The modern world has witnessed several grave threats to global human civilization. In the early 20th century it was right wing nationalism and fascism and colonialism, ultimately culminating in world war II and 43 million dead. In the latter half of the 20th century, it was communism, and imperialism from both the east and west, resulting in over 40 years of cold war and the prospect of imminent nuclear holocaust for our planet. In this same period, apartheid in South Africa prevailed, and drew worldwide condemndation and isolation, resulting ultimately in its downfall. This period fortunately did not end in world war III as had been feared, but also did not end in peace. Worldwide there were dozens of conflicts involving unprecedented resources and technology, causing the suffering of millions more.
Today we live in a world of global interconnectivity, highly advanced and accessible technology, and fundamental transformation. The images of the murder of Neda Agha Soltan touch the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world within hours, many of whom know very little about Neda’s homeland. For the first time in history, more than one half of the world’s
population live in democracies which at least in theory are commited to
universal human rights for all citizens. There is no more Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, or other dominant empire claiming a monopoly on technology and resources and territory. It is just not feasible anymore, since the world is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before in history. There is no more new ideology like communism or national socialism promising a new way forward for all human society, if only all humans could be forced to adhere to it.
Unfortunately, there is just an old one- and that is religious government. The advocates of religious government are false prophets who will have us believe that we are not merely citizens of a state with material needs, but rather followers of a righteous religion which will save us. All problems we face should first be addressed through the teachings of this religion, and then whatever rational discussion and debate is allowed must be within the bounds of that religion (which of course is best known by the religious leaders).
This form of government is the biggest ideological obstacle to human enlightenment and development of our time. There is no other ideology today that competes with democracy, and gives itself more power than to the people. The three most offending governments of this type today are the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and to some extent the state of Israel. The USA was going in this direction under GW Bush, and the people of the USA used what rights they had left to stop that by voting before it was too late, and the struggle continues.
Of course there are other areas in the world where this tendency has supporters as well and is gaining, such as in Turkey, or Somalia, Yemen, or Philipines, or in parts of Lebanon and Palestine. The challenge to democracy and human values is indeed global today, just like communism was after 1945, and just like Naziism was in 1936.
This is not a trivial challenge to human peace, prosperity, and development, and the required response will not be trivial either. Just like the outside world rejected Naziism in 1945, Communism in 1991, and Apartheid in 1994, we must reject relgious government in 2010 (or as soon as possible). To have one religion have overriding power over the people and over the universal human rights of citizens is just as backwards in 2010 than any of the above ideologies at the time of their rejection. The world now needs a global response to this deeply backward plague of our time than thrives on ignorance, poverty, and conflict. The time has come for the UN and the world community to condemn relgious government worldwide the same way that Apartheid in South Africa was condemned, and unity was shown with the black majority of that country.
Of course we know that this will not happen, and the reason is quite simple. There is too much power and money with a vested interested in keeping the status quo, way more so than in the case of South Africa. (Just the oil and energy part of this is huge) There is also too much sympathy for religious states by religious people of the same religion who do not have to live in those states. But that does not mean that we should not start discussing this and considering the idea and campaigning for it.
In fact, there is no better example to follow in this direction than the Green movement of Iran, who has inspired the planet with its bravery, compassion, patience, and civilization. The people of Iran are under no illusion that change will come soon or easily. But we are commited to change, and ask the world to stand with us, join us in moving to a better tomorrow. One in which women and men are equal, ancient and obsolete traditions can be freely discussed and debated without the fear of divine retribution or overrule. One in which humans are free to believe, worship, think, read, and say what they want. We have taken the first steps in this direction in the 21st century. We follow the steps of such giants as Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Bishop Desmond Tutu in calling for a nonviolent movement. And like them, our struggle shall prevail because we are right and history is on our side.
Today, on the first anniversary of the Green movement, many might look at us and think that we have died and it is over. The Islamic Republic might feel safe and sound as the IRGC commanders and torturers tell their leader there is nothing to worry about. This is normal. All dictators had the same sense in their final years, and by the time they realize they were wrong they were too late. We the people of Iran shall prevail and take our rightful place in the world. It just a matter of when. As we continue in our struggle, I ask the people of our planet to remember the words of John Lennon in his beautiful song “Imagine”: “I hope one day you will join us… and the world will live as one”
In the hope of that day.