By Sheda Vasseghi
“If you are able to bring Islam back and
establish a country under that name, you can also make a claim to rule it…. Do
you expect the Iranians to abandon the rule of the people that they have gained
after so much effort because of your futile and nonsensical claims and once
again submit to dictatorial government?…. These are the questions that I ask the
clerics…. [An Islamic government] cannot be and will not happen.”
Ahmad Kasravi, Shi’ism, Tehran, Iran: 1943.
This statement made decades ago is not only still applicable to Iran’s
current demise, but has been eerily validated with the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Born in 1890 to a religious family in the city of Tabriz, Ahmad Kasravi was one
of the most prolific intellectuals of modern Iran. In 1946, he was assassinated
by a member of the fanatic group Fadaiyan-e Islam for his criticism of religion
and the clergy.
The problems leading to the rise of the Islamic Republic have deep roots in
Iran. Kasravi laid down those roots and solutions decades before religious
fanaticism and ignorance engulfed the up and coming modern Iran. Perhaps it’s
time for Iranians to study Kasravi, a true political genius and nationalist, as
they fight for a secular democracy.
Although Kasravi dutifully followed his destiny and entered the seminary, he
refused to behave as a clergy in traditional mannerism. He spoke “zabaneh pak”
or pure Persian, and was fluent in several languages including Arabic, Turkish,
and Armenian. In 1910, Kasravi memorized the Koran in Arabic to focus on its
actual meaning rather than various translations. This was the first shock to his
beliefs. He began to question the clergy, their hypocrisy and greed, abuse of
religion, and disinterest in the nation’s contemporary problems. Disenchanted he
left the profession.
In 1905-06, Iran experienced a political phenomenon — the Constitutional
Revolution. This movement was to put aside absolute monarchy and give
representation to the people. In this struggle, the constitutional reformists
used the clergy to achieve their goals. The clergy would only support the
movement if the laws were not contradictory to Islam. Given at the time the
majority of Iranians were illiterate and superstitious, such a political
advancement was impossible without the support of the clergy. But once the
Constitution with its religious provisions was put into place, the clerics were
cast aside. Although for various reasons true constitutional monarchy was not
fully put into effect, the parliament and the Pahlavi kings maintained
separation of religion and state. Iran was on its way to modernization. The
clergy never forgot having been slighted. Their long awaited revenge came in
1979 when, in cahoots with other anti-Shah factions, they brought down Iran’s
2500 years of monarchial history. The leader of the Islamic revolution Ayatollah
Khomeini implemented an Islamic Constitution.
After thirty years under the backwards and brutal theocratic dictatorship of
the clerics which among many heinous acts cost minorities their full civil
rights, Iranians have finally found their national unity and have been
demonstrating for weeks against the Islamic Republic. Their chants of “Where is
my vote?” have been replaced with “Independence, freedom, Iranian Republic!”
Many so-called apologists for the regime, knowing its days are numbered, falsely
claim the clerics of the 1906 Constitutional Revolution wanted democracy. The
apologists or “reformists” and their heavily-funded lobbyists in Washington are
still trying to save some form of an Islamic government. Contrary to these
apologists, Kasravi blames the failure of the 1906 Constitutional Revolution to
people’s ignorance of democracy and corrupt clerics ridiculing nationalism.
According to Kasravi, when the clergy realized the basic foundation of democracy
relied on separation of religion and state, they began to undermine it.
Islam is ideological and political based on a concept of brotherhood and
equality without boundaries. Kasravi states the political part of Islam lost
relevance long ago since Moslems live in separate countries with distinct
national identities. As for Islamic laws, since they could no longer conform to
modern day thinking and social set up, they were replaced with Western laws.
Kasravi believes the best form of government is representative government, the
ultimate product of thought. According to Kasravi, the Constitutional Revolution
which was the most important event in Iran’s modern history failed because
people were not prepared for democracy, the clerics were active opponents, and
foreign powers intervened.
Kasravi states religion should be compatible with reason and science to bring
truth to people and improve their welfare and happiness. He believes the clergy
feel no responsibility to society and refuse to submit to those who do. For
example, he criticizes them for telling people not to pay taxes to the
government when it is the government that provides social services needed and
used by all. Kasravi suggests Iranians should discard ignorance, take charge of
national affairs, establish workable relationships with other nations,
collaborate with good allies, and take interest in improving the world. Iranians
should put aside their personal preferences and respect the rule of law.
Unfortunately Kasravi’s analysis of the clergy and their destruction of
Iran’s political and social advancements were proven to the nation’s detriment.
The father of modern Iran, Reza Shah Pahlavi (1878-1944), in reference to
political tendencies once said Iranians were neither experimental nor naturally
destructive. But he also did not know how to motivate Iranian men and women to
work hard for their country’s success believing that to compensate for their
lack of self-discipline he had to be harsh and demanding. Ancient Iranians were
known for their adherence to law and order. The Achaemenids (550-330 B.C.E.)
ordered codification and enforcement of local laws in various areas of the
empire, and sent arbitrators to settle disputes. Such an Iranian legacy must be
revived. Although it is apparent the Islamic Republic is taking Iranians down
the path of self destruction and misery, true to Reza Shah’s belief the people
have risen against the regime’s political tendencies. Mullahs cannot and will
Democracy will not be instant. A New Iran must take steps to remedy old
“[I]n order to bring progress and prosperity to our own country we should
all work and work wholeheartedly…. Better and longer strides should be taken
every day for the happiness and well-being of the people.”
Reza Shah Pahlavi, Presentation to Female Graduates of the Faculty of Medicine
and Other Schools, Tehran, Iran, January 8, 1936.
The path to democracy involves a viable, secular government committed to
national interests without the past leadership succession disputes. The
mandatory, preliminary steps for establishing such a government include
educating people about civil rights and tolerance; introducing civic duties and
the right to form political parties; enforcing the rule of law; removing
religious studies from public schools; and presenting a factual, unbiased
analysis of history. A woman from Mexico recently asked, “Wasn’t Tehran once
called ‘Paris of the Middle East’?” Thirty years after its stumble and people
still remember Iran’s awe and beauty! The “Comeback Kid” has unlimited
Sheda Vasseghi has a Masters in Ancient History with emphasis on ancient
Persia. She handles public relations for persepolis3d.com and is a member of the
Azadegan Foundation. Ms. Vasseghi is a regular contributor to political
magazines such as WorldTribune.com.
Sheda Vasseghi obtained a Master's degree in Ancient History with an
emphasis on Persia from American Military University.
This Articl published in the Iran Quest
this is a courtesy copy to the original article.