Mass protest in Iran against the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the figurehead president for the anti-Islamic clerical regime has gained the attention of the whole world. The conflict between ordinary Iranians and the forces supporting the status quo reproduces the classic images of revolution. The protest movement now has its martyrs, with at least seven dead during the week beginning June 15.
The Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP), an international network of moderate Muslim scholars, intellectuals, and media commentators, expresses its full solidarity with the fighting Iranian people in their confrontation with the clerical order. We mourn the martyrs and pray that their sacrifice will not have been in vain.
Nevertheless, while emphasizing this sympathy, CIP monitors the Iranian events without giving way either to pessimism or euphoria. We refuse any concession to the clerical misrulers, as well as indifference or complacency about the situation. In this sense, we seek to stand with the Iranian people.
CIP offers the following theses on the Iranian protests and the future of that country:
1. We indignantly reject the rhetoric of the regime, echoed by superficial observers outside Iran, that condemns foreign support for the protestors. The current protest movement is not the private affair of Iranians. It has significance for all Muslims and, indeed, the whole of humanity. To refrain from political assistance to the protestors, on the pretext that such aid provides arguments for the tyrants, would be either grossly immoral or an expression of confused impotence. Claims for such a position are old and shabby, having been heard and proven wrong in every known struggle against oppression.
2. We consider the Iranian regime established after 1979 to be anti-Islamic, in that it is based on so-called “velayet-al-faqih” or governance by clerics. There is no precedent for such a form of government in Islamic history. We believe the Iranian clerical system represents one of the variants of Islamofascism. Islamic clerics and representatives of other faiths in Muslim societies should advise governments from a subordinate standing as moral leaders. Clerics should not rule.
3. By adopting the slogan “Death to the dictator” the Iranian protestors have affirmed their belief that the clerical regime is a dictatorship, regardless of its democratic posturing. We believe in the superior wisdom of the Iranian people, and their affirmation that the clerical regime has failed.
4. It is grievously false to present the crisis in Iran as a choice between Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi. Both of the candidates represent options within the failed clerical system. Although some of his positions are preferable to those of Ahmadinejad, Mousavi does not represent an independent or, as yet, an authentically progressive alternative. The Iranian protest movement will succeed to the degree that it moves beyond the context of mere support for Mousavi, to a position demanding genuine democracy.
5. The key factor in Iran today is the mobilized people. The most important questions are whether the regime can maintain control and whether the people will allow the regime to remain in power. Between the regime and the people stand the armed bodies of the state, especially the regular police and armed forces. The Ahmadinejad faction has, on one hand, appeared unsure of the police and military, and has fallen back on paramilitary bodies such as the Basij thugs - always close to Ahmadinejad’s circle - and the so-called Revolutionary Guards to suppress the protests. At the same time, rumors suggest that Ahmadinejad seeks military backing for a coup against the clerics. We have been aware since his accession to power that Ahmadinejad wishes to impose a Mao-style “cultural revolution” to revive the radical spirit in Iran, and we recall that in the Chinese convulsion of the 1960s, the bloody dictator Mao supported military authority against that of the political class. Still, we consider the present moment too early to make a determination about the strategy of Ahmadinejad and his group. The only obvious aspect of the line taken by Ahmadinejad, Ali Khamenei, and the other despotic figures is that they are confused about how to proceed. Disorientation at the top of the regime is, in our view, positive, in that contradictions in the ruling stratum open the way to wider autonomous action by the people.
6. On the part of outside observers, caution about the situation is necessary. But there are different forms of caution about Iran, two of which are positive and two of which are negative. It is sensible and normal in revolutionary conflicts to be wary of the threat that, even if the ruling leader falls, the alternative, in this case that of Mousavi, will represent continuation of the regime. It is similarly reasonable to ask whether, in the areas of international relations and nuclear development, a change within the regime will produce a shift away from extremism. As noted in our first thesis, we do not support abstention from encouragement for the protesting masses. In addition, we utterly repudiate the suggestion, now emanating from the Obama administration, that official U.S. negotiations with the clerical regime take precedence over the democratic upsurge of the Iranian people. Passivity and, worse, servility toward the clerical regime are, to emphasize, unacceptable options.
7. To conclude, the Iranian people have taken to the streets to express their revulsion with the injustices that have been imposed upon them. Muslims and non-Muslims of conscience, as well as sincere believers in Western liberal ideals and conservative principles, will recognize without hesitation that the Iranian people are righteous in their action and deserve universal support.
In Iran, all efforts should be made for the authentic democratization of the protest movement, with expansion of its media, new options for political and social organization, and open, thorough debate of all issues bearing on the life of the people, including women’s rights, Iran’s international position, and the future of the nuclear program.
In Iran, history is speeding up. With their cries of Allahu-Akbar! - God is Great! - the Iranian people have appealed to the most high authority for help against their tormenters. No Iranian problem may be settled until popular sovereignty has been established and the real will of the believers in all faiths, members of all ethnic communities, and members of all productive classes, may be openly expressed in a context of equal rights. Agreements for improved foreign relations or a cessation of nuclear development, if concluded with the present-day tyrants, can never be considered reliable, given that the clerics rule without legitimacy. The clerical system of Iranian governance has failed and must end now.
Kemal Silay, President
Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, Executive Director
Dr Irfan Ahmed Al-Alawi, International Director
Imaad Malik, Prison Outreach Director
Center for Islamic Pluralism