Love thy leader?


Niloufar Parsi
by Niloufar Parsi

I would suggest that one of our problems as a race (humanity) and also as a nation is our tendency to look for leaders, saviours, messiahs, mahdis, prophets, stars, priests, imams, rabbis, marja-e taqlid, miracles and God.

This tendency is an admission of personal failure and an inexcusable delegation of moral duty. It makes the quest for democracy or human rights rather more difficult to achieve than it would be otherwise.

It was a main reason why the revolution failed so miserably: a blind following of Khomeini when we hardly knew him and there were so many more important things to be doing.

Instead of demanding that we hold office holders to account in themidst of a revolt against tyranny, we went as far as inserting a 'Supreme Leader' right in the heart of our national Constitution.

The Shah and Khomeini both relied on this human tendency for their success. Perhaps they would both have served better as 'servants' of the people rather than their leaders.

Autocracies, religions, dictatorships and even Hollywood or representative democracies are somehow similar in this regard.

We tend to worship personalities more than we do our shared values when it comes to politics, religion, music, films and organised sports.

So I don't really see the point in knocking any particular religion. Question is: what alternative are we going for instead of religion?

Also: why do we as a people look so hard for 'God' in everything that we do?

“We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”


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Niloufar Parsi

Outstanding Strategy

by Niloufar Parsi on

Salar jan,

I think your emphasis on finding the right strategy is very intelligent, and the strategy that you propose is itself simply brilliant because it would be both effective and peaceful. Perhaps we should also acknowledge that there are a good number of grassroots NGOs active inside Iran with such an approach.

Thanks for all the great references. I will certainly follow-up on several of those you mention. My personal favourite among them is Khayam, but I have much to learn on this front yet.

I would also perhaps add to your list some pre-Islamic texts, not least the very first known declaration of human rights circa 1200 years before Islam (if I am not mistaken).

My (limited) understanding of the history of Bhaism tells me that it was also a move in this direction in its original roots, and probably a reaction to the rise of Shiism in Iran post-Safavid period (this latter is pure speculation on my part though!). Only today, the mullahs are far more vulnerable.




I also agree with you on

by Salar (not verified) on

I also agree with you on your points and I did misread some of them in your original post. It seems I have to also clarify some of mine. What I advocate is that we need homegrown solutions especially where we have no shortage of them. I agree that a good idea is good no matter who came up with it and where it came from but that is not how the masses view it. Great ideas like secularism, democracy, individual freedom and rights, atheism, rule of law based on human’s rights, needs and reason, are all excellent and we can see the success of their implementation in the west by the west and how it has made them to achieve all this progress and advancements in all levels. This implementation is also a very good validation for these ideas and how they work. But as we have seen in recent history of our nation and culture, when you try to push for these in our culture among the masses you get a stiff resistance for acceptance. Why? Because they are viewed as western ideas that the west and domestic intellectuals who have fallen in love with them want to impose on our traditional culture and religion. Our people (rightfully so in many circumstances) have very skeptical view of the west and their intentions. This becomes more acute as their ideas also deemed to be in clash with Islam. After all the reality is that the core of our people are religious with religious beliefs even though they don’t understand most of them and just follow their blind faith. What is worst is that the validation you have to also present is their success in the west. Therefore, all attempts like this easily fall pray to mullah propaganda and their anti-west rhetoric. They are even smarter than that and in response create counterfeited ideas similar to those of the west only with meanings absolutely opposite but superficially domesticated versions. E.g., Islamic democracy (mardoom salari dini), Islamic human rights, etc etc. the masses fall easily for this trick.

What I am saying is that we need to find another way and we don’t have to look far for it. We don’t have to resort to western ideology at all, we don’t need Kant, Sartre, Marx etc any more. The validation of these ideas have been sitting right here in our own backyard all along. They have originally been devised by our own scholars induced and reasoned from the same source people already believe in and most importantly the validation comes from the same source, islam and god. This is wild I know, but that is the brilliance of their work. Not only there is no contradiction and clash between them but they absolutely agree, they come from the same source, God. The mullahs stand no chance and that’s why they have been hiding this for a thousand years. Just look at Hallaj’s work, here is wikki page for it to give you a very brief idea of his brilliance and impact.


His work has perhaps changed the world because he brought the ideas that were considered secret and forbidden by sufi scholars to masses. No faith, no fate, and no comparison (“ghiyas”) in this materialist world, what we have here is only “aghel” “eradeh” “hafezeh” and human must guide themselves with these. now you tell me if that is not secularism. He also believed he needs to bring his ideas to politics and government to free people and rid of arabs. A follower of his, a military general staged a coup and they had the control of the government for a day in Baghdad. Five years later a roman general imprisoned with him in Baghdad before, staged the same coup and had the control of eastern roman empire for a day. Something astonishing in world history. If you have read the work of Dr. nooriala on secularism her emphasizes on the main pillar of secularism being nondiscrimination and inclusiveness of everyone regardless of race, religion, nationality etc. then this is exactly what you find as the pillar of sufism, in the entrance of most khanegha of the past was written, “ harke az dar too amad, aab o khorak va makanash dahid va az dinash maporsid”. they didn’t just say it, they actually did it unlike most religions and cultures.

Same goes for bayazid (the first sufi) I am sure you heard of him in context of mawlana and shams and their historical argument that made him the mawlana that he is and we know now. Another is shikheh eshragh (shohrewardi) that according to many past and current scholars familiar with his work, if he had not been executed at such young age and had time to develop his philosophy completely we would’ve been living in a totally different world. Of course there are so many others but mostly are followers of these three major philosophers that built the backbone of sufism the rest are attar, ebneh sinah, naser khosroo. And of course mawlana o hafez, khyam, kharazmi, so forth.

I guess the most important point is validation of the concepts to push among the ordinary people of our country. We are at a historical moment in the history of our culture and nation and we have the chance to set what has gone wrong for so many centuries straight and defeat the evil mullah at his own game by resorting to what has come from our own and used by others to prosper. Once our people understand that these are not merely some foreign concepts but their own they are much likely to accept and adopt them. And the validation comes from something they are already familiar with and believe and there is no clash between their traditions and beliefs and these ideas. Sorry for writing so much but I feel you are among the very few to grasp this idea and do some good with it.

Enal hagh, enal hagh :)

Niloufar Parsi

Backyard solutions

by Niloufar Parsi on

Salam mard-e Salar!

Good points you make. There is very little that I would disagree with except I think you have misread me slightly.

Perhaps I need to clarify the following in terms of where I come from:

- I started by referring to the human race rather than Iranians alone 

- Ideas have no nationality. Once expressed they belong to whoever likes and chooses to share them and wherever. To insist on the nationality or 'authenticity' of any idea is to pander to narrow nationalism. This mistake is most clearly made today by many Americans who seem to imagine that they 'own' the concept of democracy or freedom.

- To share beliefs and ideas is a good basis for forming a 'community', and it is perfectly practical for certain agents - such as Soroush - to help spread such ideas before they become shared, but this is far from being a 'follower'. It is a simple process of communication and learning just like reading a book. 

- Religion is a real and universal problem the world over. Atheism is a universal answer. And I would suggest that this solution is more practical than you imagine in Iran today because - unlike most other countries - Iranians know exactly how 'god' works when in government,

- All of these 'outlandish' and 'dreamy' ideas about universality are already encapsulated in a deceptively simple bayt of 'ours':

bani adam a'zaye yek digarand! 

But if you look around, you will see that the same saying or idea can probably be found in one form or another in every single culture in the world. In a globalised world, the world is our backyard for ideas.



Dear Niloufar: Solutions in our own backyard

by Salar (not verified) on

What you are saying is neither limited nor unique to our culture and pretty universal, you can find them in every culture, western or eastern. They are just a manifestation of more rooted problems, some created by us and some designed and implemented for us. Now we must try to dig deeper and search for solutions and by solutions I mean look for something that doesn’t just work on paper and actually would work on the ground. Something that practically brings about change within 10-20years time. anything beyond 20 years would not be viable and will be just theory. Atheism would work well for intelligencia but the masses require something else. We already have the solutions done for us and there is no need to look far. one look at the work of bayazid, halaj, soherevardi, ahmad ghazali will set you on the right path. Of course you have to think of their work in the context of their time and not judge them entirely with the 20/20 hindsight we have today in the era of accomplishment and success of modern world based on scientific thinking and its progress.

In terms of Islam and Mullahs, we need to revisit them and their roles in all of this. We need to know a great deal about their history and why they function they way they do and what needs to be changed . by listening to the likes of Sorosh, Ganji, Ebadi, you are falling into the same trap you are complaining about(looking for others to lead and delegating the work). First of all they are dishonest and are not telling you the entire story. They are doing half-truth strategy to push for their agenda and hide the other half. Second why listen to the middle man when you have the source. As bayazid said, why ask the student when you have the professor? Translation--no middle man of any sort is needed when “aghel” is functioning correctly! Within their work you find the home grown ideas of secularism, democracy, critical/free thinking and much much more. It is a mind storm and national hidden treasures.

btw, it is a historical fact that these ideas where adopted by Cathars that took them to southern Europe that lead to the beginning of inquisitions. How influential they were needs more research, but it is my guess that much like the idea of “shia asna ashari” that was philosophized in one place (“south lebenan/ jabel amel area) and later implemented and politicized someplace else (iran), the early ideas of secularism could have been thought up closer to home and later developed further and implemented somewhere else. As halaj says: one thing that of humans remaining forever and resurrect in others and flourish is their “Andisheh” based on reason and aghel, evolution of the minds. Pas beyaim andisheh konim va konim on andishe ra.

Happy Thinking

Niloufar Parsi

Mullahs as effective agents of secularism!

by Niloufar Parsi on

What else could better prove the need for secularism than the rule of the mullahs?! Didn't we really NEED the mullahs to rule in order to free ourselves of the shackles of religion?

No kings. No mullahs. No more gods! 

Natalia Alvarado-Alvarez

Well, I have

by Natalia Alvarado-Alvarez on

I have heard that English is commonly used in business as the choice of the international world.  Please do correct me if I am wrong.


I happen to also have some Iranian friends living in Iran. Yes, they are Muslims but they do not consider themselves very religious. I believe that many Iranians within Iran feel the same. My friends are looking forward to leaving Iran.

Solh va Doosti


Niloufar Parsi


by Niloufar Parsi on

Salam Bijan jan!

This was as much your initiative as it was mine as you were the one who suggested I do this in the first place :)

Democracy is precisely an expression of the very ideas expressed here. Your child-parent analogy is apt. Do we really grow up to become independent, responsible free spirits or do we go through life child-like and enslaved?

But there is democracy and there is democracy! Here is where we differ to some extent. I am not sure that the US is a good model of democracy, if one at all. It can be argued that the US looks as much like a corporatist state as a democratic one. In any case, representative democracy is inherently undemocratic as it promotes hero worship!

Regardless, the gist of the original argument is that democracy has to be home-grown. It cannot be imposed. It has to be internalized by a critical mass of individuals otherwise it is a facade.  


Jahanshah Rashidian

Iranian New Values

by Jahanshah Rashidian on

I think if most Iranians are not atheist, they must be non-practicing Muslim and tend to become the coming ex-Muslims. As a little rate of Iranians profess to believe in all divine personalities and values of Islam, they become more and more aware of the IRI. More conventionally, the Iranians denies Islam through the plague of the IRI.

If these Mullahs and their institutions manage to survive after their political demise, an ever-widening gulf will seperate them from a free Iran. This will profoundly influence the growing and new values of Iranians.

Bijan A M

Love thy truth....

by Bijan A M on

Niloofar-e aziz: 

Thank you for taking the initiative to start this debate.            It is my belief that human are born with a clean slate.  As we grow, our parents are our leaders and our heros. It is when we start developing our own critical thinking that we start gravitating to different leaders. Sometimes the influence of our  families and cultures is great enough that it interferes with our critical thinking process. And, we end up trapped in the mandate of our heros religious beliefs and stop growing to swim to the ocean and see what else is out there?Aside from the sentimentalities of human nature, and how they gravitate to a leader, it is my firm belief that “reality” is the meaning of the truth and “idealism” is nothing but Illusion.Again, in my humble opinion, Democracy is the only “REAL” path to TRUTH. It is only democracy which treats religion as a private matter. It is only democracy which believes in human rights and respect for life. If human race has any chance of survival it would be only through democracy.But, the word “democracy” has been very controversial lately. Just because of Bush administration’s reaction to savage behavior of lunatic Islamists, many have condemned democracy. But, in my humble opinion, that is the definition of irrational (not exuberant) stupidity. This is not to defend or condemn US foreign policy, it is more on a philosophical basis.  Whether you negotiate with IRI on their Nuclear ambitions or use tough measures like sanction or threat of war,  you can’t trust idealists to control of mass destruction tools.One “reality” that has been the subject of many blogs on this site has been existence of state of Israel. My point is that you can criticize the government of Israel all you want (and rightfully so), but you cannot deny its existence and her right to defend herself. That’s where I draw my line between realism and idealism (as an example). My apologies for taking off on a different tangent on your blog. One thing led to another…Sincere regards,  Bijan

Niloufar Parsi

desperately seeking collective self-awareness!

by Niloufar Parsi on

another reason for optimism:

enter the Internet as a revolutionary tool for collective awareness :)  

no intermediaries, no interpreters, just plain human communication. 

next step? perhaps a single international language that everyone is taught as a second language. I just hope it won't be chinese...! 


In general terms I agree

by abc (not verified) on

In general terms I agree with you. However, Our nature is complex and contradictory. That is why you cannot begin to liberate yourself without some form of advanced self-consciousness and an intentional desire to emphasize solidarity over destructive egotism. ...seeking collective self-awareness and collective self-liberation.

we have never ceased to advance, and all sorts of Empires, ruthless dictators, criminal regimes, brutal mafias, despicable tyrants, have been deposed and ended up in the trash bin of history. So history is multifaceted, and it can be interpreted and construed in many different ways. It can be a long litany of suffering and oppression, or a beautiful though dramatic saga of liberation and ascent to higher grounds. I'm an incurable pessimist, so I stick to the first version.

Thank God that you're an optimist. We despartely need more of you...LOL

Niloufar Parsi

evolutionary biology

by Niloufar Parsi on

Salam 'abc'!

Yes indeed we could look into the core of human nature here. And then to ask: are we any different from other animals at all?

I hope that we are! Here are a few pointers:

- there are several good examples of a superior form of human organisation compared to other animals. That the idea of democracy has emerged in itself is a testament to this.

- human species is millions of years old, but civilised political organisation is only 5,000 years old. In that period, we have come a long way. And we will go further.

- the pace of this evolution accelerates with the pace of technological advancement (or we will be annihilated)

- the link and quotation (Click here) I included at the bottom of my piece was that of one of the greatest evolutionary biologists of them all, Richard Dawkins. 

- i suggest we are past the stage of 'might is right' in human evolution, and we can seriously look at how to realise Rousseau's vision of direct democracy - one that does not require 'leaders' but 'public servants' instead.



Niloofar jan: From

by abc (not verified) on

Niloofar jan: From evolutionary biology's perspective, this tendency for "leader" is hard wired through natural selection.

Top-down hierarchies are endemic to most cultures. Historically they evolved as a survival mechanism, much as is seen in animal life where the strongest survive - this could be termed 'simple natural selection'.




beautifully said!

by IRANdokht on

Niloufar jan,

I agree with all these points that you made. Yes we are waiting for a hero to save us all, the problem is that we would not recognize him/her due to the unfortunate hero killing habit we have developed in the recent history of our nation and the constant need of us to argue with anyone who has something new to say...

I think as long as our nation is suffering from the blind superstitions, Idolizing individuals and disrespecting other people's views and beliefs, a real secular democracy would be impossible. Lets hope that you're right and we have started moving in the right direction. I really like your optimism :0)

Very nice blog!


Niloufar Parsi

are we there yet?

by Niloufar Parsi on

No we are not! but with the likes of Akbar Ganji (who says similar things to what Abarmard is saying here), Shirin Ebadi and hundreds of very active NGOs and pressure groups inside Iran, we are getting there.

When we start acting democratically within our own homes and with our own families and friends, we may then be able to do the same in the public sphere. 

Until we do this, what is the point of attacking Islam or the mullahs or blaming anyone else at all? 


David ET

believing in OURSELVES

by David ET on

The dangerous historical mix of shahanshahi systems and Shia Eghteda , Imamat, Velayat and blind followings to the point of  whipping self with chains and beating others with chomagh (and culture of chaaplusi or tohmat) ....has created a belief in higher authorities and lack of belief in the power of One(s).

It takes sacrifice by those who recognize this flaw to educate others...and it takes time...

great observation.


It's the traditional societies mistake

by Abarmard on

It will change by the changes with the society, when the people socially advance and educate themselves to want a system that satisfies the majority of their needs and demands. A system that would be against killings of the opposition, even after a revolution.

When people have ears to hear the other side, knowing that the meaning of having the other side is more important than what the other side says.

Are we there yet?

Niloufar Parsi

Mersi Maryam

by Niloufar Parsi on

Do you think that Iranians inside Iran are more secular than before in general? I find that many people have turned against religion itself. 

But this may not be enough in itself if we want to avoid previous mistakes. Superstition (khorafat) and hero worship run deep in our culture. Would you agree? 


Maryam Hojjat

Well said!

by Maryam Hojjat on

Thanks Niloufar.  

I think in future soon when IRI is toppled by Iranians we must not pay to any religious akhoond khoms and zekat and other type of donation.  These religious figure must have a job and earn linving.  The religiuos job must be volunteered.  Besides, we must change all the mosques to the libraries and other learning institution to promote learning and awareness in population.

The religion must be advertized as a personal trait of any member of society and GOOD WORDS, GOOD THOUGHT, GOOD DEEDS must be promoted in our culture.

Babak Khorramdin

Barack Obama on Religion

by Babak Khorramdin on



Interesting talk