God go home
How far will we go in establishing a secular democracy?
July 7, 2004
According to the Chambers dictionary
secularism is defined as; the belief that the state, morals,
independent of religion. Have those of us who have defended
democracy for a long time but been more vocal about secularism
how secular are we prepared to be in a future democratic Iran?
Majority of the democratic governments are secular
in one shape or another. From the French and the Turkish forms
where principles of secularism is strictly observed and defended,
to those European monarchies where religious minority immigrants
have been allowed to impose their customs to a degree that is beginning
to test the host nation's level of tolerance.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Aggressive
fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords." My
question to our fellow Iranians is that how aggressively are we
to defend such noble principles once democracy and secularism are
established by a majority vote in our country?
One of the recent challenges and at times heated
debates in the Western secular democracies has been the issue of
banning the religious
symbols including that of the Islamic headscarves in French schools.
The new regulation bans Muslim headscarves as well as Jewish yarmulkes
and wearing of other ostensible religious symbols in French public
Such decision has even invited opposing views from
within Western democracies. Many journalists in Britain for example,
the French decision, regarding it as interference in one's
personal freedom. However, they have failed to iterate the fact
that the French government's proposal was democratically
submitted to the French assembly which was in turn accepted by
a majority who equally address all religious symbols including
that of the Catholics who make the majority of the French nation.
Nevertheless some fanatic Muslim groups like to portray such decision
as a fight against Islam.
E.J. Dionne Jr. in an article in Washington
Post dated December 23, 2003, under the title
France, Scarves & Secularism" wrote: "The
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Assefi, condemned
the Chirac government for 'an extremist decision aimed at
preventing the development of Islamic values'." He
continued, "Imagine being called 'extremist' on
a religious question by an official of the Iranian government!"
Secularism and democracy are like two sides of a
brain. In order to have a fully functional body, both sides of
the brain with their
specific responsibilities are needed in order to achieve the desired
being. Therefore, those who comically advocate baseless concepts
such as the Islamic Democracy can never deliver the true freedom
our people are fighting for when divine rules and restrictions
would oversee every aspects of their daily life.
The question that eventually we have to face is
are we going to adhere to principles that would declare Iran a
country with no
official religion; hence, no advantages given to an Iranian Muslim
over those Iranians from other religions? I am talking of a society
that goes further than pre-1979 where an Iranian Jew, Bahai,
Christian or a Zoroastrian can become our country's prime
minister or in case of a republic, its president.
Prince Reza Pahlavi if not the only Iranian political
leader believing in such principles, is definitely the only one
who has been brave
enough to publicly state his vision for a country with no official
religion. He has defended the freedom of all political beliefs/parties,
guaranteeing individual rights such as; regional languages and
dialects, sexual orientations, religious beliefs as well as all
social freedoms that many other progressive and democratic nations
in the world enjoy or may take for granted.
However, he or any other Iranian politically active
cannot and will not succeed if we as individual Iranian do not
or take steps for our future. At times in meeting other compatriots
I feel we are still blurred in our understanding of secularism
or that of a true democracy. Do we really understand what it is
all about? If we do, how far are we prepared to go in a free, democratic
and secular Iran of the future to defend its principles? Will we
make concessions every now and then and therefore, undermining
the principles of secularism for religious beliefs of one or two
religious public figures or groups?
In order to guarantee and protect the sacrifices
of so many pro-democracy and secular activists, we need a modern
constitution written by
elected experts to meet the modern world's requirements;
to respect our true national values and to promote the two unbending
pillars of that society; secularism and democracy.
In an article "Defending Secularism, Turkey's
Military Warns Islamic Leaders" in New York Times,
dated March 2, 1997, journalist Stephen Kinzer wrote; "The
by the Turkish military states that the Turkish National Security
Council had decided that 'no steps away from the contemporary
values of the Turkish Republic would be tolerated.' 'It
has been decided that destructive and separatist groups are seeking
to weaken our democracy and legal system by blurring the distinction
between the secular and the anti-secular," the communiqué continued "It
has been decided that in Turkey, secularism is not only a form
of government but a way of life and the guarantee of democracy
and social peace."
The communiqué further adds: "It has been
decided that it is impossible to step back from our understanding
social and legal principles which form the structural core of the
state, and that out-of-date measures which are taken without regard
for these principles do not coincide with our legal system."
It may seems at times; in particular in countries
where some believers take religious beliefs out of proportion that
it is the secularist
factor which comes to the rescue of the democratic values of those
societies; hence, giving secularism even a more important of a
role to play.
What force is going to safeguard our future secularism? Is it going
to be the will of the majority - a new constitution?
change or be influenced, particularly in countries like ours.
Or is it going to be a strong army as in the Turkish case to stand
by the constitution? But then again our history has already proved
that our military may abandon once again the constitution and
jeopardizing the principles of our secular state. Or do we need
to achieve a Kemalist like ideology and developing it into a
national party that would stand by its principles no matter what
Unlike what the leaders of the Islamic Republic
like to portray secularists are no atheists. A secular Muslim woman
or a man could
be a staunch secularist while observing her/his religion in the
privacy of their home.
Today our country has a majority of nearly 97% Muslims,
but this majority are composed of youths who are the main forces
in today's struggle against the Islamic Republic's
barbarity. Masses that are least religious and most eager to grasp
the most progressive ideas the world can offer. These youngsters
very rightly do not care what Western politicians think or like
in Washington, London or Paris. They are an educated generation
with access to the latest communication equipments and are quite
well aware of what is going on around the world.
This generation demands total transparency, freedom
of expression followed by all social liberties thinkable to mankind.
political system based on a society with its foundation on secular
principles; demands that an Islamic republic under whatever shape
or form cannot deliver.
Whether the West, or for that matter the world supports
us or not is not going to alter the path our movement has chosen.
their understanding and acceptance of our nation's will can
speed up the process and therefore, guarantee a better life for
them as well as for my compatriots. The European allies of the
Islamic Republic can continue their "constructive engagement" for
as long as they find it profitable; but the reality is that when
almost forty million Iranians mobilize, no power in the world can
Iranians have made it very clear and have given
enough chances to those who had promised them heavens but instead
opened the doors
to hell. Establishment of democracy and secularism through a
national referendum is the only solution we see for the future
of our country.
Today is the last chance for those who want to be with the people
goodbye to spam!