course there is reason for this. I am saying this for the n'th time here (sigh!), but Islam is based on the idea of non-changability. This is the core of it, what binds everything together. Is it or is it not true that in all of Islamic tradition, Quran is the DIRECT OWRDS of GOD, yes or no?! Is it not the case based on Quran itself that Muhammad was nothing but a relay station as far as those verses are concerned? Yes or no? Does those verses contain commands of wife beating, war with infidels, not befriending Jews and Christians, taking booty and slaves, threats of Hell fire for those who do not accept and try to avert the meanings....? Yes or no?! Aren't Judaism and Christianity considered mislead because they changed the words and eternal unchangable decrees of God? yes or no? Doesn't Islam mean 'complete surrender to Gods will and laws'? Yes or no? Do people who surrender have the power to change or interpret at will the terms of under which they fully surrendered? Yes or no? When she says 'Islam' that is what it means. If she is trying to say new things of her won, then she has to say it out loud! No only does she not do that, but persistently only defends ISLAM wherever she goes. More than that! She wastes the chances to talk abbout the atrocities done inside Iran to people to talk about the French government veil policy or American invasion of Iraq or Israel's policy etc. WHY? If she is really concerned in upgrading Islam, shouldn't exposing what is being done inside Iran under the name of Islam be on top of her list? Why isn't it? If you ask me because what is being doen in Iran, that she is 'supposedly' active against (right!), is ultimately indeed based on true Islamic teachings! Why is that so difficult for you to aknowledge? Why should we make up vague excuses for pathetic hypocritics like her all the time? She is not worth it! And when she tries to bind human rights and secularism with such nonsense she IS depriving it of its consistency and rigour and is DEFINITELY changing the very principles upon which 'Human Rights' is based. Don't fool yourself otherwise! Niyayesh, A allwase you (willfully?) isunderstand me. My point was that 'she can't help it' is not acceptbel, because she is a human being with a choice and will. The fact that she must be able to 'help it' if neccessary is what makes her ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Steppen Wolf at April 30, 2004 01:10 AM [permalink]:

Shirin Ebadi 's comments on Islam and its compatibility to Liberalism and Democracy looks both hypocritical and naive. It is not that hard to see where the origin of majority of malfunctions in Islamic Republic is. It is the role of a rigid and inflexible religious set of rules. Many Iranian intellectuals has seen this and tried to clarify why we need separation of religion and state. I have a keen hope that our country would be the first Islamic one which will experience this process in depth. Ebadi 's statements looks like the slogans preached by the religious structure of power trying to find a remedy for Islamic Republic.

Babak S at April 30, 2004 04:03 PM [permalink]:

Okay, this is too hot a debate already. I think I have said almost all I could say in this regard. I will give a breif sum that I hope will also serve as more clarification through its form:

1- My understanding of Ebadi's approach, effectively: change Islam so it's compatible with human rights that remain unchanged; keep Islam's name/spirit/essence/whatever; reteach it to its practitioners—religious and cultural reform.

2- My opinion on the issue of compatibility of Islam and democracy/human rights: negative historically, i.e. so far.

3- Could Islam be changed in such a way to be so compatible? I do not know; Do I find it a good thing to do: yes, if possible—this is why I don't discredit Ebadi. Reason? A good chunk of Iran's society is deeply reiligious. (a) The way that religion is preached today, it's a big source of problems; (b) The alternative is not viable: any attempt to push the religion aside completely is, first, much more costly, and second, could have catastrophic backlashes.

4- Does Ebadi believe in the separation of Mosque and State: I think yes. Is she helping that cause by her rhetorics: I'm not sure.

5- What is more urgent: the separation or the religious reform? I think the separation. Does Ebadi think so? It doesn't seem so.

6- Does she deserve to be called "a pathetic hypocritic," AIS? No! If nothing else she is a real fighter for real people. She deserves a little respect, there.

SG at April 30, 2004 04:57 PM [permalink]:

Did I enjoy Babak S's Rumsfeld-like summary? You bet I did.

Are we getting anywhere in FToI as far as the compatibility of Islam and Democracy is concerned, and especially on what the role of Ebadi here is, or are we in a loop, repeating ourselves over and over again? Not quite sure.

Is repeating one thing over and over again a bad thing? Not necessarily. Could it lead to some solution, some concensus? Maybe.

Will the solution eventually come from scholars (especially the scitists who tend to be finicky about the theory, logic, truth, consistency, and thus overlooking the practical, human side of the issues) or from activists like Ebadi? Who knows?

yaghnali-baghaal at April 30, 2004 07:47 PM [permalink]:

Most people that I know, including Babak and excluding me, see respect for human rights a necessary part of a democratic system. Respect for human rights is my religion and I don't know any better political system than democracy, but I think it's a good idea to keep our religions out of the political system, even if our religion is the belief in human rights.


My point is that democracy (by which I ONLY mean the rule of majority and nothing about human rights) doesn't get on the nerves of religous people as much as another religion does, especially when they are a part of the majority (or perhaps only in that case). We, human-right-ists, look perfectly happy with having a democracy around us, since we know that the majority around us, more or less, votes in favor of our religion. I think muslems will feel the same way about democracy, if you remove the respect for human rights as a necessary part of it. It perhaps is not everything we want, but it is a huge leap forward for the islamic world.

I understand that the premise of my argument (democracy without human rights, and calling respect for human rights just another religion, my religion) sounds so wrong to a lot of you.
I ran out of energy. bye.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at April 30, 2004 09:04 PM [permalink]:
Babak, I must second Senior Grad in applauding your summary. That is what is needed today, to know where each of us stand. good job! :) Some of my ideas to your points: 1-She is not trying to change Islam. She is trying to sell us the idea that true Islam is and has always been compatible with human rights etc. There is a big difference here. 2-Agree 3-I don't know either. But I have reasons to believe it envolves very very serious problems. I try to explain them afterwards. (Sorry, I can't summarize my points so succinctly.) 3-b- You don't need to push treligion aside in the whole society completely. This will NEVER be done. BUT you can push it aside as a relevant issue in the important decision making and especially cultur building centers of the society very effectively, and there is good reason to believe that after passing a critical point, it will enter a progressive self-reinforcing cycle (I mean evil-cycles which change direction. I don't know the name!), so the growth of secular ideas would be like exponential in a fuzzy way of speaking. The two are different. My main point is however that irrespective of whether religion could be set aside or not, the correct approach (IMHO) to go forward is to stick with the truth and consistency and the honest evaluation of facts. This might or might not prove successful, but (IMHO) the other approach will definitely be unsuccessful. My emphasis on consistency, Senior Grad, is not an ivory-tower academic obsession. I am not the type that considers anything that does not qualify as 100% logically as unworthy of consideration. BUT in such a fundamental issue, in such a critical time I DO believe that only a consistent (both internal and external (to reality)) and honest and critical movement has any chnce of getting us out of this pithole. This is not against 'human side', but precisely because of the way the human side works. The problem is, SG, that otherwise nothing prevents a new revolutionary youth of 100 years from now, reacting to who knows what social situation there, to re-'discover' the true Islam just as buffons like Shari'ati did with 'Tashayyo'e Alavi' or morons like Khomeini with Pure Muhammadan Islam (Eslam-e naab-e Mohammadi). It is so easy, they just need to read the Quran again and take it as it simply says, and throw away all that wil have been accomplished in that 100 years? What prevents it from happening? Why shouldn't it happen when it has happened so many times before in our history. With the likes of Ghazzali, with the likes of Fazlollah Nouri, Shari'ati, Khomeini .... Now is the opportunity, after 25 years of executions, murder and catastrophy to have enough motivation to finish the job and see the harsh reality eye to eye in an irreversible way. And precisely now we have 'pathetic hypocrites' like this lady to jump againa nd try to cover up everything with meaningless 'nice' words. This is almost criminal, if you ask me! 4 $ 5- Agree 6- we disagree. Let's keep it at that! More on part 3: It is evident that all religions have had and have rules of conduct. So it might be useful to see how they have coped with Modern secularism and why Islam is a special case here. As I said in my previous comment, Islam is based on revelations of the Quran that are considered to be the direct words of God and that Muhammad had no influence or bearing on them. And that these verses have been kept intact AND that these verses are very clear on a lot of issues that are at odds with ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Guardian Council at May 1, 2004 03:20 PM [permalink]:
BREAKING NEWS!!!! There is no need for West's propped up Ebadi. She has no impact on Iran's political system, since she is mostly a product of Western/Zionist plot against Islamic Iran. However she quickly learned her place and where the limits lie, which is good. I have to say that is somewhat embarrasing out of the blue being pick up randomly by Zionists, then given places to conferences around the world and being showered with honorary degrees. Somehow she hasn't earned by her merits and her struggle or whatever she does was not globally otherwise a local affair. How much all those prizes are conmesurate to her merits? Not so many if none at all. Luckily she has effectively neutralize the enemy by her pronounciations of Islam, and West's own tyrannical and bloodthirsty record is another element that prevents her from parroting democracy blindly. Iran's Hard-line Judiciary Bans Use of Torture Wed Apr 28, 2004 06:54 AM ET By Paul Hughes and Parinoosh Arami TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's hard-line judiciary on Wednesday ordered a ban on the use of torture which human rights groups say the Islamic Republic's security organizations routinely use to extract confessions. Iran's constitution specifically outlaws the use of torture of detainees. But several attempts by the reformist-dominated parliament to pass a bill banning torture have been blocked by a constitutional watchdog run by religious hard-liners. "Any torture to extract confession is banned and the confessions extracted through torture are not legitimate and legal," judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi said in a 15-point directive to judiciary, police and intelligence officials obtained by Reuters. Rights lawyers and political activists said the statement was a tacit admission that torture is still prevalent. "If we want to see a real change in the judicial system it won't be by emphasizing what's already in the constitution," said student leader Abdollah Momeni. Momeni, who said he was placed in solitary confinement for more than six weeks and forced to confess to acting against state security last year, said change would only come about if "the officials are fully committed to implementing the law." There was no clear reason for the announcement's timing. Iran's rights record is routinely criticized by Western governments. But last week Tehran escaped a censure motion by the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission for a second year running. The European Union has been involved in a human rights dialogue with Iran for about two years. But European officials privately acknowledge the talks have achieved little save a suspension on the use of stoning to execute women. Shahroudi instructed officials that "blindfolding, restraining, pestering and insulting of detainees must be avoided during arrest, interrogation and investigation." He emphasized that detainees cannot be deprived of their right to a lawyer, unnecessary detentions must be avoided and confessions must be written and verified by the accused. RIGHTS LAWYERS UNIMPRESSED His directive appeared to address most criticisms leveled at the judiciary and security forces by human rights groups and political activists. But rights lawyers were unimpressed. "The fact that he has issued a directive cannot be justified from a legal point of view because all of these points have been mentioned as binding in the constitution," said Mohammad Sharif, a lawyer who has defended several political dissidents. Vice President ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Yaghoob Yazid at May 1, 2004 08:40 PM [permalink]:

(Guardian) Council of Amroaas, JOOJEH PANJEREHYEEYEH FESGHO-LLAHI:

Thanks, NOW SHUT THE F*** UP, OR JOIN MOAMAR GHADHAFI IN APPLE POLISHING THE BALLS OF BLAIR AND BUSH.

DAASH OOS YAGHOOB YAZID GHASSAAB NASI ABADI

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 2, 2004 03:19 PM [permalink]:

Canada seems to be in the threshold of going down like Europe, if they are not careful: Islam and Canada

This is the perfect example of true Islamic logic creeping eventually and taking advantage of goodness of others until it is too late. A bunch of islamist thugs in Canada now demand to have shri'a courts of their own! This is why Islam should be under any circumstances completely neutrilzed and out of politics. You let a single gesture of goodwill and there is nothing that stops it from swallowing you up. I hope Canadians have the wisdom to understand the difference between those who are muslim but who identify themselves with their country from those who consider Islam and being Muslim to be their primary identification. Any group of the second type must be under suspicion.
It also shows more and more why 'multiculturism' was and is the most pathtic pice of junk in modern thought!
The tone of excusing everything for Muslims all the time is also inetersting. The Mullahs in Iran Killed, and most probably mutilated, raped etc. a Canadaian citrizen for doing her job as a journalist and refuse to hand over her body, and the writer has only this to say:
"Meanwhile, relations with key Middle East players like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria have been strained by reported abuses against Canadian citizens there."

"Reported abuses"?! That's it? maybe she fears her life as well, having to do with thugs?

It is also inetersting to see that almost the only opposition from any Muslims comes from Iranians and mostly women for that. As usual in these years, women are way ahead their men in Iran.

Niayesh at May 3, 2004 02:58 AM [permalink]:

Now that AIS and I have already established that we cannot get through to each other, I can treat his challenge , merely as an intellectual exercise.

However, before doing so, let me remind all the expert critics here that, while criticism is an essential part of progress, focusing on the downsides can make an evil out of everything.
Is there any upside to Islam? I’d say you must be very prejudiced to not see one.
Are the upsides worth the downsides? Depends on how you assign worth.
Will Islam yield the destruction of human race? Probably not!

As to the challenge:

Quran is clearly not consistent with complete equality of men and women. However, that does not mean that they cannot have equal rights. There are three parts in Nissa 34 (Shakir’s Translation):

a) “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property”. As you see, different translations interpret this differently. For example, here, this is taken as a statement of the fact, rather than a duty for women. Similar to other such statements, this does not need to hold in every single case, but is generally true.

b) “the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded”. This part has nothing to do with women’s rights.


c) “and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great”. This is clearly the sticky part. Now, the way to get around the dreadful consequences of this verse is the interpretation of the word “desertion”, which is the translation of “Noshouz”. Is this disobeying the husband, or God? A Jurisprudent can make the meaning of this word very exclusive, while government can set heavy punishments for wrongful domestic violence.
Can a wife beat her husband in similar conditions? Well, if she can, why not? There is nothing in Quran that contradicts it! Within this framework, would we be violating any article of the human rights?


Even if we accept that the revelations to Muhammad were divine, it wouldn’t guarantee that what we call Quran today is the same thing. The way that Quran was collected, in the 1st century by Othman, has been in no way full proof. There could have been possible omissions or additions. This may not constitute the mainstream Muslim belief, but is certainly a possibility.


1- I am positive that there are no verses in Quran mentioning “stoning adultrers, killing homosexuals”.
2- As far as I know, there is no verse that mentions “killing apostates”. There is one that mentions killing those who commit treason, in fact, not very different from the US common law.
3- I don’t think “being suspicious of Jews and Chrsitians” violates anything in the universal declaration of human rights .
4- May be you can refresh my memory about “enslaving the non-believers” in Quran.

Saeed at May 3, 2004 10:07 AM [permalink]:

How much HISTORY do you know Babak that you write "My opinion on the issue of compatibility of Islam and democracy/human rights: negative historically, i.e. so far."?

If "SO FAR" is the last 1400 years you should know a lot of history. Please let us know about the books you have read.

If "so far" is the last 50 years, this is the naivest statement I have ever heard about " the compatibility of Islam and democracy/human rights".

Babak S at May 3, 2004 03:04 PM [permalink]:

What is that arrogant tone supposed to prove Saeed? What do the names of the history books I have read have to do with our discussion? If you have a reason my opinion is wrong, naïve or anything else just bring it up—stop patronizing others!

Saeed at May 3, 2004 04:52 PM [permalink]:

I guess you have to support your "histroical" argument. You brought that up. right?

"negative historically, i.e. so far" needs a lot of explanations Babak!

P.S. I wanted my comment to be as short as possible and I am sorry if I hurt your feelings.

Babak S at May 3, 2004 06:49 PM [permalink]:

Saeed,

That statement is very clear. It means in its historic discourse and practice Islam, as a political and judiciary system, has never been able to accomodate democracy and/or human rights, as is understood at least since 200 years ago. For instance, there is not a single Islamic government or judiciary system in the world that could be considered democratic and/or respectful of human rights.

Normally I would support my "historical" statement even more, which is not a difficult task. But I see no reason why you shouldn't start first this time, by specifying what is naïve about my statement, as a gesture of good will if nothing else.

Saeed at May 3, 2004 10:25 PM [permalink]:

Babak,

Islam as a religion started breathing 1400 years ago. If one is interested in Islam's grade in the eyes of history, he should look at history in its glorious DETAILS from 1400 years ago. Otherwise the historic analysis to support your statement would be simplistic.

There are MANY factors that we haven't had successful "democracy" in the last 200 years. Well, you need to identify those factors by studing history and see which of them are the results of the Islam’s educations as a religion. In my view, it's simplistic to say Muslims haven't had democracies in the last 200 years so Islam is failed historically in relation to "human rights and democracy". It's simplistic becuase it's one dimensional.

Don't you think you should consider other factors and guage those factors?


Babak S at May 4, 2004 03:34 AM [permalink]:

Well Saeed, I see that you did not address the issue at hand at all, that is why you think naïve the statement that historically, i.e. so far, Islam has not been compatible with democracy and/or human rights (in the meaning I specified in my previous comment).

I'm not really "interested in Islam's grade in the eyes of history," why should I be? There is no need to a detailed historical analysis to understand what I'm saying. It's a matter of historical examples.

As another instance: in its entire 1400 years of history, Islam has never led to the sort of social conditions in the societies dominated by its teachings and following that could be considered democratic. It has not given birth to any such document as a charter for human rights. In its history of judicial practice, too, it has not built up a tradition of respecting what is regarded as (universal) human rights. Not only that, there are many instances of resistance against such "liberal" ideas by those who were/are the public figures of the religion. Can you produce any counter-examples?

Saeed at May 4, 2004 05:57 PM [permalink]:

"Remember, Maalik, that amongst your subjects there are two kinds of people: those who have the same religion as you have; they are brothers to you, and those who have religions other than that of yours, they are human beings like you. Men of either category suffer from the same weaknesses and disabilities that human beings are inclined to, they commit sins, indulge in vices either intentionally or foolishly and unintentionally without realizing the enormity of their deeds. Let your mercy and compassion come to their rescue and help in the same way and to the same extent that you expect Allah to show mercy and forgiveness to you.”

This was an excerpt of the letter by Ali to Maalik Ashtar, his governor of Egypt.

In Arabia where they buried their born daughters because of the shame of having a girl; Muhammad ,as a role model, called her daughter (Fatemeh) , “the mother of her father” (Omme abiha).

Do these serve as counter examples Babak? Just study ALi's government to find many counterexamples.

You haven’t answered my “YES or NO” question. Don't you think you should consider other factors and guage those factors in your grand general statement?

Again your statement is naïve because your “analysis” is one dimensional.

Ali M. at May 5, 2004 02:10 AM [permalink]:

Islam, shiism, reform, democracy....

What a load of tosh!

Now for the umpteenth time, here is an address where you can learn something about the true nature of Islam and shiism:

http://hedayat.adabkade.com/pages/karevan01.html

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 5, 2004 04:22 AM [permalink]:
Fair enough, Niyayesh at least you tried, no one can deny that! ;) OK, let me see if I understand your position completely. Based on your other comments about the non-feasibilty of having millions of Muslims leave their ancestoral religion, what you're saying is that we are stuck with this, but that it is yet possible to bend everything such that would make them compatible with moden notions of human rights. Then you propse an example in the case of those infamous verses. First, some points: a-Isn't there the possiblity of men 'maintaining' for women might one day cease to be a 'fact'. Isn't verses supposedly eternal? b- Women being obedient has no relation to their rights? So you are regarding this as being obedient to God, not their husbands. What about guarding the 'unseen'? Isn't that referring to 'hijab'? c-Nice try! Now my question, do you really believe in what you wrote? Can you personally be convinced that this is what God meant in those verses and not the natural way of understanding them? You see, your point was that Muslims are not going to abandon their religion easily. Why not? I say because according to this assumption they TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. For them it is a matter of their salvation. Do you think they would buy such 'interpretations'? (If so, what can we conclude about their degree of intelligence? :) Wouldn't the clergy rightly oppose your view. After all if God is so ominpotent, couldn't he have spoken in a more obvious manner what he did mean? If Muslims will have a hard time accepting your version, if they resist it, then what was the use? I'm sorry, but my 'challenge' was about an honest and serious new approach that would convince those who are sincerely and seriously seaking the truth. If that is the best you can come up with, the absurdity of husbands and wives going around the house and beating each other whenever the other one does not pray correctly or breaks his/her fast during ramazan...(what about the freedom of thought by the way?.That adds only to my conviction. So I turn to your other approach. Maybe this is not the real Quran? Who knows , maybe parts of it are later additions, parts of it are changed and parts of it have been deleted? Well, I say that is quite probable. Now here are the points: Other parts of the same Quran say that God is going to keep this one intact. So that part would be wrong. Not only is its authenticity to be doubted, it is to be refused. It would be self-contradictory. If so, on what basis should we decide what has is authentic and what is not? More importantly, if Quran is not the ultimate source of certainty, then what was the purpose of Islam? Ethically and mythologically, it had nothing more than Judaism. So why muslim and not Jewish? The dominant view is that those were changed, what you suggest happened to Quran as well. You also imply maybe it was not a (direct?) divine revelation either. These approaches are quite honest and convincing but you see,remember your premise that Muslims reluctant to leave their religion. If that is the extyent we are to go to keep Islam, I don't see why Muslims should be more receptive to your new interpretations than those who deny Islam's divinity and relevance all together? Why is your was feasible but the one you are avoiding by going to this extent? Actually they will be more hostile to you...rmemebr monafegheen are worse than Kuffar. (Kasravi basically had this view and he was butchered inside the justice ministry, just one exampl ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
SG at May 5, 2004 08:24 AM [permalink]:

I haven't followed all of the above closely, but when you talk about Islam and Democracy, I am intrigued. Naturally.

So here's a half-baked comment on how to settle the issue without sacrificing much. First of all, one should stop treating I (for Islam) and D (for democracy) as absolute notions. They are not to be confused with some rigorously laid down theory with solid axioms that we want to prove the consistency of. These are two abstract words that can change their meaning in the mind of people, although the change could be rather slow. For example, the Islam we (including the majority of mullahs in Qum) "know" today is very different from Islam, the way the word was conceived during the Constitutional Revolution, or even 25 year earlier. For example, if I rely on my memory, music was strictly forbidden in the old version of the Iranian Islam, but who cares anymore? What happened to chess? And so on and so forth.

Democracy, too, takes different shapes, based on the container you pour it into. Is the Indian democracy the same as the American, or let's say, British democracy. Speaking of which, look how beautifully the Brits have mixed monarchy with democracy, instead of arguing at length that how on earth could the two be compatible! (I'm sure they're scholars have argued at length, but at the end of the day, it is the reality of the mater that counts, not abstract theorizing. And that was just an example, mind you.

Niayesh had once said something to the effect that all governments are democratic! I guess in a sense, he may be correct. In the following sense:

If the majority of a nation, a community, etc. deeply accepts certain ideas as "right", then the competing ideas that conflict with those "right" ideas, will eventually, though gradually, be swept aside. So I suppose if Iranians believe in (IMAN AVARAND BEH) the *spirit* of democracy (justice, freedom of speech, etc.), then their *notion* of Islam will also go through a change.

In any case, I think the posterity will have a completely different take on I and D, and they will have a hard time understanding what the big deal has been all about...

Magasak at May 5, 2004 10:18 AM [permalink]:

Saeed, Ali failed to produce a government. He only went to wars.

He was a pious and morally transparent man. He didn't care what would happen to his people and took his mission too seriously and that was to restore the Caliphate to himslef and he failed miserably. Compare him to Mohammad who tricked all of the Mecca Elite at least three times and in the end captured Mecca without a bloodshed.

Ali's ideal government wouldn't be a democracy. According to Shi'ites his sons would bequeath it and at best it would be a good-for-people nepotism.

Hedayat at May 5, 2004 10:23 AM [permalink]:

"here is an address where you can learn something about the true nature of Islam and shiism" !

Can you define us what "TRUE" means my friend? and what "NATURE" means? and why on earth the true nature of Islam and shiism can be LEARNED from "Karevan e Islam"?

What a load of tosh!

Saeed at May 5, 2004 10:50 AM [permalink]:

Magasak,

Babak wanted a "counter example" to his claim

"It means in its historic discourse and practice Islam, as a political and judiciary system, has never been able to accomodate democracy and/or human rights,"

I am talking about a counterexample Magasak! and this is indeed "accomodate" human rights and it's a letter to his "governor" (detailed paragraph above):

"Remember, Maalik, ... and those who have religions other than that of yours, they are human beings like you.... Let your mercy and compassion come to their rescue and help in the same way and to the same extent that you expect Allah to show mercy and forgiveness to you.”


Detailed "discussions" needs detailed information. You can just throw sentences out in the air like

"Ali failed to produce a government. He only went to wars" whithout knowing enough history that you can handle it. Well I can write

"Ali did not fail to produce a government. He went to wars which imposed on him and he did his best to avoid it."

It worth nothing!

HISTORY IS NOT MATHEMATICS! IT'S HISTORY!


Now when it comes to counter examples you can find counterexample. But even counterexamples worth nothing for a clean discussion.

In my view discussions on this website , in the sense that I explained, is just playing with words from both sides of the discussions, specially when it comes to discussions about Islam and democracy.

SG at May 5, 2004 11:39 AM [permalink]:

To continue my half-baked comment from couple of hours ago, I would like to add:

Wherever there is a society of humans, there is no avoiding incompatible worldviews, belief systems and life experiences. Even more, no one can claim that her/his beliefs are all logically consistent with one another, even during a short period of time.

If you don't accuse me of uttering some tautologies, I should say that based on their life experiences and histories, individual humans beings as well as societies, let go of certain ideas for the sake of some other ideas that seem to work better for them.

So if the motive behind all the discussion on whether I and D are compatible or not is to finally take one and discard the other, this is simply a misguided strategy. Like Khatami wrote in his recent letter, most Iranians cannot easily let go of whatever they know as their religion, neither can we stick to the old authoritarian form of life and government.

It seems to me (and I may be wrong) that, by and large, the world is becoming a more democratic place. The old ideas, in other words, are slowly making way for democracy. To be sure, there will be backlashes and many lives will be lost in the process. So the proper question, in my opinion is:

How to make the transition as smooth and painless as possible?

Not this:

Let's find out whether I and D can co-exist under a roof, and if they can't kick one of them out.

I am pretty pro-democracy myself, at least because D seems to work in some parts of the world. But if somebody asks me what should be done to make this transition as smooth (and even fast) as possible, I won't answer "Read Hedayat's satirical piece on Islam", or "Let's destroy all the mosques", or "Let's make fun of religious fellow Iranian and prove to them that they are stupid or wrong or both.".

I will just answer by three words: Education, Education, Education.

P.S. I have to re-emphasize that by "education", I don't mean what the word TAHSIL connotes. Far from it, indeed. I have met far too many Iranians with MDs and PhDs and more than that who were all but educated. By "education" I mean what they mean by it in a broad sense in the English language.
the

Babak S at May 5, 2004 08:44 PM [permalink]:

Saeed,

We can go round and round in this cyclic argument.

A1) Unfortunately, what you quoted from Imam Ali's letter to Malik Ashtar, does not relate to human rights. It's an advice, or an order, to the governor to be merciful and compassionate to his subjects, independent of their religion.

First, it simply does not say anything about the rights of these subjects. It's a governing manual, not a document on human rights. If it was to be on human rights, it would go something like `Remember Maalik, that amongst your subjects those who have the same religion as you have and those who have religions other than that of yours, are equal and all have the same rights; they are human beings like you…'

Second, even if we overlook the previous point and take a close look at the message of the quote we see that it asserts that people of the same religion "are brothers to you," while those of other religions are only acknowledged to be "human beings like you." This is still a far cry from a fair view of equity, a notion central to the very idea of human rights. It preaches compassion, true, but that perhaps only meant Malik should not kill, or harm, any of those "other" people and let them be. But what about the special tax/levy (jazia) that was imposed on them? Or their half-existance in everything?

Perhaps if those words of compassion were true to the history and practice of islam, they could have inspired the muslim society at large; perhaps they would have led to a document of "human rights" in the history of Islam, don't you think?

A3) Something that has always bothered me in discussions of this kind, is the repeated line of argument that goes "In Arabia where they buried their born daughters because of the shame of having a girl; Muhammad, as a role model, called her daughter (Fatemeh) , `the mother of her father' (Omme abiha)." First of all, I do not understand if shame of girls was such a widespread cultural element of pre-Islam Arabia, how a woman like Khadija could be found of so much wealth and power. But that is not my main objection:

How could an improvement of the situation of the pre-Islam Arabia, justify or make acceptable the same 1,400-year-old post-Islam practices, when they are no longer beneficial in the light of more recent human achievements? For instance, why should we insist that Islam respects the rights of women, since the Prophet inspite of the alleged popular contempt for girls in Arabia called her daughter by a prestigious title, when the most they are given in reality, is half that of the men?—when they are in the fact of the matter regarded as dependents of a male protector, be it the father or the husband?—etc.

A4) As to your question: I should repeat that I am not giving any analysis of the history of Islam, but simply stating a fact: the non-existence of such things as democracy and/or human rights as we undertand them today in the history of Islam. It's amusing to notice that in this sense my statement is not even one-dimensional; it's zero-dimensional! An analysis of this fact would not alter its truth, it would only tell us a little about its cause(s)—which just by intuition cannot not include Islam to a very large extent.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 5, 2004 08:48 PM [permalink]:

SG,

"It seems to me (and I may be wrong) that, by and large, the world is becoming a more democratic place."

And how is this happening? It is not becoming a more democratic by wise guys who sit around and 'observe' the trend. That's for sure!

It reminds me of what the lefties said about Reza Shah's modernization of Iran: Yes Rail way was made, big deal, it is inevitable that technology should come. Universities? Big deal...Education system...big deal....
They just failed to enlighten us why the same 'inevitability' didn't happen in most of Africa or in poorest nation of the world at that time or afterwards?

Monarchy per se has nothing against democracy. In Britain you have to study the social structure, the power of arsitochracy AND the Judeo-Christian basis that considered Kings as temporary rulers under the law that applies to everyone high or low, unlike in the east where monarchs had absolute power.

Saeed,

keep mentioning your myths as facts. It is like a chrsitian qouting stories of King Arthur and Merlyn the Wizard in the middle of a serious discussion all the time. By the way, all those 'Letters' of Ali, by what Alphabet were they being written? I thought a standard alphabet capable of expressing things in a unified version didn't come about until the 3rd Century after Hijra. That's when the first versions of complied written Quran, from who knows what sources, were first written. Surely if they were incapable of writing the Quran itself, such melodramatic lengthy letters are later myths and the fantastic imagination of shiites scribes in the 'Nahjolbalaghe'. Sin't that so?

Saeed at May 6, 2004 01:29 AM [permalink]:
Babak, I hope you spend sometime reading this long comment: I guess people of the NEXT CENTURIES will discuss why those guys had different rights for people of different parts of the world. An American ? An Iranian? WHY SHOULD THEY BE DIFFERENT? Different rights? Unbelievable! But I look at these and say it’s NATUARL! It doesn’t alarm my human rights beep. They guy in 2304 might think it was against human rights and I think it is natural! WHAT A BIG DIFFERENCE!? Well we just scanned 300 years. I wonder what would be our judgment if we scan back 1400 years and read Ali’s “order” to Maalik. "How could an improvement of the situation of the pre-Islam Arabia, justify or make acceptable the same 1,400-year-old post-Islam practices, when they are no longer beneficial in the light of more recent human achievements?" There is a fine difference between a counterexample and a proof. I've never claimed "historical" PROOF for consistency of Islam and democracy that you are asking me this question Babak. About PRESENT: I think your point is really valid when it comes to PRESENT situation and why Muslims are so miserable, not just economically, but also human righty! I have found many contradictions from what I’ve seen in Quran and what I see, say in Iran. My view on this issue is: it's PARTLY because the religion hasn't been learned or taught or whatever as a PACKAGE but as some sporadic concepts with a huge emphasis on the "resale" part of Islam, an "opium" for the masses one might say. This is a typical day for a religious Iranian I guess: Praying with full notice that what I should do if I 've had this doubt or that doubt, not looking at a woman at all but lying as much as it fits to lie. Well by Islamic standards LYING is worst than ADULTARY. But that religious person is never being taught this. And for a society as none correlated as ours my SAD observation is that it's like running Renormalization Group equations with some coupling constants. It doesn't matter much if it's Islamic like or secular like. It 's UNIVERSAL. The system will end up as was ended up before. If you have one universality class of course ;) There are individual fluctuations but they are only at the level of fluctuations. Now going back to your HISTORY: I think you have these mathematically built concepts of human rights with NARROW sentences and you complain why Muhammad or Ali, as you “heard” of them; don't fit your "chart". If you had enough "historical" information to build, virtually, Arabia of 1400 years ago, you PROBABLY ,again PROBABLY, (I don’t have a verdict on this issue) wouldn't have written those fine LOGICAL points about the difference between a "governing manual” and a “document on human rights" and you might have had different motives like to see if there is any “spirit of human rights” in your virtually BUILT past. This is why I am saying History with big H is not mathematics. You should first be able to SEE the past and then judge. Coming back to PRESENT: I don't think of some social aspects of Islam that is being taught today as true. I was created human first! So don’t get the impression that I am defending everything. Well I guess if I hear Beethoven’s ninth by orchestra of “Garmsar” conducted by “Mam Taghi”, I would strongly criticize what I heard, but I might still find something of a belief in Beethoven and some general pleasures for some part of the playing! (It’s only a matter of degree of course) Hope to hear to a more elegant read ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
SG (Wise Guy!) at May 6, 2004 12:33 PM [permalink]:

AIS:

I did not sit on a lazy-boy on the porch, strecth my legs comfortably, smoking hookah and letting the smoke out in rings, then squinting my eyes and snort in a husky voice: "Oooookay, it seems like it is an historical inevitability that the world is now becoming more democratic. Big friggin' deal!"

(In fact, I don't have a lazy boy, I don't have a porch and I don't have a hookah to begin with.)

I think I do appreciate the efforts of those who work for making the world a better place, but I am no longer young enough to think that I could change the world. In fact, it would be a great achievement if I could only change my own life. And I suppose I do have a "life" to attend to, so no, oh no, rest assured I am not sitting around.

Now, BAA EJAAZE YE SARKAAR, I gotto get back to my little life.

SG at May 7, 2004 02:20 PM [permalink]:

Still continuing my half-baked comments, I would like to give you another example of how certain ideas are gradually pushed aside (or, if you wish, swept under the proverbial carpet) in favor of other ideas that have been embraced by the majority, have gained concensus. (I'm using the word "idea" in a very very broad sense here.)

There is this Islamic duty along with daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, almsgiving, Hajj, jihad, etc. knowns in Persian as "AMR BEH MA'ROOF WA NAHY AZ MONKAR", that the modern structure of our urban life has rendered it obsolete. I remember that about a decade ago, Khamenei, perhaps thinking that his words will be heard by the Muslim world, or at least by his fellow Iranians, was trying hard for a while to revive this Islamic tradition. To no avail.

If you stop someone on a Tehran street today to tell her/him how to behave and how not to, it's likely that s/he retorts back: "None of your business", if you're lucky enough not to get a slap in the face. (We now live in a world that you can't even tell your children or your wife what is proper and what is not.) The notion of "ummah" does no longer exist, if it ever did, and even though a minority of fanatics among us want to turn back the clock, the realities of the time won't let this happen.

All I am saying is, Islam, and what it means to us, change over time, but as long as in the darkest corners of our souls, when we are low in spiritual resources we turn to one or another version of religiosity, you cannot simply expect it to go away, just because people, when they're young, want to have more "freedom", or something.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 7, 2004 04:20 PM [permalink]:

Concerning what I wrote about shari'ah courts in canada, I have receieved an email from a friend informing me that there are also halakhah courts active in Canada for Jewish couples who decide to refer to them. I didn't know about this. Personally I think this is also wrong and meaningless.
But again the differences between judaism and Islam are very big. Islam is an expansionist religion, whose ultimate goal is becoming the universal religion. Judaism is not. Besides as far as I know Talmud is very repectful of the living in peace and decent under the laws of the lands that Jews reside in. Where as Islam considers any other law but Sharia as void and unacceptable, and with the present funalmentalism craze in Islam it is even worse.
Anyway, I thought it inecessary to share this information with others here.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 8, 2004 12:27 AM [permalink]:
SG, Your example is an interesting one that can shed light on many things: Can this reluctance of 'amre be ma'ruf...' also be a sign of passivity to any social endeavour? Yes, changes happen all the time, but here almost always to something worse. This is not surprising when Islam stablishes with raw fear. Pick a Quran, no matter where you begin you'll end up with a repetative obsession with hell fire, torture in afterlife or punishment of infiels and those who won't 'surrender'. When this manipulation of such a basic instinct becomes the basis, the free intellect freezes. So since change is an inevitable fact of life, the change would be towards more and more instinctive degenracy, becuase only new "bed'ats" can pass through that surpass the previous one in these manipulatings of feelings.So we see all sorts of stories on how Muhammad, Ali etc. become holier and holier by time, and less and less like a real human being and never new stories in the other direction. More and more things become taboo that weren't so, but the opposite never happens consciously, except when the topic was indeed a noble on ein the beginning needing moral effort in the first place. So people become more and more hypocrites and THIS IS NATURAL and understandable. As they say, "kheshte aval ch nahaad me'mar kaj,..." It is also no surprise that people like Ebadi resort to sufism and the likes, because their 'tolerance' comes from a more general and deadly PASSIVITY and not-this-worldliness, which is a dead end. Indeed the emergence of all these sufistic 'drugs' is a direct consequence of the inhuman harshness of Islam, and indeed the new wave of fundamentalism is also a reaction to tghe passivity of such 'tolerant versions of Islam'. Getting away from that passivity, which proved to be more deadly and unprogressive than Islam itself, is what made it so attractive and seducing to generations of youth trying to come to terms in a progressive world that couldn't tolerate that druged slumber anymore. A good way of seeing this is that worldviews that could give them a consistent alternative,no matter how shallow they were, became dominant and gathered following, even when they were at odds with Islam. Communism being one of them. the head of th e tudeh party was the grand sonm of sheikh fazlollah the super islamic fundamentalist! Indeed the whole attractivness of fascistic doctrines, including todays islamic fundamentalism , is in the seducingly simple and consistent view they give and thus shake the 'passive and sleeping ones' into action. Yes Hafez speaks of toletrance 'ba dustaan morovat, ba doshmanan modaraa', but that comes from a worldview that is strongly embedded in this as well: 'Hadis az motreb o mey guy o raaze dahr kamtar juy ke kas nagshud o nagshayad be hekmat in moama raa'. The real question is to change but in the other direction. To be tolerant but this-worldy and in search of 'raaze dahr' all the time. Now that comes about ONLY after a real change of worldview and a a fundamental change of path from both islam and its 'tolerant' consequences. And when this is not satisfied you end up with half baked this and thats, too much talk and no actions, and ultimately frustrating, for in the heads of people were thoughts from different origins and worldview pulling people in all the directions at once. This whole recurrent episode is coompressed in what the Khayyam immortalized as a persian proverb" Kaj daar o mariz!' (Keep tilted but to do not spill! ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
SG at May 8, 2004 09:42 AM [permalink]:

AIS:

I hurriedly read your last comment (as my little life here is becoming more demanding by the minute, increasingly requiring more attention), as it was addressed to me and I found it more thoughtful and less "cliche" than I expected.

Well, you seem to have figured it all out! You seem to have made up your mind about a lot of issues, what Sufism is, what kind of tolerance we exactly need (I didn't know there were different kinds.), how and why notorious communists emerged from deeply Islamic households, and a bunch of other issues.

Naturally, I don't agree with all you say (that is, the parts that I can follow in a hurried reading, because you seem to have condensed a lot in a few hurriedly-written paragraphs), and I am not going to enter a point-by-point analysis of your comment (I strongly (and quite seriously)suggest you to write a pamphlet, clarifying your views on these issues, because you seem to be one of those rare species of Iranians who actually have a point-of-view. Putting your thoughts into writing will clear a lot of things for yourself as well, but make sure to stay away from common sloganeering as much as possible.), but since you keep insisting on "action", let me just ask this:

What course of action do you suggest us to take in order to make living in Iran a less painful experience than it currently is? (Shouldn't it be the noble dream goal of all Iran-loving Iranians, after they're done with their busy little life?)

To me, the answer lies in educating the Iranian people (*including ourselves*), espeically the children. In particular, and as a first step, we seriously need to enhance the understanding of Iranians (again, including ourselves) of what the West really, let me repeat, REALLY, is all about.

Generations of Iranian intellectuals have failed to convey to our people the very basic ideas that lie at the root of the Western mentality. I don't blame them, because in my humblest opinion, these gentlemen (and ladies, if you can remember any!) often have not quite "gotten" it themselves. :-)

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 9, 2004 04:42 AM [permalink]:

All I have been trying to do is pinpoint things I'm convinced we shouldn't be doing and which are futile or destructive. Education is a very general term like this and although it is obviously necessary, it is not sufficient. What about rational and critical thinking?

Sorry-have no time fro writing any manifestos! ;)

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 9, 2004 05:07 PM [permalink]:
SG, although you wrote nothing special, it still bothered me and I think I know why: "Generations of Iranian intellectuals have failed to convey to our people the very basic ideas that lie at the root of the Western mentality. I don't blame them, because in my humblest opinion, these gentlemen (and ladies, if you can remember any!) often have not quite "gotten" it themselves." The values and 'mentalities' that you mean do not BELONG to the West and are not INVENTED by them. The West (ie Western Europe and their colonies in the new world)was the first 'part' of humanity that, for complex cultural, historical and religous reasons, DISCOVERED them and was able to embed them deeply in its dominant world view. The values,ideas and mentalities (the good parts) are not by themselves so difficult to understand nor does understanding them need a full grasp of all the complexities of such a culture. This distiction is what many of our 'intellectuals' seem not to grasp and pardon me of counting you as one of them based on what you said! Actually these people are just the other side of the coin of Khamenei and Islamists. The only difference being that this side admires 'the West' and the other despises it, but both share the idea that the values are by nature 'Western' and not universal. In short, they take the adjective 'Western' too literally, whereas it is used as a short form of 'Universal, rational and human ideas that the West has been able to inetgrate in its culture more fully than any other in human history up to now', the correct way it is used in the West itself. (except maybe by the loonie post modern multicultural relativist idiots, but they don't really count any way!) So as far as the ideals and values are concerend, they are rational and based on common sense. The fact that many people do not see this is a sign that it is the plathora of 'Eastern' nonsense complexities that dominates that prevents simple common sense to functionand that gives rise to such assertions. I can't help but detect patriarchy as one of them. After all, the stupid masses must listen to 'us the elite' who have unravelled this mystery of Western mentality! The independent question of those main values being the correct ones is already presumed in my case. What I said about looking at our culture as belonging to the same camp as the West is not about the principle ideas but the practical problem of making them embedded in our own culture as a result. Culture and its complexities produce sense of belonging that is IMO the key here and vice versa not belonging to a set of cultures produces alianantion. Now that I've started this, it is funny to follow up a bit more: " Well, you seem to have figured it all out! You seem to have made up your mind about a lot of issues, what Sufism is, what kind of tolerance we exactly need (I didn't know there were different kinds.), how and why notorious communists emerged from deeply Islamic households, and a bunch of other issues." Aaah, interesting to see this all the time! OK, what you imply is that all these are very complex topics and the fact that I have clear positions about them-or have made up my mind, as your way if saying it- is a sure sign that I can not be right and that I will have failed to have grasped all the complexity of the matter. So I shouldn't hold to such naive and clear cut positions (It is a sign of my young age, perhaps? ;) But you see, OF COURSE what I say can't be the whole truth and ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
SG at May 9, 2004 05:55 PM [permalink]:

AIS wrote:

"So as far as the ideals and values are concerend, they are rational and based on common sense. The fact that many people do not see this is a sign that it is the plathora of 'Eastern' nonsense complexities that dominates that prevents simple common sense to functionand that gives rise to such assertions."

I say: "This is simply *your* opinion, AIS."

I continue: "Because as you yourself just said:"

AIS:

"But you see, OF COURSE what I say can't be the whole truth and fails to address all the complexity. That is OBVIOUS! and IRRELEVANT! Because this is the same for ANY view and any set of theories."

So I guess it doesn't take a "manifesto" to reveal all the incoherence (and ASHOFTEGI) in what you say. Just one of your comments was enough to show that some people just blabber here, blabber, quack, quack, quack... :-)

Niayesh at May 10, 2004 01:25 AM [permalink]:

Now that I'm back at my DSL connection, I could find the time to go through the lively discussions of our articulate friends. Since I seem to be the only one who CAN be convinced in this group, and have neither time nor the energy to catch up with the rest, let me put down a few of my conclusions/observations/final thoughts:

1- Parts of mainstream Islam has got confilcts with human rights, as defined by the UN.

2- Nevertheless, the rest of Islam is neutral or may be even supportive of the idea of human rights.

3- You can either

a) Abandon Islam, give up the "opium" of faith, or, at the worst, try to satisfy your spirituality through the Judeo-Christian tradition (As advocated by AIS).

b) Follow your divine calling, without the slightest regard for the man-made laws.

c) Find a middle ground between the 1400-year old myth, and 50-year old poetry.

4- Democracy is in conflict with Islam, no less than it is in conflict with the 1750s' Christianity.

5- I would rather have my spirituality, even at the expense of my "human rights". You can, of course, choose differently.

The Pagan at May 10, 2004 03:38 AM [permalink]:

Niayesh,

If the Christians, the Jews, the Hindus, the Sunnis, ... share your point of view of their "spirituality" preceding their respect for rights of their fellow humans, sooner or later, none of us is going to be in existence to follow this debate. So many crimes against humanity have been committed under the name of the church (by church I mean any religious organization, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, ...), so many lives taken in religious wars. The facts are so clear that "your choice", to my collections, implies either:

a) you are absolutely ignorant of history, and what is going on around the world now,
b) you are indifferent to any human being except your brother (not even sister) muslims, which is a kind of modern racism,
c) religious bias has made you blind, which means you'd better renounce your rationality and integrity.

Good Luck!

Niayesh at May 10, 2004 05:32 AM [permalink]:

The Pagan,

Notice that I said "my "human rights""!

SG at May 10, 2004 12:05 PM [permalink]:

Sounds like the habit of sammarizing is catching on. :-)

How about this?

Instead of talking about Islam (or other religions) and Democracy (or Human Rights, or whatever other system) in their *totality", think of them as belief systems which are not monolithic, but consititute of diverse parts; parts that can be in conflict within the very same system, even though we may not be readily aware of that inconsistency.

Now, some parts of Islam in in conflict with some parts of Human Rights. The rest of them, however, seem to be fine with one another. Now, how about identifying those "problem areas" and instead of saying I is not compatible with D, as "total" systems, recognize the non-problematic parts as OK, and try to reach a compromise in the problem areas?

For example, someone's fasting shouldn't come in conflict with my human rights, though it may come in conflict with hot summer days and hot American girls on the street wearing next to nothing know, in which case that someone should stay home. :-)

No, this example was just my attempt at being funny. I take it back. So anyway, I think the approach I'm putting forward (disecting I and D into pieces and seeing what pieces of this are not compatible with what pieces of that) is worth thinking about...

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 13, 2004 03:02 AM [permalink]:

Niayesh,
Enjoy your spirituality!

Nessim at May 13, 2004 10:05 AM [permalink]:

I think we are missing the point, the point is:
Love – what does it mean anyway?
“Love never fails.”
The word love comes from two Greek words – phileo and agape. One is of human origin, the other divine. (1) Phileo requires two people to appreciate each other; agape can be entirely one-sided. (2) Phileo is conditional. If its demands aren’t met, it ends. Agape comes with no strings attached. (3) Phileo relationships can end due to changing circumstances. Agape exists, period. (4) Phileo requires some level of emotional reward. Agape flourishes regardless; any reward only enhances it.
When Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn 13:34 NIV), He was using the word agape, not phileo. Why? Because He knows that we can choose to love one another at all times, regardless of what does or doesn’t happen.
In her book, Love Is So Much More, Ruth Calkin writes, “Marriage means – putting up with personality weaknesses, accepting criticism and giving each other freedom to fail. It means sharing deep feelings about fear and rejection, turning self-pity into laughter, and taking a walk to regain control. Marriage means – gentleness and joy, toughness and fortitude, fairness and forgiveness and a walloping amount of sacrifice. Marriage means – learning when to say nothing, when to keep talking, when to push a little and when to back off. It means acknowledging ‘I can’t be God to you – I need Him too.’ Marriage means – you are the other part of me and I am the other part of you. We’ll work through this with never a thought of walking out. Marriage, my love, means us!”

Ordak D. Coward at May 13, 2004 08:48 PM [permalink]:

I think the problem with Shirin Ebadi's approach is that she is trying to revision the History of Islam, only looking at the facts that make Islam look good, ignoring the rest. The core of her challenge, is the belief that a 'true' Islam exists regardless of the practices of Muslims. And, for some unknown reason to me, she believes that she is one of the enlightened ones that have a grasp of the true Islam. I think she has no chance of delivering her message unless she seriously starts preaching her understanding of Islam. This will call for proper 'carriers' to promote her version of Islam among Muslim populace. One such carrier could be a proper name for her version of Islam. She may get a lesson or two from Khomeini who invented the terms 'Eslaam e Naab Mohammadee' (Pure Mohammadan Islam) and 'Eslaam e Aamreekaaee' (American Islam), to promote his version of (authoritian) Islam as the correct one.

P.S. My appologies to the orignial Ordak of this forum. I chose this pseudonym on a whim, unaware that one of the participants here also used the very same pseudonym.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 14, 2004 05:34 AM [permalink]:

Update:

The other link seems not to work so here is a newer one:
Spirituality!

And here is the related page

It is important for everyone to take a good look at this video.

Tautologist at May 14, 2004 01:05 PM [permalink]:

AIS,
So what?
Killing innocent (or non-innocents without due judicial process) people is a crime, using Apathci Helicopters or Knife does not matter.

Ron at May 14, 2004 04:35 PM [permalink]:

Comments like that make me despair for people in this world. By what logic can a person equate the morality of killing a terrorist, or even accidentally killing civilians with deliberately sawing a living man's head off while he screams?

I'm sorry AIS. I couldn't bring myself to watch it. I am still haunted by the Daniel Pearl video; it's the one thing in my life I wish I could unsee.

Tautologist at May 14, 2004 05:49 PM [permalink]:

Let me clarify my comment.
1. Killing people is a crime.
1. A crime is a crime.
2. Technological advance is not equal to morality.
3. Missiles do not distinguish between innocent and guilty.
4. Firing missile into crowd to target a terrorist, bombarding a city to kill some criminals is collective punishment.
5. Collective punishment is a crime.
6. There is no such thing as incidental killing or collateral damage.
7. Human rights is universal.

Ron at May 14, 2004 08:20 PM [permalink]:

Thanks for the ethics lesson. And I hope things are working out for you in your fantasy world.

I'll remember premise #1 "Killing people is a crime" the next time my family is under attack and I let them die for fear that killing the attacker will make me a criminal too.

I'll also remember the other #1 "A crime is a crime" when I become a moron.

Finally, I should congratulate your system for giving terrorists free passage to kill and kill civilians and then hide among other civilians, knowing that any action against him would result in collateral damage and be condemned as criminal. In this way he's free to terrorize an entire society, making them afraid to ride the bus to work, if they even have a job left because everyone is afraid to leave their houses. THAT's collective punishment, which according to rule #5 is a crime. And thanks to you we all know that a crime is a crime.

Babak S at May 14, 2004 08:39 PM [permalink]:

Ron,

I can't let go unsaid that I not only agree with you, but I certainly took some logical pleasure in your last comment.

Our Tautologist might want to at least change his/her nickname; that's too big a give-away information on his/her judgements and moral stance.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 14, 2004 09:28 PM [permalink]:
Tautologist, So the deliberate beheading of a civilan is the same according to you to the non-deliberate deaths of civilans in the middle of an explosion in a battle ground. I see! Is it possible, just possible that for once, ONCE, that you and the likes of you see something as appaling and inhuman as this and not start with a BUT and an excuse and a comparison...? JUSE ONE DAMN TIME? what are you saying, that this is just a response to American etc. crimes, so quid pro quo? Is that how low 'alternative thinkers peacniks' will sink or should we keep watching for the lower levels, huh? Besides, my link was as a response to Niayesh in athread about Islam and reform,when he finaly writes: "5- I would rather have my spirituality, even at the expense of my "human rights". " This was an example of what that spirituality leads to when you are willing to embrace it at the expense of "human rights". (yeah, and the scare-quotes are around human right for what reason? This filthy troublesome nuissance of 'human rights' seems to be what is implied here) And for your majesties information, chopping off heads of infidels is a legitimate punishment in the 'holy' (!) and 'spiritual' religion of Islam and has ever since that Muhammad himself been carried out continously without interruption in the last 1400 years of inferno in the ME and elsewhere. You might spend some of your precious majestic time reading these: chopping heads Beheading in Islam And here is just an example of a Quranic verse: An-Nisa 91: "Others you will find that wish to gain your confidence as well as that of their people: Every time they are sent back to temptation, they succumb thereto: if they withdraw not from you nor give you (guarantees) of peace besides restraining their hands, seize them and slay them wherever ye get them: In their case We have provided you with a clear argument against them." Another translation: "You will find others who desire that they should be safe from you and secure from their own people; as often as they are sent back to the mischief they get thrown into it headlong; therefore if they do not withdraw from you, and (do not) offer you peace and restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them; and against these We have given you a clear authority." Source How about this one: An-Nisa 101: "...For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies." This guy was an infidel from the land that is in war with muslim fighters and offers no peace, he had the Israeli stamp on his passport that is the enemy of Islam,He expected to have security amidst the muslims, and trying to win their confidence in an after-war Iraq that is to be democratic and therefore not strictly Islamic any more. He was trying to win over Iraqi muslim confidence in building infidel american non islamic organizations in a muslim country that would take Iraq away from the true and pure rule of God. Can you see the parallel or need I go on? There are I guess other verses and the sonnat(sunnah) as well. So Mr. "no crime", What about you? Are you willing to at least aknowledge that Islam supports acts that you already agreed to be a crime, or new excuses are to come? By the way, what about stoning people especially women in our own Iran? Have you fallen short of finding some "BUT...", some excuse, some way to blame the Americans or others or to draw comparisons there? Is that why that one is just pushed under the rugs and ignored? Or your genius ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Tautologist at May 15, 2004 03:58 AM [permalink]:

AIS,
I have to tell something again: Killing innocent
people by any means is a crime. That particular act of beheading a human being in front of a camera is the worst form of it, the most appaling and most inhuman. I would never want to put a BUT after that sentence and will never enjoy the death of an innocent man. For me people life is not something collateral. High tech killing is also an appaling and inhuman act.
Ron,
You are absolutely right, terrorizing an entire society by any means is a crime. I hope you always be as logical as you were in your comment. The next time your family and loved ones are under attack defend them, and fear of nothing and apply the same logic universally to others.
As for terrorists hiding among innocent people, I think using your logic one can infer the legitimacy of torturing a prisoner to give away information that might probably lead to arresting some other criminal. Do you prescribe torture in this case or not?


An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 15, 2004 05:23 AM [permalink]:

Tautologist,

"...I would never want to put a BUT after that sentence..."
"High tech killing is also an appaling and inhuman act."

I see. no "BUT" now, only "ALSO"...veery interesting.

So again Mr. super-moralist, you didn't answer my question about your position on Islam...still waiting.

One more question: How are we to fight those who are bound to kill us, subjugate us because of their religion, their ideology and their mental deseases? throwing flowers at them with innocent and benevolant smiles? What if after that, since we are being non-colateral-damage-inducing saints and they survive and even become bolder for they interprete this as weakness, they kill more and more innocents DELIBERATELY?
How are we to deal with killers that rule Iran and look over powerful mafia systems? with meaningless shallow words like that of yours I guess, because any other WAR also would involve civilan innocent deaths. Some moral views you have. I'm sure you sleep at nights very pleased with YOUR humanity.
I have news for you. More innocent blood is on the hands of the likes of you than it is on those psychos, religious or otherwise, since the likes of you are the biggest impediments against liberation and fight with murderelearly than evers as the situation in the US shows more clearly than ever.

Niayesh at May 15, 2004 08:12 AM [permalink]:
AIS, This is preposterous. My spirituality being responsible for the death of Nick Berg is even more irrelevant than my science (or any other scientist’s for that matter) being responsible for the death of people in Hiroshima 60 years ago. Just because some people apply something in a certain way, doesn’t make that thing evil, in quite the same way that we don’t consider knife to be evil, despite the fact that it was used by Nick Berg’s killers. Don’t get me wrong! I feel no need to respond to your insult. I think every person with a common sense can see this, and I’ll leave it at that. AIS, Ron, and Babak, Now let’s see, the United States has invaded the sovereign country of Iraq without any provocation. As a direct result, more than than ten thousand civilians have been killed, plenty of civilian houses, along with the Iraqi infrastructure were destroyed, and you’re telling me that the murder of Nick Berg is somehow worse? Or maybe you think since killing civilians was “indeliberate”, it makes it OK! Well, Iraqi civilians don’t think that way. In fact, no occupied country during the whole history of colonialism would. They’d say they had no business being there in the first place, let alone killing our children accidentally! Would you come out, call me new names, and say that I have sunk to even newer lows? Probably, but that’s fine. I’m getting used to the insults. That seems to come standard in corresponding with “An Iranian Student”. AIS, By “human rights”, I meant as it is declared by the United Nations . There are other declarations of the United Nations that you wouldn’t approve of, for example more than 60 resolutions condemning Israeli actions in Palestine! So there might be reasons to not completely buy this one, as well. Now, the statement that I made about spirituality and human rights was a personal statement, and I wouldn’t dare to extend it to anybody else. You see, as much is it may seem un-Islamic to you, I am a proponent of democracy, and I would leave it to people to define their own “spirituality”, and “human rights”. The verse of Quran that you bring here merely says to fight back during wars. I don’t see what I need to respond to. Of course, you can see whatever you want, and read whatever you want, but what you gave me doesn’t say anything about beheading infidels. As to the history, you can find enough beheading in the history of democracy (e.g. French Revolution). So Islam wouldn’t be more special in that way. And why should I have to apologize for stoning women in Iran, something that is not even prescribed in Quran. Just because I share the same title with a billion other people across the globe, I cannot be held responsible for what they do. And I don’t have a practical prescription for changing the Islamic Republic, and neither do you. “How are we to fight those who are bound to kill us, subjugate us because of their religion, their ideology and their mental deseases?” They say those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Now Mr. George W. Bush! When it comes to killing and subjugating people, nobody can beat the almighty United States, and the all-time favorite, Israel. "More innocent blood is on the hands of the likes of you ... the biggest impediments against liberation and fight with murderelearly ..." An I guess you should be responsible for all the instances of intolerance and bigotry, all the instances of religious wars and persecution, where people COULD ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
American Psycho at May 15, 2004 05:42 PM [permalink]:

<>.<>.<>.<>.<>.<>.<>.<>.<>.<>.<>.<>.<>.<>
<> LA VOZ DE AZTLAN NEWS BULLETIN <>
<>.<>.<> Los Angeles, Alta California <>.<>.<>

May 12, 2004

Nick Berg decapitation video declared "a fraud" by medical doctor


The first casualty of war is the truth and this one has been no exception. La Voz de Aztlan obtained a copy of the video showing the beheading of American Nick Berg of Philadelphia and immediately something very odd was readily apparent. Not only were the purported screams of Nick Berg not in synchrony with the decapitation but their was also a total lack of blood spurting out as his jugular and other veins and arteries were being cut.

We forwarded the video to Doctor Raul Castro Guevara, a surgeon and forensic expert in Mexico City for his expert opinion. He wrote back and commented, "No hay manera que el individuo en el video estaba vivo y su corazon funcionando cuando le estaban cortando la cabeza. En estos casos, el corazon impela sangre con gran presion, y se corta las arterias del cuello, hay una gran cantidad de sangre que salpica por todos lados. En mi opinion el video es un fraude."

Doctor Raul Castro Guevara is saying that there is no way that the individual in the video was alive and his heart pumping while his neck was being cut. The doctor adds that in these cases, while the heart is pumping, cutting a person's artery in the neck, would cause copious amounts of blood to spurt all over the immediate environment. He says that in his opinion the video is a fraud.

We hope that our readers view the video and see for themselves. We will provide a copy to any of our subscribers that have been supportive of our publication. Send a request to La Voz de Aztlan at Fake_Video@Aztlan.Net

If you are able to view the video, please pay close attention to the five so called Al queda terrorists making the political statement. Look at their height, weight, skin color and their mannerisms. Do you think these people are Arabs or Iraqis?


* * * * * * * * * * * * *
La Voz de Aztlan
http://www.aztlan.net/fake_video.htm

X at May 15, 2004 07:11 PM [permalink]:

1) Cluster bombs don't cause an accidental death; they will cause a definite death! So does bombing a refugee camp!

You can also watch the death of innocents killed by cluster bombs in Iraq MORE SLOWLY to get the feeling of a more gradual death like Daniel Pearl’s or Berg’s!!!

Yes, what you have watched is horrific. I can not watch a “chicken” killed like that. You better also think HOW MUCH American policies have been responsible for these scenes, i.e. for giving birth to people with this much hatred! 10%? 20%? … 90%?

2) I guess at the end the matter is that American and Israeli blood is more colorful than the blood of “miserable” Iraqis and Palestinians, like those “miserable” chickens!

Proud Baseeji at May 15, 2004 08:58 PM [permalink]:

Salaam Niayesh,

Don't waste your time with this guy, at last his true colors are starting to appear. Although I made the connection Wessie=AiSS mentality long ago, I'm glad others are starting to recognize the grand diarrea that spews outta his mouth. He pretends to be all intellectual, make sophisticated arguments, provide lenghty empty posts.

However under his highly psychopathic deviation hides something sinister.

This is an example of AiSS MENTALITY:

By the way, congratulations! That imbecile pile of defecate, Saruman himself, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin is so gloriously turned into a pile of blood and junk, his very elements!
It really made my day, haven't been this happy for a long time. May the same fate meet our Mullahs, baseejis and othert islamist brothers as soon as possible.
A great Nowruz beginning!

There is also something very perturbing about this thing AiSS, in several places he has linked Imam Khomeini with Hitler. Anybody making this kinda connection must be truly retarded and cukuku in the brain.

Khodahaafez,

Proud Baseeji

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 15, 2004 10:26 PM [permalink]:
Niayesh et al., It is very interesting and quite funny to read your kind of logic. Just like the argument of Tautologist, you nullify your arguments in one paragraph immidiately in the next. One has to read your opinion about the "horrible" invasion of the sovereign state of Iraq (you know, the one under the legitimate sovereign Saddam who was loved and adorned by his people, that one!) by evil american policy-makers to see why I was right in what I say, so thanks for doing my job for me. Take a look at this: "...Today you have the power in your hand. The other day the suicide bomber also has power. So you use your cruise missiles and atom bombs and all that, so he uses his power. So why do you cry at that time? When you say we are fighting a war against you, so better take it then. They are also fighting a war against you. They are fighting their way, you are fighting your way. So let’s be happy..." "...You have all the money to kill the people, you have all the billions of dollars to make the people slaves, you have billions of dollars to torture the people, you have billions of dollars to put up in the media to create false enemies..." "...We don’t believe in killing innocent people..." sounds familiar? Detecting some similarities with certain opinons expressed here? It is the opinion of an Al-Qaeda member and close friend of Osama Bin Laden. Source Very nice! Oh, I'm sorry! I forgot something important: of course YOU dispise all forms of violence and killings of innocents too. And you are really sincere about it when you express your sorrow. Right! And Niayesh I understood the first time you talked about "Your" human rights. It is also my understanding that when someone is ready to HIS rights up so easily, he wouldn't be sooo keen and sensitive when that of others is violated. I was and still am curious of the 'Inhalt' of a 'spirituality' with out concerns of 'human rights' of yours or of others. And there is a difference when a knife or science are abused and when the clear decrees of a 'religion' are followed that demands slaying and blood. And hey, there is a war in Iraq isn't it? Playing idly with words is not so difficult to detect, you see. And yes, UN was a primitive first step towards stablishing many things, and your beloved decleration of human rights is one EXPRESSION of the values resulting from a complete wordlview and way of life, not a substitute for it. Un now is too old and inadecuate and the more time passes the more it becomes an obstacle and a farce. (BTW, it was this same UN of yours that recognized the state of Israel. DO you also recognize the state of Israel as a legitiomate state that has a right to exist? Just checking) You study in the great satan now, don't you? Despite its obvious criminal nature. Maybe its time you didn't study and reside there anymore? Oh and a bassiji is proud of you. Congratulations, you must be on the right track for sure. And yes I was happy when a CRIMINAL and a MASS MURDERE like Yassin was brought to justice, see brought to JUSTICE! And I will suppport any other such acts to other criminals both among the Palestinans, the mullahs and the likes, ANY TIME! Go figure! American Psycho, your name tells everything. Yes we all know the new versions of this conspiracy theory and we keep it with 9/11 being a CIA/Mossad plan file that we have for sick loonies. Nice try, but its becoming really boring. can't you at least show some ingenuity? X, You better get an appoi ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Proud Baseeji at May 21, 2004 01:54 PM [permalink]:

THOUSANDS IN TEHRAN ANTI-US MARCH

Thousands of Iranians have marched on the streets of Tehran to protest against US and UK policy in Iraq.

Yaghoob Yazideh Hamisheh Dar Sahneh at May 21, 2004 03:55 PM [permalink]:

Avalandesh, it is always easy to get a handful of nalooti rascals on the streets to harrass people.

Dovomandesh, as long as there are thousands, or perhaps couple of million criminals like you around, obviously the streets can be filled!

What about all those thousands of peoples who demonstrated on 11 Tir, Mr. Abollah!!!! Or those who demonstrated against Aghajari's conviction????

By the way! Is not this true that "MARMOULAKS" LIKE YOU PROCREATE FAST LIKE RATS! AND THAT YOU ARE ALL NOTHING BUT "COLD-BLOODED" HYPCRITES UNITED IN OPPRESSING MILLIONS OF THE IRANIAN PEOPLES???

DON'T WORRY KAVEH AND FEREDYDOON WILL RISE ONE DAY, AND THAT DAY THE IRAN WILL KICK YOU "ZAHAAK TAZI-WANNA-BE UN-IRANS" OUT!


DAKALEH TRANSFORMATERTOONIM

DAASH YAGHOOB YAZID GHASSABEH NASI-ABADI

lipitor at May 23, 2004 05:59 PM [permalink]:

PLEASE DON'T SMOKE HERE!

Penalty: An early, lingering death from cancer,
emphysema, or other smoking-caused ailment.
lipitor

lipitor at May 23, 2004 06:32 PM [permalink]:

Now's the time to have some big ideas
Now's the time to make some firm decisions
We saw the Buddha in a bar down south
Talking politics and nuclear fission
We see him and he's all washed up --
Moving on into the body of a beetle
Getting ready for a long long crawl
He ain't nothing -- he ain't nothing at all...

Death and Money make their point once more
In the shape of Philosophical assassins
Mark and Danny take the bus uptown
Deadly angels for reality and passion
Have the courage of the here and now
Don't taking nothing from the half-baked buddhas
When you think you got it paid in full
You got nothing -- you got nothing at all...
We're on the road and we're gunning for the Buddha.
We know his name and he mustn't get away.
We're on the road and we're gunning for the Buddha.
It would take one shot -- to blow him away...
-- Shriekback, "Gunning for the Buddah"
lipitor