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Heaven: Here or thereafter?
Free yourselves of religious tyranny, go for secular democracy

 

August 23, 2005
iranian.com

The times of colonial and imperial wars are over when one country could occupy a faraway land without fearing that their own country and its civilians could possibly be attacked in any way. Britain is somehow shocked over the fact that the suicidal fanatics -- who didn't love themselves enough in order to be able to love anyone else -- were British and used to the British 'way of life' in one way or another.

In other kind of wars like the 1st and the 2nd World Wars, there were of course enemy's spies and sympathisers everywhere (even within the royal family) and the nation was prepared for them. However having been involved in two wars against Iraq (sorry I cannot call it against Saddam because I think if £5Million reward was announced for his capture wild Western style, even his own brother would have carried him all the way to Hague) over a 14-year period why would a nation be surprised unless it takes it as what it is namely a colonial/imperialistic war for securing the import of oil for mobility etc. and the overdue use of the excess of arms produced between the two wars (UK being the largest producer of arms).

As for the more recent claims to the export of democracy it reminds me of the WWII when the Allies brought democracy to Iran by sending the despot Reza Shah to exile and putting his young son on the peacock throne, and when Mohammad Mossadegh was elected prime minister and campaigned on a pledge to nationalise Iran's oil reserves, a CIA-backed military coup in August 1953 planned by Kermit Roosevelt put everyone with a dream back in their place where they were before the war, except for Shah who was placed on throne again this time however as a dictator. In return he signed over the control of Iran's oil resources to a consortium of western oil companies.

In fact this recent exported democracy is really arbitrary as the globalisation and the power of corporations have gone too far to allow any of the third world countries (that's right they are not developing countries) to become truly independent. The classic example was when Allende was elected in Chile and the military coup that followed. Whereas Tony Blair's stance against Pinochet was consistent with a global democratic idea his cooperation with the USA in attacking Iraq was not. If USA government's investigators have not found the connections to the 9/11 attackers within their own country how can they possibly find them in West Asia?

I for one still haven't met anyone who can say for instance where actually those planes which attacked New York took off.
No wonder there has been so much room for conspiracy theories circulating. As long as the 9/11 bombing has not been clarified no attack on foreign countries are justified. If the despot Saddam had ties to 9/11 attacks I would have expected the judiciary system in USA to check the evidence and issue a warrant for him. In other words the USA government has ignored the most important aspect of democracy which is the separateness of the judiciary, legislative and the executive forces.

As for the UK government, it was only after the so called mistaken killing of Jean Charles de Menezes that a policy called 'shoot to kill' became known to the British public which obviously has not been ratified whether by the parliament nor the judiciary system.

Meanwhile Tony Blair instead of relaxing his famous shoulders has been busy thinking of ID cards and the population's finger prints if not the curfew for the adolescence (well done judge Brooke and Liberty) instead of using some conflict resolution techniques in solving the problems, now that it's too late to have not attacked Iraq in the first place.

And so much for the democracy in Iraq -so far-, where the ruling men are already trying to include Sharia in the constitution in order to suppress the universal human rights of half of Iraq's population namely women. So, is this going to be a worse situation for women in Iraq than in time of Saddam? Like it was the case in Iran after the 1979 revolution?

How has the world arrived at this situation where religious fanatics are being bred on a global scale?

It all started of course with the centuries old anti-Semitism in Europe leading to the atrocities and genocide of Jewish Europeans. As a result of this the first modern state reuniting religion with state - namely Israel - came to exist.
The support for the establishment of Israel by the West had two major political reasons: To get the Jewish European out of their continent into West Asia, and to use this enterprising and perspicacious nation as a successful counterbalance to the late USSR. This enterprise could have been successful if the Israeli leaders had not united religion with their state.

Over a few millenniums the Jewish communities had learned to survive as a minority within other societies which tended to exclude them. They had progressive ideas about supporting their own communities when living in Europe. In the Middle Ages for instance in Venice where they had to live in Ghetto Nueva (hence the name ghetto) and were not allowed to buy land or practice certain occupations they developed a stunning education system whereby poor Jewish children were sponsored by rich families in order to study. As a result in a time that probably less than one in thousand in Europe could read and write the Jewish community in Ghetto Nueva had a 100% literacy rate within its borders.

All those aspects and the fact that this led to the emergence of a secular Jewish intelligentsia during the 19th and the 20th century, who played a crucial role in the advancement of the western societies, contributed to the envy factor inherent in anti-Semitism in Europe.

Whereas the centeredness of the Jewish leaders on the interests of their own communities was justified and necessary for survival in the middle ages it proved detrimental when it came to run a country with Palestinians as its minority natives (non Palestinian Jews could have as much claim on Palestine as Iranians could possibly have on the lands owned by the ancient Persian Empire).

Initially the Jews who established Israel brought with them socialistic ideas for the speedy progress of their new country. An example was the idea of Kibbutz which was innovative at the time (although the emotional effect on the children who grew up in them needs a closer attention. This may even lead to some explanation for the irrationality in adults' behaviour).

So why was it that the Israeli leaders who were so good in developing their country's economy were unable to include Palestinians in their society? The answer is that whereas they were well practiced in managing their own community as a minority in order to survive in hostile environment of Europe, they were inexperienced in ruling a country, which involves inclusion of what is perceived as the 'other'.

So it was not enough to have secular leaders; what had not been secured was the separation of state and religion. As the idea of Israel concerned only Jews they became too preoccupied with themselves especially as a natural aftermath of their horrendous traumatic experience in Europe.

Since then many things have changed. For one, other countries in Israel's vicinity have reunited state with religion turning the political issue of Palestine into a religious conflict. This in turn has also encouraged other religions wanting to get their hands into politics of their respective countries. In West Asia - up to 1960 - there existed either secular nationalistic movements or as an antidote military dictatorships with or without a so called king who tended to keep theocrats at bay if not suppressed.

Since the plight of the Palestinians and the encouragement of Islam in the area by the West as an ideology against the USSR's political influence on the West Asian population (after the WWII Iran for instance had the largest pro Russian communist party in a non-communist country in Asia which amounted to 1 million registered members plus many sympathisers. This became illegal after 1953's coup and many were massacred especially in the industrial town of Abadan- not without the help of the British army located in the south) the theocracy in the area has regained credibility. Even a military dictator like Saddam didn't miss the point and tried to change the subject by pretending to be a religious leader.

With the USSR -- offering an ideology in its dogmatic approach and commandments not unlike religions, which crumbled after a mere 70 years from a second world superpower to a group of separatist third world countries -- out of the way, the Islamist started to have their own dreams of becoming superpowers spreading the Islam which like Christianity is an expansive and missionary religion (unlike Judaism and Zoroastrianism which are more racially oriented).

So here again the Israelites have been a crucial history makers, though this time instead of serving the progression -- like they did in Europe -- they have served the regression. With the extraordinary ability they showed initially to develop Israel to an agricultural land- considering the fact that they had not been allowed to buy land in Europe and be farmers hence with no tradition and experience in farming -- they could have played a leading role in supporting the surrounding countries to turn deserts into green lands.

But instead it mistreated Palestinians and trained the armies and the secret police of the most reactionary regimes during the 60's and 70's for instance in Iran. I still remember the days how the Jewish community in Iran was emphatically expressing anger and concern about the policies of Israel in West Asia and their treatment of the Palestinians.

Meanwhile Israel has become like any other land in the area with its own internal discriminations. In today's Israel being a Jew from North Africa is not the same as being a Jew from Russia or USA (In Judaism by an ancient law only the mother needs to be Jewish in order for the child to be counted as a Jew by birth. As a result many unorthodox Jews are of a mixed race).

After 57 years it is crystal clear that the idea of religion and state reunited has failed yet again.  Israel is a class society like any other with the issue of racism which is not even being addressed.

Whether all these West Asian countries will go through a peaceful process in order to become secular or whether due to the inevitable disillusionment of the masses with the theocracy there will be bloodshed like the French Revolution in 1789, which led to the separation of the state from the church, cannot be foreseen as too many eyes are fixed on the oil resources in the area.

I have been told that Mossadegh had said that it was Iran's misfortune to have oil resources.

* * *

There is another thought that keeps coming back into my mind: 14 years ago these suicide bombers were between 4 to 16 years old. Were they watching the continuous broadcasting of the colourful bombardment of Baghdad on the TV in 1991? What was the meaning they perceived? Whom did they identify with? And how many times does a child need to be called names in the public before he reaches the point of losing respect for life on earth and decides to become a walking missile? Surely when these young men visited Pakistan they noticed that it isn't a country they would wish to live in, otherwise why couldn't they continue to live there?

Isn't it also about not having a sense of belonging whether to here nor there?

And why is it that not many people here think that just as there is a small number of Ku Klux Klan amongst the Christians, there are also suicide bombers amongst the Moslems. If they don't suspect all the Christians to agree with the KKK why should they suspect all Moslems of being on the side of the suicide bombers?

The answer is that subconsciously they recognise the difference as regards to the causal factors.  

One characteristic of a multicultural society in today's world of web is that the governments of these societies cannot behave like they did a century ago. The geographical borders of countries and the definition of nations are losing their significance. In fact the idea of borders as we know them today is only a few centuries old; hence it won't last for ever either. The best policy for the Western governments would be to hold up to high ideals like justice for all. Defending one's country is always justifiable whereas attacking another isn't.

As for the internal politics, when French government announced their new policy regarding the clothing in the schools I for one thought this being the correct move. This I believe would make sure that in the future, only families who accept 'the way of life' in France would intend to move there.

I for one came to Europe because it suited more my idea of the respect for the rights of the individuals. It is no coincidence that at least until a few years ago the highest numbers of suicides amongst the adolescents in UK were females of Asian origin (recently the highest numbers are amongst the white male -- a higher suicide tendency amongst all young men in UK in one way or another?).

It is one thing to live in a country where everyone has a limited freedom, and another when living in a country where everyone else your age follows the call of their hormones except you. Suppressed sexuality in a sexually oriented society (even if it's not really true the media and the fashion do so as if everyone is busy doing it) will either turn to depression and self destructiveness or to aggression towards others or both. Can a practicing Moslem young man have extramarital sex with a woman and not think of her as a whore? Well, my answer is no. So although everyone is exposed to the 'way of life' in UK, not everyone is practicing it fully.

And how does this paradise, which along with 'hell' was originally a Zoroastrian idea entering the Judaism hence Christianity and Islam, is described in Islam? 

Well for one there are houris -- beautiful maidens, who will live with the blessed and also there is a river flowing with honey (a rare food in Arabia of those days except in Yemen). Is this one of the reasons why they hurry to get to paradise? A paradise that a Moslem man can obtain in this world -- at least regarding the houris -- only if he is a Saudi royal male or a rich sheikh.

What will be the women, who are blessed enough to go to paradise, hoping for in living with houris no religious script is bothered to tell. Perhaps the fact that if a young woman dies virgin she will go to heaven automatically, means that it is her and the other virgins who will end up being houris serving the blessed men in the other world as they did in this one.

In contrast to France, Canada is in the process of making a regressive move by accepting Sharia courts in their country which would make discrimination against Moslem women legal. This step is not only not about tolerance, but is an active contribution to the injustice already inflicted on women in many parts of the world.

The problem is that uncritical and excessive tolerance of what is perceived as different custom, which may even be 1400 years old, will eventually lead to sudden bursts of intolerance (5 shots into someone's brain with a foreign look, already held down on the ground by the plain clothes police is only one of them).

* * *

Ideally in a civil society the education system should not concern itself with teaching religion in the schools. This should be the concern of the churches, mosques, temples etc. as they have enough space to gather whoever is interested anyway. It is against the rights of children to expose them to adults' anxieties regarding death, life and afterlife. A healthy child's mind is usually concerned with the here and now. The consciousness about time in terms of the passing of time is only understood on a deeper level around the age of ten.

Unnecessary systematic exposure to religious doctrines by the family as well as the school deadens the capacity of the child to learn about the process of doubt and the arriving at free will in order to be able to make a well considered individual choice when older.

So unlike the Conservative Party's recent suggestions regarding a stricter adherence to faith for the whole society I have the following suggestions.

Within UK
Whatever a child may learn at home it is not up to the education system to approve or disapprove of, hence no one way religious teaching at schools. For children above 13 there can be discussion groups with facilitators representing all faiths and also atheism.

Obviously any religion that is incapable of standing its ground against doubt, criticism or even negation and fears challenge would eventually need to reform and adjust to the increased reasoning power of the learners and their independent way of thinking in regards to making an informed choice.

It is important to bear in mind that in a modern society teaching ethical values and behaviour to children is not really a religious matter. One does not kill another person not because one fears god or hell but because one has respect for life and the right of an individual in not being deprived of life.

Following the French example uniform should mean literally unity in form. As for the religious amulets for an individual's protection -- if the parents believe in them -- they can always be worn as a necklace under the uniform anyway.

The idea of Hijab in schools is not in accord with the rights of children. Hijab in Islam today is worn because the assumption is that women are seen by all males who are not of their immediate family as sexual objects. For this reason women are expected to cover themselves so that no man in the public can fall victim to temptation.

For a minor to assume that she is a sexual object who is responsible for men's sexual behaviour or immaturities is intellectually limiting and socially debilitating. It is a constant reminder that her rights can not be equal to her brothers. In addition in order to cope with her limiting situation she could develop prejudices towards other females who do not wear hijab. Obviously some teenage girls in this country may show pride in wearing hijab as it emphasizes their otherness demonstrating free will, but in my opinion this is more a defensive behaviour to overcome stress caused by contrasting massages received at home and in the society as regards to sexuality etc.     

Any family or potential family who wants to immigrate to UK ought to get information about the education system and tested if necessary to make sure they have understood what the move would mean for the whole family (As it is today many fundamentalist Moslems in multicultural areas do not allow their children especially girls to make use of the after school youth clubs, despite the youth workers being anxiously keen to attract this group of young people into their centres).

No religious education centre should be financed by the state, as I believe it is still the case in France for the Catholic schools.
Ideally the existing religious schools should cease to be schools. Compared to for instance Germany with a minority of Catholics in the north of the country, the catholic schools in UK have never admitted the children of other non Catholic minorities to their schools.

Religious schools should truly be justifiable within a modern society. If their aims do not include all humanity they should be seen as what they are namely outdated. They could continue to function as education centres for the keen parents but they should not replace the mainstream education of the children.

As for finances it should be up to all these religious institutions to convince their followers to support them financially, or be prepared to work for their happiness in such a way that they would depart readily with their money in order to remain happy.

UK foreign policy
People in the UK and the USA may not be aware that the rest of Europe already speaks of the current situation as the Third World War. To avoid any further escalations the UK government needs to support the UN, despite all this organisation's shortcomings, to take lead of the situation in Iraq.

At this stage an immediate announcement of the dates for the withdrawal of the British troops from Iraq is of paramount importance.
Politics is not about proving one is right in any case or about bravery but is about making the right decision at the right time.

Moslem communities
According to historical evidence, the hijab already existed before the advent of Islam. In ancient Persia this was a sign of status and was worn only by women of the royal families when facing the public. In some part of North Africa and in the deserts the face was also covered in order to avoid sun for the sake of their own aesthetic tastes. In today's Islam this is, however, a purely gender issue; in any case there is no writing in Koran that demands the covering of the face.

For Moslem women in the UK to cover their faces is a political statement rather than a religious practice. Besides, in a country that people hardly ever look at each other on the streets or in public places this kind of hejab is immodest and worn for the purpose of seeking attention only. It is ignorable when seen on the street but when you for instance pick up your child from the nursery and there appears a ghost in black with a face mask then your child looks at you in order to be assured that this is normal and you of course make a face as if it was. And you can't escape the thought that her poor child has to recognise mommy without seeing her face. How cruel, apart from it being embarrassing for the child -- at least initially.

So ladies, time to show at least your faces. Not because it turns the men on but because it doesn't. Faces are important in social communications and the building of trust amongst the visually able individuals of a community. And if it is your men who force you to do so then contact your local police (the British public should not assume that immigrants are automatically aware of their individual rights especially as a dependent woman- regardless of the level of education) who will put you in touch with the right women organisations who can protect and help you out of your circumstances together with your children.

Throughout the centuries, Christianity has gone through a long process of reforms. Islam on the other hand went through a golden age during the Middle Ages when for instance Ibn Khaldun the first sociologist in history living in 14th century Cairo (born in Tunisia) wrote about the influence of social environment on tribes and the city dwellers and the resulting behavioural variations in his Al Moghadamah; and an age in which scientists and scholars could at least express the concept of doubt in the existence of god without fearing for their lives (see Khayyam's poetry 11th-12th A.D.).

In the last 4-5 centuries however Islam has turned intellectually uninteresting which is what it shares with the fundamentalists of other faiths. There is a lack of capacity for open discussions and an intolerance of differing opinions. This in turn is the fruit of irrationality caused by the unquestioning submission to dogma. It is time for Islam to either take the steps towards reform and adjust to the times or become passé within the next four decades with of course a lot of bloodshed in between. So why not declaring Jihad for peace and the building of heaven on earth before landing on the eternal one?

United Nations
The United Nations should declare Sharia as being archaic and in contravention to human rights in regards to women and children, and press the misogynist regimes for reforms.

Only secular systems with clear separation of the state from religion should be able to remain members of UN.

Cases of atrocities against women and children in Islamic countries should be taken to international courts and be broadcasted worldwide regardless of the presence of the defence.

The UN should aim to have 2 representatives of each nation. The second representative should be of the opposite sex to the first and belong to an opposition group within their country.

For the long term policy and the gaining of a just power, the UN should plan its own elections in every country and amongst all nations, while ensuring that only the candidates with no shares in large corporations would be eligible for election.

As for West Asia, well...
The Israelites could make steps towards regaining their old pioneering spirit and make the first disarming change by declaring Israel as a secular country keen to cooperate with the rest of the West Asia aiming for progression and well being of all regardless of their religion and race

Other countries in the area
Although Israel was an artificially established country (like Iraq) there are now people who have been born in Israel and identify themselves as Israelis. It is time for you to accept this country's existence and make steps towards coexistence if not cooperation. Besides, it's time to challenge the racism and sexism within your own societies. Like Goethe said: 'let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean'.

As for your governing systems: free yourselves of misogyny and aim for social justice for all, go for secular democracy, as it is to this date at least the best form already practiced that we know of, and choose HEAVEN on EARTH as your objective as far as this life is concerned.

As for the eternal heaven, well according to all Abrahamian religions you need to remember that no one in this world is in the position to judge who will qualify to land there, and the ones who think they know and do judge, belong to those groups who are busy making sure that this world remains the hell incarnate.

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