A Brief Critique of Soroush (and Najafi)
1. Dr. Soroush condemns Najafi for disrespecting religious values (of Shias).
Dr. Soroush was a member of the Hojatieh Society before the revolution. Did the group that Soroush was a member of respect the religion of the Bahais, their “pure ones,” and their holy figures? Did the Hojatieh Society only engage in civil debate about the rational basis of the Bahai faith? Didn’t the Hojatieh viciously attack the religious values of these folks? Didn’t the Hojatieh Society have a secret organization that infiltrated the Bahai organizations? When there was violence done to the Bahais and their places of worship, did the Hojatieh Society support those or condemn those? Didn’t the Hojatieh promote discrimination against Bahais in employment, education, and the like?
Hojatieh Society was bigoted organization. What is the difference between the Hojatieh Society spreading intolerance of the Bahai religion, and Shahin Najafi’s song? Which one is worse? The one which had the backing of powerful entities (reactionary clerics, even cooperation of SAVAK at times) and the prejudice of the majority of the population attacking a defenseless small minority, or the one which is one person with the help of a few musicians producing a song and putting it on the internet?
How can Dr. Soroush demand others to respect the religious sensitivities of the Shia Muslims while he himself was part of a “secret” reactionary organization that promoted bigotry and intolerance against the adherents of another faith??????? Why the double standard? Why is it ok to attack one religion but not the other religion? Has Dr. Soroush ever condemned his own membership in the bigoted and intolerant Hojatieh Society? Or does Dr. Soroush deny that he ever was a member of the Hojatieh?
2. Dr. Soroush was an intellectual who provided his services to Khomeini and was prominently featured on the regime’s tv and radio. The regime has persecuted many religious minorities, including executing about 200 prominent Bahais in the early years of the revolution, while Dr. Soroush was helping justify the fundamentalist regime.
Dr. Soroush sided with Khomeini and the terribly reactionary and repressive forces when the universities were purged from secular, liberal, and Marxist professors, administrators, and students.
3. When in 1989 Khomeini issued his fatwa against Salman Rushdie, where was Dr. Soroush? When Mehdi Bazargan courageously stood up to Khomeini and called that fatwa mediaeval, where was Soroush?
4. Shahin Najafi is expressing the anger of those generations that have been insulted, beaten up, tortured, raped, and oppressed for 32 or so years. What Mr. Najafi is doing is not right. It is not right to insult the beliefs of others. Many Shia Muslims do NOT support the regime. In fact, there have been decent Shia clerics who opposed and warned the people about the dangers of mixing religion and politics, especially under Khomeini and the fundamentalist system. They include Grand Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari, and Ayatollah Taleghani. Devout Muslims who oppose the nezam velayat faghih is our potential allies. They are oppressed by the vf regime as the secular forces. Najafi’s song has provided ammunition to the reactionary forces and clerics in Iran to present themselves as the defenders of the faith. I made this point a month ago about an earlier song by Shahin Najafi. This is one point that Soroush also recognizes.
But what Najafi is doing pales in comparison with the daily INSULTS that the Iranian people get from the IRGC, Basij, morality patrols. It pales in comparison with the mass torture, mass rape, and the mass killings of the political prisoners while Dr. Soroush was engaged in providing ideological justifications for Khomeini’s brutal regime. Considering his own terrible past, I think his use of insulting words for Mr. Najafi is weird and most inappropriate.
5. It is wonderful that Dr. Soroush has moved away from providing ideological justifications for the fundamentalist regime. It is great that he is criticizing the fatwa of the clerics in Iran. However, I think Dr. Soroush should first strongly condemn his own role against religious freedom of the Bahais, as well as his role in providing ideological justifications to the nezam velayat faghih and Khomeini’s rule.
6. A “war” between those who insult the religious values and those who use religion to rule is harmful for the prospects of a society living in peace. But it is the fault of those who in the first place USED religion for power. Theocracy will give rise to insults to the values of the theocrats. The insults are reactions to decades of oppression, repression, and insults. When you keep putting pressure on a spring, it will eventually spring back. When you keep increasing the heat beneath a kettle of water, it will eventually boil. These are natural reactions. To insult Najafi is not the solution. It just increases the heat and will further cause more insults.
The solution is a transition from the reactionary and oppressive theocracy ruling Iran to a pluralistic and democratic system, where each person (or group) is free to think and live as he or she so wishes. We need to have a transition to system where no one will impose one’s values onto others. That there would be freedom of religion, ALL religions, as well as various interpretations of one’s religion. And most significantly the freedom not to have any religion at all. Under such environment, people would politely and civilly exchange their views on religion. And each person could choose what makes sense to him or her.
Perhaps due to the terrible religious tyranny that the Iranian people have been terrorized with in the past 32 or so years, and the reactions to them, our people are ready to mature and exit the violent dead end of theocracy. Or may be we are not there yet. But we need to get there. Only under a secular system — where each person or group can live as they wish, to practice one’s religion, or not to have any religion at all — can we have a decent and peaceful society. To live and let live, as one wishes is the solution to our highly polarized society.
My 2 cents,