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Constant or consistent?
One should be consistent in changing and growing

By Arash Kamangir
August 4, 2002
The Iranian

In its struggles against tyranny, reaction, ignorance, imperialism, social and economic injustice, during the period 1960s to early 1980s, it was natural that Iranian student movement would develop strong ties with other student movements worldwide.

The former student leaders in the United States (USSA, Students for a Democratic Society), Germany, France, United Kingdom, South Africa, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, among others, would readily admit the untold immense contributions that Iranian student movement made to theirs in those years, in terms of development of ideas, strategies and tactics.

Many do not know it, but some of the reform ideas presented first as "Eslaahaat Shah va Mardom" (Shah & People's Reforms) and later expanded into Iran's "Enghelaabe Sefid" (White Revolution), were first germinated and developed in the innovations incubator of Iranian student movement.

Among them were the concepts and plans for the land reform and for the Sepaahe Daanesh (Education Corps). But the implementation of these reforms never did match the plans developed by the Iranian student movements. The Shah used reform concepts more as a political tool to control and subdue opposition to his autocratic rule rather than implement successful progressive social and economic leaps.

For example, the land reform was specifically directed toward those large landowners who did not view the Shah's rule favorably. My grandfathers who took the initiative to distribute their agricultural farms, orchards and grazing land, in a pre-empting effort just before the land reform was implemented, were sentenced to six months of incarceration in Isfahan's Chehel Setoun. But I have digressed.

In late 1970s-early 1980s, during my student activism heydays, in a liaison contact with the Black Student Union, I often got drawn into heated debates on whom should be considered as the greatest leader of the American Civil Rights movement. Part of that debate would often focus on differences in character and accomplishments between Malcolm (Little) X (a.k.a. Malik Shabbaz) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

My contention then was that of the two, Malcolm was a man of greater character and accomplishment and this I claimed not because of a religious bias (Malcolm's conversion to Islam) but rather how far Malcolm had traveled in life, coming from a broken home, having dropped from school in early age, deprived of any source of support (financial, emotional, physical, parental, familial,..) when, as a boy, he had lost his father and had his mother committed to a mental asylum.

Then he had been drawn into a life of crime, ending up in prison, where he used the library to educate himself, having been indoctrinated into the reactionary and racist anti-White Black Muslims movement. Yet, eventually, through self-education, he found the false basis of that movement, and courageously left the grips and bondage of that Mafia-like organization, despite serious threats to his life and that of his family. He discovered true Islam and yet went further, having gotten attracted to the ideals of Socialism.

But after a trip to Socialist Europe, he returned with dismay with great disappointment, as he did not also find the Truth he was searching for in the myth of Socialism. There was a far and wide ocean between the ideals of Socialism and what the proponents of it practiced. I know of no other man who has gone through so much change and growth in the short time of 30 years as Malcolm had. The greatness of Malcolm X and the shortcomings of John F. Kennedy were both eclipsed by their early death at the hands of assassins.

Ten years after my heated discussions with BSU leaders, after 20 years of having ignored him and his contributions, if nothing else but as a role model of a man, Black America woke up to appreciate Malcolm.

The measure of the greatness of a man is in how much he can better himself. And by that I mean an improvement of "self" which has no relation to material wealth, power, prestige and anything physical or social which can be easily detached and removed from his "self".

Nelson Mandela was an articulate, brilliant attorney. Yet, even during the early years of his imprisonment, his prison guard and also the warden admitted that despite all mistreatment and humiliation brought on him, they failed to take away Mandela dignity and integrity, as during each and after each session, Nelson, in a calm voice and composed manner with clear logic would talk to them on how the Apartheid system is unjust to both the Whites and Blacks and how it robs both of their humanity.

Weeks after his February 11, 1979, speech, Khomeini chastised the nationalists by reminding them of how the clerics "had slapped Mossadegh in the face" -- referring to what was actually the clerics' betrayal of the nationalist aspirations during the height of Oil Nationalization struggle and the 1953 coup, under the misguided leadership of Ayatollah Kashani.

Yet, 20 years later, while the government of Islamic Republic complained of people desecrating Khomeini's mausoleum, the very post-revolution neuvo-revolutionaries who were the Students Following Imam's Line had gathered around the barren and simple grave of Mossadegh, uncontrollably breaking into the hymn:

These were the same people who in the years immediately after the revolution would constantly denounce and curse Mossadegh. Again, a proof that no matter how much the rascals of history try to deny and negate the greatness of a man of truth, they cannot succeed.

It does not matter how much you have accomplished and what heights you have reached. If today is the same as the day before; if you are the same person you were yesterday, you have not gotten anywhere. Yes, consistency has it own value and place. Yet constancy should not be confused with consistency. One should be consistent in changing and growing by bits and leaps, every day. Even for those who are religious, the purpose of life in Quran is defined in the efforts to go from being a "bashar" (human being) to reaching highest degrees of "ensaaniat" (humanity).

Long ago, in a couple of articles published in Iranian journals abroad, I openly criticized the duplicity and opportunist character of Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush, when 20 years after spearheading the Cultural Revolution, he was now a leading proponent of "degar-andishy" or "no-andishy." Soon came a flood of letters of emails from people who knew me and those who did not. They all criticized me for not accepting that a "man can change, and along with it change his believes and ideas."

Some of these critics were readers of, who soon after publication of some articles by Jahanshah Javid, heavily criticized him for once having changed his name from Jahanshah to Mohammad and then back to Jahanshah [Call me], for having joined the Islamic Rewpublic News Agency in his youth [Let him go home], then having worked as the anchorman of the Aftab cable TV program in the U.S., supported by the IRI and an organ of it, and later founded, and moved to the left to opposing the IRI regime.

When I defended Jahanshah's change of positions as signs of personal growth and development, once again, I was flooded by emails, asking how I can accept that Jahanshah could change and sincerely hold new believes while Soroush could not.

There are serious major differences between the two metamorphoses. For example, while Jahanshah has never denied his past, has been quite frank and open about it when he really did not have to, has admitted that he had been in error then; Soroush will not speak of his past, his role in the Cultural Revolution, he avoids the topic altogether, and like Reza Pahlavi, asks us only to look to the future and not consider the past. Furthermore, how can we accept that Soroush has had a sincere change of mind and heart when Soroush has never admitted that he had been in error by leading a destructive set of social engineering in early 1980s?

I have observed both gentlemen for years. I used to watch Aftab TV program regularly, mainly because that was the only Iranian program, aside from IRIB news, which the cable International Channel would carry in northeast United States. Then, while surfing the net in September 1995, I discovered the e-zine.

Back then I had written a 4-page documentary article on the gross mistreatment of Bahais by the IRI. I had sent the article to a number of Iranian opposition journals but it was never published. Iranian intellectuals though may acknowledge the Bahais' inalienable rights to legal, social, political, economic and religious equality, yet have difficulties to emotionally accept such truth and reality.

It is much parallel to an American professor of mine, who taught sociology, and had actively participated in the American Civil Rights movement He even dropped out of college for 4 years in late 1950s to early 1960s, to serve as full-time civil rights and social activist.

He always spoke proudly of his participation in Civil Rights movement, and would rush to immediately chastise anyone who displayed the slightest indication of racial, religious, ethnic, gender, or sexual preference prejudices. Yet, when his Euro-Indian (half Anglo-Saxon, half Native American) daughter decided to marry a Black American man, the "enlightened" professor would not hear of it and had a very difficult time dealing with it and never quietly accepted it, even though it turned out to be a most successful marriage.

In 1995, Jahanshah also never published that article on the mistreatment of Bahais. Nor did he ever give me any reason why he did not publish it. Yet, seven years later, Jahanshah would take the initiative to write an article on the shameful social and economic injustices and cruelties directed toward Bahais in Iran [Heechee kam nadaaran]. I must admit that I have yet to read his article but have read a couple of readers' responses in and my assessment comes from there.

I have yet to see a similar honest and sincere change of heart and mind from people like Soroush, Khatami, Khalkhali, former Students Following the Imam's Line... who for the past six years have laid claim to be the frontier leaders of the reform movement in Iran.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to Arash Kamangir


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