In the name of God
To liberate a nation, you don’t drop bombs on them
In the name of God
To liberate a nation, you don’t drop bombs on them
The following is the full text of the speech delivered on May 7, 2014 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with a group of teachers.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
I would like to welcome you dear teachers and managers of the educational system, who imbued our working environment and our life with your warm and friendly presence.
First of all, it is the month of Rajab which is an opportunity to serve God. Our entire life can be an opportunity for serving God in a proper way and true happiness lies in this. Some occasions increase our opportunities and the month of Rajab is one of these opportunities. We should prepare ourselves in this month. We should pray for one another so that Allah the Exalted helps us prepare ourselves in this month and in the month of Sha'ban and Ramadan and so that He helps us take one step forward and achieve transcendence.
Reviving the memory of a number of martyrs is one of the opportunities of this meeting and this day as well. Primarily, I would like to revive the memory of our dear martyr, Shahid Ayatollah Motahhari, who was our great thinker, our teacher and a mujahid on the path of Islamic thought and belief. With his martyrdom, he achieved the blessing to obtain the approval of Allah the Exalted for his long jihad. Good for him!
I would also like to revive the memory of Shahid Rajai and Shahid Bahonar who spent their lives in the educational system. They were two mujahid, pious and sincere individuals who were at the service of the educational system. We witnessed up close the efforts of these two dear personalities in these areas for many years and for a short time after the Revolution.
Our annual meeting with teachers has a major goal and several minor goals. The major goal is expressing respect for teachers. With this meeting, we want to show our respect to the position of teachers. This symbolic move is necessary. Respecting teachers and teaching should become a widespread practice in our society. Everyone should feel proud of being a teacher. Everyone should be proud of greeting and respecting teachers. The higher the position of teachers is, the higher the position of education will be in our society.
Adopting a narrow-minded outlook towards teachers is a loss for society. This should be prevented. The outlook towards teachers should be a respectful one. There are many different professions in the country which are seemingly very prestigious, but the position of all of these professions is much lower than the position and the profession of teaching. All of us should know and understand this.
The Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) is quoted as saying, "I was sent as a teacher" [Usul al-Kafi, Volume 2, page 95]. The fact that the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) considered himself to be a teacher is the greatest honor. Of course, teaching exists at different levels, but the truth of teaching is only one thing. This is a source of honor. This is our issue. With this meeting, we want to show that we hold teachers in great respect and that we are indebted to them because of what they did for ourselves and because of what they do for our children and for those whose future is important to us. This feeling is shared by all the people. All of us are indebted to teachers. This is our main issue.
There are some minor issues as well. One issue is addressed to teachers themselves. Another issue is addressed to the managers and officials of the large educational system. What is related to teachers is that the dear teachers should know their job is not only teaching. In other words, their job is not only to teach the textbooks that are available to them. Teachers should promote knowledge, teach the way to think and strengthen morality in themselves. If we consider teaching to have a broad meaning, it will include these three tasks:
The first task is promoting knowledge and teaching the textbooks that our children - the future men and women of the country - should learn. This is one task.
The second task, which is more important, is teaching how to think. Our children should learn how to think in a proper and reasonable way. They should be properly guided about how to think. Shallow outlooks and shallow learning of the issues of life cripple a society. In the long run, it destroys a people. Thinking should be firmly established in society.
This is why when we mention someone like Shahid Motahhari, we do not only speak about his knowledge. We speak about his thinking as well. If someone knows how to think, this spirit will help them to discover the important issues of knowledge. If our youth, our scholars and our scientists are thinkers, they will use the knowledge that they have to pose tens and hundreds of new questions and to get answers for these questions. So, using knowledge is only possible with thinking.
The third task is behavioral and moral education and what the honorable minister referred to in his statements: lifestyle and behavior. We are a people with lofty ideals, with great slogans and with clear and definite peaks that we want to reach - if there is time, I will briefly address this issue later on. This requires patient, wise, religious, innovative, kind, compassionate, courageous, polite and pious individuals who are ready to take action, who avoid laziness and who consider others' pains to be their own pains.
The mold and make-up of a person that Islam wants to build is shaped through education. All people can be educated. Some people may learn late and some may learn sooner than others. Some learn more efficiently and some learn less efficiently than others. But all individuals are subject to change and this change takes place with education. Primarily, this falls on the shoulders of certain main elements one of which is a teacher. Of course, parents, friends and other such people are influential as well, but the influence that a teacher exerts is deeper and more permanent. This is a task that teachers should carry out.
Therefore, teachers teach how to acquire knowledge, how to think and how to be moral. Learning morality is not like acquiring knowledge. That is to say, one cannot be moral by reading books. Morality cannot be taught with books. Behavior is more influential than books and words. You teach with your behavior in your classrooms and among your students. Of course, you teach with words as well. You should provide verbal advice, but behavior has a deeper and more comprehensive influence. It is one's behavior which makes it clear whether one's words are sincere or not. This is what we wanted to say to teachers.
The society of teachers has been entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of children. We should pay attention to this issue. If, by Allah's favor, our teachers decide to build children and teenagers with this method - that is to say, by paying attention to these three elements - then I believe that this will exert great influence on the future of society.
Of course, after the Revolution, certain good measures were adopted in this regard. The society of teachers exerted great influence with their commitment and by showing their presence in the revolutionary environment - whether during the Sacred Defense Era or afterwards. I sometimes read the books which are about teachers. A teacher who took part in the front lines of the Sacred Defense and who was martyred exerted great influence on the minds of his students. One can see this.
One issue about the educational system and its management is the issue of the transformation plan. The transformation plan - which has thankfully been prepared and established - was not something that was created all of a sudden. This plan was one of our desires from the beginning of the Revolution. Because the educational system in our country was created by imitating western educational systems with the same form, content and order, there was a need for a fundamental change in the educational system of the country, whether in terms of form or in terms of content.
Well, many people shared this thought for many years. Then, it was developed gradually and it led to the transformation plan. I am not saying that this transformation plan is the peak of our desires. This is not the case. For everything, there is a higher form. It is possible that by Allah's favor, you take action, move forward and gain experience in a way that you can add something to what is available to you today.
However, this transformation plan is what is available to us in the present time and therefore, it should be taken seriously. My advice to the honorable officials and managers of the educational system is that we should take the transformation plan seriously. And this seriousness should be beyond formal statements. It should be shown in practice.
Well, as the friends in this meeting quoted what I had said before, if we want this transformation plan to be implemented, we need a roadmap and a plan. If our thoughts and the general ideas that officials and sympathetic personalities have in mind do not take the form of a practical plan, then it will remain a mere idea and it will decay. Therefore, it requires a practical plan.
You should prepare and implement this practical plan in collaboration with the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution - which is a great cultural center and a reference point for making decisions and in which officials are present. You should feel that this step has been taken. Then, you should go to the next step. Of course, some tasks should be carried out simultaneously and in line with one another.
An issue for the management of the educational system is the issue of manpower. As was pointed out in this meeting, the educational system is the greatest decision-making organization in the Islamic Republic. More than one million officials exist in this great system. These officials are directly involved with more than 12 million people and they are indirectly involved with tens of millions of people - that is to say, families. Such a great network is very important.
The forces that should be employed in this great network should have certain characteristics. One of these characteristics is that they should be motivated and enthusiastic. You should not give priority to tired, old and unimaginative forces - those who tried whatever they knew and who do not have new methods anymore. The priority should be given to young, enthusiastic, motivated, pious and revolutionary forces and to those for whom the main goal is what the main issue of the educational system is - which is building individuals.
You should benefit from these forces. This is one issue. Therefore, in my opinion, the first issue about the macro-management of the educational system is that they should see what forces they are using. They should benefit from religious, revolutionary, enthusiastic and zealous forces who love their job and who are ready to enter difficult arenas for the sake of the goals of the educational system. This is the most important task.
The second issue is the issue of support. All governmental organizations are responsible for supporting the educational system, whether the organizations which are in charge of the budget or the organizations which are formed on the basis of the laws that the Majlis passes. The outlook of all these organizations should be such an outlook. They should not think that the educational system is only a consumer. Sometimes, there is such an outlook. Some people say that the educational system is only a consumer. But this is not the case. The more you spend money on it, the more results you will achieve. The educational system is such a system.
This is an organization which creates the future generators of wealth, knowledge and civilization and the future managers of the country. It is not the case that we think the educational system is a costly organization. There is no achievement which is greater than the one the educational system makes. Whatever achievement and innovation you see throughout the country is rooted in the educational system. You should improve this organization so that everything will be improved. Therefore, spending money on the educational system and expanding the financial resources of this organization is one of the tasks that we hope government officials pay attention to.
Another issue is that - as I mentioned in the middle of my speech - the managers that we choose should be managers whose focus is on the main issue of the educational system. Adopting partisan, political and other such outlooks is poison for the educational system. Over the course of these long years, we have witnessed certain eras during which there was more attention to such issues. As a result of this, the educational system suffered a loss. You should be careful about this. You should adopt such an outlook towards the different issues of the educational system that for each manager in each sector of this large and vast organization, the main issue is the issue of education and building revolutionary forces.
Dear brothers and sisters, the reason why we stress the issue of building revolutionary and religious forces is that we have a long way ahead of us. Our people have a long way ahead of them. The goal that we have in mind for the Islamic Republic - which is based on the general guidelines of the Revolution - is a very lofty goal. When I say "we", I do not mean this humble person. Rather, I mean the people of Iran, officials and the owners of the Revolution. This goal is creating an exemplary society. You want to build a society in dear Iran - which has been located in a very sensitive geographical area in the world - which is a model in the shade of Islam and under the flag of the Holy Quran. This model is both in material areas and in spiritual and moral areas.
Westerners made a leap in material areas. They made a leap in a certain era, but this leap was separated from and opposed to the moral movement. It was a hundred percent materialistic leap. In the beginning, no one understood what had happened, but now they are beginning to understand. They are gradually feeling the irreversible damage of what they did. No one should think that a purely materialistic and secular civilization can help its people achieve happiness. This is not the case. The people in this civilization will face a great disaster.
In the present time, they are witnessing this disaster. This disaster is not because of the demonstrations which are held in European streets. For the west, this disaster is much deeper than this. Primarily, what humanity needs is psychological, moral and conscience-based security. Primarily, what it needs is the satisfaction of its conscience. Such satisfaction does not exist in western environments and it will get even worse.
If you are familiar with western writers, critics and thinkers, you will see that it is several years now that they have been raising their voices. These people are showing some aspects of increasing corruption in their societies. A materialistic lifestyle is like this. Although they have moved forward in the area of science, technological achievements and the like and although they have accomplished great feats in this regard, they have collapsed in the area of morality and they will continue to collapse because of this.
The society that Islam wants to build is a society that is at an advanced level in terms of wealth, knowledge and welfare. But it also wants this society to be at this level or even at a higher level in terms of morality and spirituality. This is an Islamic society. You want to build this society. So, you have a long way ahead of you. But it is possible. No one should say that it is not. Many things were considered to be impossible, but they happened.
When a people show determination, they can accomplish great and historical feats. Our societies have shown that they can be great, that they can blossom and that they can grow and exert influence. Man is an endless and infinite creature. Knowledge has made so much progress, but the main parts of man's brain are still unknown. This is what the scientists who work on this say. This physical aspect of man is unknown, let alone his spiritual, psychological and inner aspect. Man has many capabilities. We can carry out many tasks. An individual can simultaneously achieve great material and spiritual growth.
Well, we want to reach these goals. Reaching these goals requires manpower more than anything else. What is more important than the path is the person who takes this path. If there is not such a person, then even a well-paved road is useless. But if there is a determined person, then lack of a well-paved road will not be problematic. You have seen that mountaineers climb so high while there is no road. But they have feet and determination. So, it is possible to move forward and to reach peaks. It is possible to know and utilize unknown talents. It is possible to solve problems in a constant way.
All of these things require human resources. These human resources should be created in the educational system. Universities are important in this regard. The same is true of society and the IRIB. But none of these is as important as primary school. The teachers and managers of this great organization have such a responsibility. Therefore, we stress that they should be religious and revolutionary.
It is with this religious and revolutionary spirit that we can take this path. Even if there is a hard obstacle ahead of us, we can move forward. Even if there are certain hurdles, we can jump over them provided that this revolutionary spirit, this piety and this commitment to religious and revolutionary steadfastness exist. This is one point.
Another issue is the issue of textbooks. We should be very careful about textbooks. They should be well-developed. If they are poor in content, this is harmful. Not only is it not beneficial, but it is also harmful. If they contain deviant statements - whether political, religious or factual deviation - this is harmful. Those who are responsible for this should carry out their responsibility with complete trustworthiness and precision.
Another issue is the issue of the teachers' training university. On my way to this meeting, I spoke with the honorable minister about this issue. This university is different from ordinary universities. As well as the advantages that other universities have, this university has the advantage of producing teachers. This has certain requirements. Great significance should be attached to this university.
Another issue is the issue of moral education and the deputy of moral education. This issue was neglected. This deputy was closed at one point. Later on, they opened and closed it again and again. The deputy of moral education is an organization in charge of attending to the issue of moral education - spiritual, revolutionary, behavioral and moral aspects of education. This deputy is important both at a ministerial level and at lower levels.
I hope that Allah the Exalted bestows His blessings and mercy on all of you. I hope that, God willing, the immaculate soul of our dear Imam (r.a.) - who opened this path for us - is pleased with you. I hope that the pure souls of our dear martyrs - particularly those martyrs who were teachers and students - benefit from divine blessings.
Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings
The address made by the Leader of the Islamic
Revolution at the graduation ceremony of the students of Tarbiat
Tehran, Sept 3, I998
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
This is, for me, a pleasant day. Of course, I had visited your university frequently during the terms of my presidency. But the present occasion has certain aspects which in my mind will turn it into a sweet, lasting memory: A few months ago, when I was informed of this student gathering, it was perhaps expected, by the honored chancellor that I would send a message about this occasion, or the students would come to have a meeting with me, but I had made up my mind, from the very first moment, to attend this graduation ceremony and to personally witness the valuable output of this young university's activities for the past several years.
This university was founded on great expectations and aspirations. Obviously our Revolution, our system, and the progress we have made, are all indebted to our universities for the services they have rendered to science and culture. Yet this university was a product of the Revolution, that was to grow and provide the academic brains and competent university teachers trained after the victory of our Islamic Revolution.
Perhaps today when, thanks to God, our universities have produced numerous faithful and revolutionary graduates, the importance of what I say, will not be fully appreciated by many, but it was most meaningful in the first decade of the Revolution. The days when some university lecturers did not like to come and teach, some were not eager to cooperate with the Revolutionary movement, some had traveled abroad, and there were others who were not welcome by the students who often came to us and complained about their professor's lack of sympathy and devotion, and surely there were others who did continue their work faithfully and devotedly. All this meant that, for the improvement and expansion of our universities, we had to come up with some fundamental initiative, one such idea, was the foundation of this new university. And today, when I look around and see several thousand students, young women and young men, graduated from this university, attending this ceremony, I am sure that this will be for me a lasting and most pleasant memory.
Dear sisters and brothers! There is one thing I should emphasize to you in this regard: The university generation today bears a special, weighty responsibility. Today your country, your revolution and your honorable Islamic order are going through a phase which needs the cooperation of all responsible, administrative and able hands to enrich our system and our ideas; we have already left behind us some tough times, like the war period. Those were times of great hardships.
Today it is time to do away with every backwardness imposed on us during the long period of despotic rule in our country, through knowledge, science and scientific efforts, and to make up for those periods in our history when talents were not allowed to blossom, when the true and genuine identity of this nation could not be demonstrated, when, as a result of the importation of industrial commodities, themselves products of scientific and industrial progress in the West, we came to be dependent on the West in every field, when they also exported to us their intellectual and cultural goods. Their first and foremost attempt was to alienate our educated sections from their own selves, from their own culture, from their own customs and traditions, from their own knowledge and science, and from confidence in the abilities and talents inherent in the Iranian nation, and, of course, this lack of belief and confidence in ourselves did have its own adverse effects.
Clearly it was a long time from the moment that this idea of humiliating the Iranian people, entered our country until it took roots in the thoughts and minds of the elite strata in this country and for the West to reap its fruits. But, in the long run, they were successful, and the final consequences of this alienation and humiliation are the concrete examples of backwardness that we witness today in this country despite our human resources, despite our great material wealth, despite our singular geographical position, despite all the glittering backgrounds of scientific and cultural greatness, and our great heritage of scientific treasures! Yes, despite all those brilliant factors, our present status in the fields of science, industry and various academic achievements, is not at all what it ought to be.
Even in the areas of our history, literature and geography, much more research has been done by foreigners than by our own researchers, the genius of the Iranian people has not yet succeeded in removing the existing backwardness. Certainly since the inception of the Revolution, we have witnessed a miracle: that feeling of helplessness has been replaced by an unshakable belief in ourselves, but, we must still work on it.
In the early years of the revolution, and especially during the eight years of the war imposed on us, we were indeed facing numerous problems. But today, it is your undoubted duty to do your best, to struggle hard, and the aim of this struggle should be: To elevate and glorify Islam and to make your Islamic Iran really independent in every respect. Obviously by this, we do not mean that we should close our borders and block the entrance of beneficial goods, this is surely not wise, and nobody is inviting you to do that: In the course of history, every human being has benefited from the achievements of others, but there is a clear distinction, for the exchange of ideas and material things, between two equals and the humiliated begging of one from an arrogant donor, and this is how things were, more or less, before the Revolution.
You must take your country to the necessary, elevated status. This is the great mission of the enlightened, educated, young generation of this country, and you, brothers and sisters, who have studied at this university have, in my opinion, a heavier task to fulfill than the others, and, God willing, you shall meet with greater success.
Today I only meant to be among you, I did not intend to necessarily raise any issues for discussion. I was thinking of spending an hour or so with you, speaking with you and answering your questions, that would be most enjoyable and pleasant to me. Yet, there is an issue that is being currently debated, it is a useful discussion under the present circumstances in our country, and for this reason, I shall briefly speak about a few points I have noted down:
It is the question of freedom, which, as I said, is being enthusiastically discussed today in the press and among the thinking people in our country. This is a blessed phenomenon. For the principle and basic topics of the Revolution to be the objects of an exchange of ideas, and many people to be persuaded to think about such matters, is something we, always waited for and, of course, many other related issues are being debated too.
Anyway, freedom is the point in question today, and I have personally read and studied most of what is discussed or printed, and some of it I have found to be quite useful. Various and opposing ideas are being expressed by which I mean they are not following a certain line, they often oppose one another, and on both sides of the opposing views, you find many correct and truthful conceptions, and it is good to continue such trends, and I do hope that our scholars and specialists will be urged to engage in the provision of more instructive and thought provoking discussions for the benefit of the public. I have often encouraged you to further deepen the culture of the Revolution: attaining to those depths will require such debates.
There are two points, however, to which special attention should be paid. The first is this: In any discussion of the question of freedom, the concept of independence, which has been one of the three mottoes of the Revolution, must not be overlooked. Not only that, but it must be seriously taken into account. This means we must think independently, we must not follow a submissive and imitative mode of thinking. If we were to imitate others in this issue, which is a cornerstone of our progress, and if we only looked in the direction of the thoughts coming from the West, we would be making a big mistake, and bitter consequences would await us.
First of all, I would like to mention that the question of freedom, is one of the categories that are frequently emphasized in the Holy Qur'an and in the traditions of the Imams (AS). Certainly our understanding of freedom is not that of absolute freedom, which I do not think, has any adherents in the world, I mean, I do not think there is anybody in the world inviting people to absolute freedom. Neither is our understanding of freedom, a spiritual one, which does exist in Islam and throughout our sublime Islamic literature, no, that is not the question either: Spiritual freedom is something believed and approved by all the faithful, and we are not to debate it. The sort of freedom under discussion is in fact social freedom, that is, freedom as a human right, freedoms of speech, thought, choice and the like.
This interpretation of freedom has been lauded in the Quran and in the Sunna. Ayah 157 of the Sura Al-A'raaf says: "To those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own Scriptures, in the Taurat and the Gospel, for he commands them what is just and proper and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good and pure, and prohibits them what is bad and impure; he releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them." God says this, with regard to an important characteristic of the Prophet: he releases people from their burdens, that is, he relieves people from restrictions imposed on them; this has a vast, glorious meaning. If you look back at the religious or non-religious communities of those times, you shall see that this, releasing from yokes and burdens means freeing people from innumerable obligations and covenants imposed on people, many sorts of superstitious, primitive, crooked and wrong ideas and beliefs, and unlimited social bonds and chains imposed on humanity at the hands of despotism, distortion and deceit.
The famous scholar, George Jordaq, author of the book "The Voice of Justice" - an investigation of Imam Ali's thoughts and manners - makes a comparison, at some place, between two statements uttered by Omar, the second caliph, and Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful (AS). He says that in the region of Omar, some governors of the Islamic states, against whom certain complaints and reports of bad administration had been received, were in the caliph's presence, and the caliph, being angry at them, addressed them and uttered a lasting, memorable statement: You have turned the people into slaves, but God created them as free men. The other statement, also quoted in Nahj-al-Balagha, by Ali is: "Never be a bondsman to other men, for God has created you free." Now, Geroge Jordaq, as I said, compares the two statements and opines that Ali's statement is by far the more preferred one, and he reasons in this manner: Omar is addressing governors who presumably did not value freedom and liberty, and freedom could not at all be guaranteed by them, because they were the very persons who, as Omar reproached, had brought people into bondage. Omar is actually telling them, you have turned people into slaves, but you must give them freedom. This is, of course, one way of expression. On the other hand, Ali is addressing all the people, the masses being put in bondage, advising them that only they themselves could guarantee their human freedoms and liberties: Do not be a slave of another, because God has created you free.
In both of these statements, apart from the fact that in Ali's statement, the power of people themselves guarantees freedom. There are two fundamental features - one of which in agreement with God has created you free - says that freedom is an innate attribute of man. And I shall touch upon this point in a comparison between the Islamic and Western ways of thinking in this respect.
Of course today, I do not intend to enter into a detailed discussion of this subject. Perhaps, I will, if God wills, at some future occasion do that, as there are a lot to be said about the matter. Today, however, I shall only focus on the two points I mentioned, one of which is to think about freedom freely and independently.
As I said, social freedom as defined today in the world's political lexicon does in fact have a Quranic root. There is no need for us to turn to the 18th century liberalism in Europe and follow what Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill and others have said. We ourselves have a lot to say on this subject, logical and rational. And I shall tell you why it is that what the West says may not guide us to any straight path.
I advise you to treat the issue of freedom as an Islamic subject. There are two groups, in my opinion, who are actually in league against the Islamization or nativization of the issue of freedom.
The first group consists of those who in their lectures or writings are incurably citing examples and illustrations by the philosophers of the West of the last two or three centuries and what they wrote on the question of freedom: so and so said this, such and such said that! These, of course, are supposed to be the gentlemen among this group, because they do mention the names of the philosophers they quote from, but there are other journalistic philosophizers" who copy from, say, what Mill has said, or narrate the opinions of some French, German or American philosopher, but never mention their names, they pretend what they are saying is indeed their own opinions! They simply cheat, but certainly they do to help create the impression that all free thinking and the whole concept of social freedoms are ideas coming from the West, that they are Western gifts bestowed upon us!
The second group ignorantly helping the first group, consists of those who, as soon as freedom is mentioned, panic seizes them, and they cry out in frustration: Oh, God, our religion is lost, all is lost! No, sir! Religion is the greatest harbinger of freedom, how could religion be lost? Rational and decent freedom is the greatest gift of religion to any community, to all nations, it is by the blessings of freedom that ideas grow and talents blossom. Tyranny is the adversary of talent where there is tyranny, no talents bloom. Islam is for the enriching and nurturing of talents, great human resources must, like natural resources, be properly exploited, to enable mankind to make the earth prosperous. This is impossible without freedom, it is impossible by despotic ordering and regimentation. Therefore, this second group who fear freedom are also in error. These two groups, let's call them: The westoxicated and the extremists are actually, without knowing, in close cooperation to drive the concept of freedom out of the domain of religion! But this is not true, the concept of freedom is an Islamic conception.
I should perhaps add a note here: Even the kind of freedom we have been discussing, that is, social freedom, is much more valued and respected than in different Western schools. Of course, Western liberalism has its diverse interpretations, the Renaissance concepts, liberal ideas fostered in France and in other European countries, they all grew and led to the French Revolution, and later, in a distorted form, were exploited during the Independence movement in the United States leading to the American constitution. All these need a lot more time to go into, but, to put it in a nutshell, today we do have dozens of interpretations of liberalism, and there have been fresher ones in recent times, and the American ideologues or American-fostered theorists are most actively engaged in this field.
You must also know that many such thinkers are not themselves American, but they do write under the patronage of American institutions, especially on the subject of liberalism, Books may be written in Germany, France or Australia and published in New York, and in other forms and places, but they are commercial orders by Americans, and that is another story. Despite all those different interpretations, I would like to briefly explain to you that the idea of freedom in Islam is superior to them all.
The Western thinkers are always facing big problems in putting forth some philosophy for freedom. What is the philosophy of freedom? Why should man be free? You must put forward some sort of logic, reason or philosophical principle for it . To solve this problem, they resort to all sorts of things: Utility, the common good, collective joy, individual pleasure and the like, or at its best, an item of civil rights. Well, all these claims may be refuted, and they are often engaged in these discussions in the West.
If you were to look at what has been said and printed in our own country in recent years, on the subject of freedom or liberalism, you will also come across a good deal of time-consuming useless arguments, very similar to those pronounced on the topic of freedom in the Middle Ages! One person claims something, another one refutes him, and the first defends his position, so on and so forth. It is really not a bad entertainment for the intellectuals in the Third World! One intellectual becomes the proponent of one theory, another one defends another theory, the third approves of the theory of the first, the fourth writes an explanation for the theory of the second, and the fifth publishes one of the theories in his own name.
As I was saying, the maximum theory of the West on the origin or the philosophy of freedom is that it is a human right. Well, what Islam has said is far superior to this. As you noticed in the tradition quoted, it is innate in the human existence, and clearly it is a right, but a sublime, superior right as the right to life and the right to live. I may not include the right to live in the same category as the right of voting or the right of having a decent housing, therefore, freedom is superior to other rights, and that is what Islam says about freedom.
Surely there are exceptions, this right may be suspended in certain cases. An example is the people's right to be alive, if a man kills another man, then there is the law of retaliation for him, when a person spreads corruption, he must be punished, the same is true in the case of freedom, yet these are the exceptions according to the Islamic outlook. Thus it would be absolutely wrong to imagine that the idea of social freedom was something bestowed upon us by the West, so much so that whenever some people mean to speak something nice and interesting on this subject, they would at once cite the name of a book written by somebody who sat down and wrote something in the atmosphere of the West. No, we must be independent thinkers, we must consult our own sources and authorities, our own Islamic references; a thinking man will obviously consult other people's thoughts for the purposes of explanation and clarification and for enlightening his mind, not for a parrot-like imitation. Were we to imitate, we would certainly incur a great loss.
What I notice in this conflict relating to ideas and the press - which is an auspicious phenomenon, as I said - is that many do not pay attention to this principle. Here I will mention two or three main points of difference between the Islamic and Western approaches to freedom. As I said, liberalism is the main source of all the viewpoints and tendencies relating to this approach. There might be some difference between some of these viewpoints and tendencies in some regards, but together they make up liberalism.
In Western liberal thought, human freedom is a concept devoid of any such entity as religion or God. Hence they do not consider freedom to be something God-given. None of them says that freedom is something bestowed by God on man. They seek to find some other philosophical grounds and roots of freedom.They have suggested some philosophical foundations and sources and have offered various interpretations.
In Islam freedom has a divine source and this is by itself a fundamental difference which is the source of other differences. Therefore, from the Islamic viewpoint any action injurious to freedom is one which is hostile to a divine value. That is, it gives rise to a religious obligation in the opposing party. Such is not the case with the Western notion of freedom. Some social struggles that are waged for the sake of freedom do not have any logical justification on the basis of Western liberalism. For instance, one of the justifications which is offered is 'the common good' or 'good of the majority.' This is considered the origin of social freedom. But why should I risk my life for the sake of the good of the majority? There is no logical justification for this. Of course, seasonal and short-lived passions drive many to the battlefield. But whenever any of those who have struggled under the banner of such notions - if, in fact, any struggle has ever taken place under their banner - emerge from the passing passions of the arena of struggle, they would have doubts about their avowed goal: Why should I get killed for its sake?
Such is not the case in Islamic thought. The struggle for freedom is a duty, for it is for the sake of a Divine goal. If you see someone's life being threatened, it is your duty to help him. It is a religious duty, something which if you fail to carry out you will be guilty of a sin. The same is true of freedom. It is a duty to struggle for its sake.
Other differences originate from this basic difference. As truth and moral values are relative from the viewpoint of Western liberalism, freedom is unrestricted. Why? Because someone who believes in certain moral values has no right to blame anyone who violates those values because it is possible that he does not believe in those values. Accordingly, there is no limit to freedom from a moral and spiritual viewpoint. As a result freedom is unrestricted. Why? Because there are no immutable truths. Because, in their opinion, truth and ethical values are relative.
In Islam freedom is not such. In Islam there are incontrovertible and immutable values and an unchanging truth. Man's movement is towards that truth which consists of values and is value-generating and conductive to perfection. Accordingly, freedom is limited by those values. As to how these values are to be understood and attained is another matter. Some people may possibly make errors in understanding these values and some may have the right approach. That is outside the scope of our discussion. In any case, freedom is limited by values and truth.
Social freedom is a great value in Islam. But if this social freedom is used for purposes detrimental to the invaluable spiritual or material interests of a nation, it is harmful-exactly like human life. The Qur'an states: Whoever slays anyone, barring retaliation for homicide or the guilt of spreading corruption on earth, it is as if he had slain all mankind. In the logic of the Qur'an killing one human being unjustly is like killing all mankind. This is an amazing conception. Someone who murders a person is like someone who murders all humanity. That is, because his act is a violation of the sanctity of human life. But there are exceptions which consist of the penalty for murder or for spreading corruption on earth. That is, someone who has violated another person's right to life or has spread corruption forfeits his own right to life. Immutable and definite values and truths limit one's social freedom in the same way as they limit his right to life.
Another difference is that in the West the limits of freedom consist of materialistic interests. Primarily they have set certain limits on social and individual freedoms, and this is one of them. When material interests are endangered, they limit freedom - material interests like the power and prestige of these countries and their scientific hegemony. Education and dissemination of knowledge is one of the areas in which freedom is one of the most indubitable of human rights. Human beings have a right to learn, yet this freedom is limited in the major universities of the Western world. Science and high technology to certain countries is prohibited on the grounds that if this know-how is transferred it will go out of the monopoly of these powers and their material power and domination will not remain as they are. Hence frontiers are imposed on freedom. That is, the teacher has no right to communicate certain scientific secrets, for instance, to a Third-World student or research scholar from Iran or China.
The same is true of information and news. Today there is world-wide clamor for information and news, so that people become better informed. It constitutes one of the major points nf the agenda nf propagation of freedom in the West. However, in the course of the U.S. attack against Iraq, during the days of the presidency of George Bush, for a period of one week or more all information was officially censored. They declared proudly that no reporter has any right to broadcast or publish any news or photographs about the U.S. offensive against Iraq. Everyone knew that the offensive had begun, and the Americans had also sent out the news. But no one knew the details, because it was claimed that this matter compromised military security. Military security limited the right to freedom. This was another material limit and restriction on freedom.
Consolidation of the foundations of the State imposes another limit. Four or five years ago a group emerged in the United States and the episode [of the Branch Davidians] is known to all newspaper readers. I came to know about some more details at that time and the news of the episode was published by our newspapers. It was a group following a certain cult that set itself against the present U.S. government during Mr. Clinton's time. Certain security and military measures were taken against them which did not prove fruitful. Finally, they set fire to the building in which they were gathered. In this incident about eighty persons were burnt alive. Photographs of the event were published and the whole world has seen them. Among the eighty victims there were also women and children. Perhaps not one of them was a militia man. See to what extent the right of life, the right to belief, and the right to political struggle is curtailed. Hence freedom in the materialistic Western world has also limits, with the difference that they are of a materialistic character.
There moral values do not pose any limitation for freedom. For instance, the homosexual movement in the U.S. is one of their popular movements. They are even proud of it and hold rallies in the streets and publish their photographs in magazines. They mention with pride that such and such a businessman or statesman is a member of this group. No one is ashamed of it and no one denies it. Rather, some people who are opposed to homosexuality are severely attacked by some of these newspapers and periodicals and condemned as opponents of homosexuality.This means that ethical values pose absolutely no barrier to freedom.
Another example pertains to the European countries. For instance, they impose restrictions on freedom of expression and press on any propaganda in favor of fascism, which is again a matter of materialistic character relating to government. However, pornography, which is also one of their movements, is not restricted. That is, in Western liberalism, on the basis of its philosophy and philosophical grounds, the limits on freedom are materialistic not moral. However, in Islam there exist moral limits on freedom. In Islam there exist moral and spiritual limits beside material limits.
If someone holds heretical beliefs it is not objectionable. When we say that it is not objectionable what is meant is that it is objectionable before God and before faithful human beings, but the government has no responsibility in regard to it. In a Muslim society there are Jews, Christians and persons belong to various religious creeds. They exist at present in our country also, as they existed during the early Islamic era. This does not pose any problem. But if someone holding corrupt beliefs should make encroachments on the minds of other individuals who do not possess the power to defend themselves and try to mislead them, such efforts are prohibited.
Here freedom is limited. Such is the case from the viewpoint of Islam. Or if anyone tries to propagate corruption in political, sexual, or intellectual matters, such as the pseudo-philosophers who write articles suggesting that higher education is not beneficial for the youth and enumerate the inadequacies of higher education-of course, most probably, it would not have any effect on ninety percent, but it may possibly affect a ten percent of lethargic youths-they cannot be permitted to discourage people from higher studies by the means of insinuations and lies.
There is no freedom to lie in Islam and no freedom to spread rumors and create alarm. I have a complaint that no reference is made to Islamic sources and fundamental in discussions relating to freedom. In the Quran, in the Sura Al-Ahzab, ayah 60, it is stated that if the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is sickness and the alarmists do not desist, we will arouse you to take action against them. The alarmists are mentioned in this verse side by side with the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a sickness. The hypocrites are one group, those with sick hearts are a second group, and the alarmists are mentioned along with them. The alarmists are hose who continuously intimidate the people. In a newly established Islamic society with so many enemies and the general mobilization brought about by the Quran and the Prophet everyone should be mentally prepared for the defense of the Islamic country and its great human and popular system. But a group of rumor-mongers, like a plague, assault the people and they are the alarmists. The Quran says that if the alarmists, who constantly create general anxiety and stop the people from mobilization, do not desist, God will arouse the Prophet to take measures against them. Here is a limit on freedom. Hence from the Islamic viewpoint, there is another difference, which is that freedom has moral and spiritual limits.
There is yet another difference, which is that freedom in Western liberal thought is not consistent with duty and responsibility. Freedom means freedom from all duty. In Islam freedom is the counterpart of duty. Basically, human beings are free because they have responsibilities, and if they were not responsible there would have been no need for freedom. They would have been like angels, in the words of Rumi:
A Tradition says that the Glorious Creator
Made the creatures of three sorts:
A group was blessed with intellect, knowledge and generosity,
Another, of angels, knew nothing except adoration...
It is characteristic of man that he is a collection of conflicting urges and motives. His duty is to traverse the path of perfection despite these various motives. He has been granted freedom to traverse the path of perfection. This freedom with its great value is for the sake of movement towards perfection, in the same way that human life itself is meant for perfection: We did not create mankind and the jinn except for Our service. God created mankind and the jinn for the sake or reaching the rank of servitude, which is an exalted station. Freedom, like the right to life, is a prerequisite for God's service.
In the West they have gone to such lengths in negating duty and responsibility that they rule out all religious and non-religious ideas and ideologies which involve do's and don'ts, duties and prohibitions. In the works of liberal American and quasi-American writers and their disciples and followers in other countries, including unfortunately our own, it is observed that they say that free Western thought is opposed to the ideas of do's and don'ts. Islam is diametrically opposed to this position. The position of Islam is that it considers freedom to be necessary by the side of duty so that man can fulfill his responsibilities with the means of his freedom, make great achievements, and make great choices so as to attain perfection.
Accordingly my first suggestion to those who write and discuss issues is that, let us be independent in our understanding of freedom. Let us think independently, without aping others. My second suggestion is that freedom should not be misused. Nowadays some people consistently repeat the phrase 'newly acquired press freedom.' In my view it does not refer to any fact. It is something whose sources are hostile foreign radios. Of course, nowadays they write certain things in newspapers and periodicals and express hostile views. Some of these persons did not do this in the past. But some others did so in the past as well. In the past we have witnessed many instances of harsh criticism of the then president and various officials and even dissent with the principles of the Revolution itself. But nobody bothered them.
Yes, there were some persons whose background was dubious and their hands were tainted. They did not dare to express their views. Even if they had done it nobody would have bothered them. They could have said the same things that they say today. Nobody would have stopped them. But they themselves were afraid because they had bad records. Their enmity towards the Revolution, of the Imam and the Imam's Islamic thought were known since long and they themselves lacked the courage to enter the field. However, after the last presidential elections they suddenly found the courage on the basis of a wrong analysis of those elections.
That wrong analysis was that they thought that 30 million people had voted against the system and this made them glad, whereas those 30 million had cast their vote for the sake of the consolidation of the system. One of the things that constitutes a matter of pride for the Islamic system in that 18 years after the victory of the Revolution, 30 million out of 32 million eligible voters - that is, about 90 percent - participated in that election. However, they considered this strong point of the system as a weak point.
Of course, from the very first days of the elections, the foreign radios had raised a clamor in order to give a direction to those who were prone to this error, by insinuating that thirty million people has expressed discontent against the system. They wanted to project the system's strong point as a weak point and these poor guys believed it, and fooled themselves. They thought that a country where 30 million people were opposed to the system they too could also come and express their views. Now they have found courage and express their opinions whereas nothing in fact has changed. Had they committed any offense in the past and violated the logical limits they would have been prosecuted. The same is the case today and nothing has changed. Today also the same measures will be taken against those who spread corruption and cause alarm. There has been no change. Accordingly, one should not say 'newly acquired press freedom.' We see that some officials repeatedly advise the press not to overuse their freedom because that would endanger freedom itself. What kind to logic is that? As much use as they make of freedom it is better. But they should not violate the limits. The more individuals make use of this God-given right, the nearer will it bring the Islamic system to its goals. Our complaint against the writers has always been as to why they did not write, investigate, and analyze as much as they should. The correct limits must however be observed. Of course, these limits are not something which a government or system determines in its own interest.
Even if there should be governments in the world - and there certainly are - which lay down such limits, the Islamic system is not such. The system of the Islamic republic is based on justice. Should the leader violate the criteria of justice he is automatically dismissed from leadership without the interference of any other agent. In such a system there is no meaning in setting limits in the interests of any group on clique or for imposing the views of a particular kind. The limits are Islamic limits, the same things which are stated in the Qur'an and hadith and recognized as such by a correct understanding of Islam. These are valid, and they should be observed. If they are not observed, it is the duty of the authorities, judicial and executive, as well as Ministry of Guidance and others to monitor their observance. Should they fail to carry out this responsibility they will have committed an offense and a sin. They are responsible to see that these limits are observed. Within these limits, it is the luminous principle of freedom which must be made use of. I do not like these irresponsible statements to be repeated.
To sum up, that which I wish to say today is that the concept of freedom is an Islamic conception and we should think about it in Islamic terms and have faith in its fruits as an Islamic movement and responsibility. We should consider as an opportunity that which exists today on the plane of society, and make maximum use of this opportunity. Thinkers and scholars should increase their efforts. Of course, there are some topics which are for specialized journals and forums. But there are other topics which are of a general interest and all can benefit from such discussions.
I hope that God the Exalted will
provide us with the opportunity to witness the blossoming of this system
and the ever greater success of this great and dear nation, and it is
hoped that you, university community, especially the youth, on whom the
country's hopes and future depend, will play a great role in its
Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings
In the Name of the Most High
Human Rights in Islam
By: Ayatollah Khamenei
Delivered on the occasion of the 5th Islamic Thought Conference January 29-31, 1997
Published in the book "Human Rights in Islam"
The issue of human rights is one of the most fundamental human issues and also one of the most sensitive and controversial ones. During the recent decades, this problem was more political than being either ethical or legal. Although the influence of political motives, rivalries, and considerations have made difficult the correct formulation of this problem , but this should not prevent thinkers and genuine humanists from probing into this problem and ultimately reaching a conclusion.
In the West, though the issue of human rights was raised by the thinkers of the post-Renaissance period, it is only since the last two hundred years or so that it became an issue of prominence among the political and social issues of Western society and an issue of fundamental significance. Perhaps, when we examine the causes of many social changes and political upheavals, we will find the marks of its presence and its principal ideals. During the last decades this emphasis reached its climax in the West. With the formation of the UN after the Second World War and the subsequent drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a concrete model came into existence as a result of this emphasis that can serve as a criterion and basis of our judgment and analysis of the ideals voiced in this regard during the last two hundred years and especially in the last few decades.
We Muslims, of course, know very well that the Western world and the Western civilization have paid attention to this matter in the recent centuries. But Islam has dealt with it from various aspects many centuries ago. The idea of human rights as a fundamental principle can be seen to underlie all Islamic teachings. And this does not need any elaboration for a Muslim audience. The verses of the Quran and the traditions handed down from the Prophet (SA) and the Imams of his Household (AS), each one of them emphasizes the fundamental rights of man, something which has started to attract attention in recent years - this is considered an obvious fact among Muslims, and there is no need for the scholars to be reminded about this fact. However, I would like to say, that today it is a big responsibility on the shoulders of the Islamic community to make this reality known to the world, and not to allow those essential teachings of Islam to be lost in the storm of political clamor and propaganda.
There were some questions which can be raised in this regard, and to answer them is my principal aim today. Of course, in the course of the conference you scholars would carry on useful and profound discussions on various aspects of human rights, which will itself serve as a source of information for the Muslim world and enlighten them about the viewpoints of Islam in this regard.
(1- The UN: Impotent and Ineffectual)
The first question is whether the efforts made during the decades since the Second World War in the name of human rights have been successful or not. The addresses, the assemblies and the sessions held in the United Nations, and the claims made regarding human rights: have they succeeded in bringing man closer to his genuine rights, or to at least the major portion of deprived humanity? The answer to this question is not so difficult, for an observation of the present conditions is enough to prove that these attempts have not been successful until now. A glance at the conditions of the underdeveloped societies of the world, who form the major part of the human population, is sufficient to reveal the fact that not only the major part of humanity could not achieve their true rights during the last fifty years, but the methods of encroaching upon the rights of the deprived nations have become more sophisticated and complex and more difficult to remedy. We cannot accept the claims made by those who claim to be champions of human rights, while the bitter realities of the African and Asian nations and the millions of hungry human beings are before our eyes, and while we observe constant violation of the rights of many nations.
Those who have been outspoken in advocating human rights during the last forty years, have themselves grabbed the most fundamental of human rights from the people of the Third World countries. It is with their support that certain governments and regimes that deny people their most basic rights have managed to survive. None of the dictators of today's world and also the despots of the last fifty years in Asia, Africa and Latin America could have established and preserved their dictatorships on their own without reliance upon big powers. It is exactly these big powers who have coined most of the slogans concerning human rights. It is they who have brought into being the UNO, and even today the UN is at their service.
The economic poverty, hunger and loss of life in several countries of the world are of course the result of intervention, repression, usurpation on the part of the big powers. Who has caused Africa, the continent of vast resources to undergo the present afflictions? Who has kept the people of Bangladesh and India for years and years under exploitation, and, despite their natural resources and great potentialities, has brought them to the point that today we hear people die of hunger in those countries? Who has plundered the wealth and resources of the Third World countries, and has brought about hunger, poverty and misfortune for these nations, procuring sophisticated technologies and immense wealth for themselves? We see that the organizers of the United Nations and the principal drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and those who even today shamelessly claim to be the supporters of this declaration are the real causes of those misfortunes. Otherwise there is no reason as to why Africa, the continent of exuberance and bounties, Latin America with its natural wealth, and the great India, and many other Third World countries should have lagged behind and remained backward in spite of sufficient manpower and natural resources.
Today, the system of political domination of capital and power prevails in the world, and there is no doubt that this system of dominance of capital and power is controlled and steered by the same people who were the fathers of the Declaration of Human Rights. Under the wheel of their capital, power and technology we see the nations of the world being crushed and struggling helplessly. The UN is the most outstanding product of the efforts made for human rights, yet what has it done in the past for the nations of the world, and what is it doing today? What active role could the UN play in solving the basic problems of nations and in relieving them of the calamities that befall them? In what instance did the UN emerge as a deliverer of the oppressed from the oppressor? At what point could the UN persuade the big tyrannical powers to refrain from making unjust demands? The UN has even lagged behind most of the nations in this regard.
Today, despite all those claims, we are witness to the Apartheid regime in South Africa and to many instances of racism and racial discrimination in the advanced countries themselves. Therefore, it is clear that the UN despite its being the most outstanding example of the endeavor for human rights, has done nothing in this regard. It has intervened in international issues in the role of a preacher or priest. The Security Council is one of the principal organs of the UN and functions as the main decision-making body in which the big powers have the right of veto. That is, every decision that is made in the UN and in the Security Council against the real agents who handicap the nations, could be vetoed by the same agents themselves, that is, the big powers. The United Nations and its organs, agencies and organizations, whether they are cultural, economic or technical, are under the influence and domination of big powers. The US pressures even hits a cultural agency like the UNESCO and others that are known to everyone. You witnessed how the US subjected the UNESCO to pressures during these last two years just because a Muslim was the chief of the UNESCO who desired to maintain his own independence as well as that of the agency. Consequently, we feel that the UN as the most significant outcome of the endeavor for human rights has proved to be an ineffectual and impotent element, which has been created as a consolation for nations and is practically useless. On account of the interference on the part of big powers, it functions as their feudatory. We do not of course reject the UN. We believe that this organization ought to exist, and it must be reformed. We ourselves are a member of it. However, what I mean to say is that after all those efforts, after all that clamor and the hopes that were attached to this organization, you can see how inadequate and ineffectual this organization has remained in securing human rights in the world today. Hence, the answer to the first question has become clear. We can say that the efforts made for establishing human rights and the claims made in the name of human rights throughout the last several centuries and especially during the last few decades did not bear any fruit. They have failed to secure human rights.
(2- Efforts in Pursuit of Human Rights: Not Sincere)
second question is whether, basically, these efforts had any sincerity?
This question is of course historical in nature and may not have much
practical value. Hence, I do not intend to discuss it at length. It
suffices to mention here that, in our view, these efforts were not
sincere. It is true that there were philosophers, thinkers and social
reformers among the exponents of human rights, but the arena was
dominated by politicians. Even the efforts of those thinkers and
reformers were taken into the service of politicians. If in the annals
of history thinkers, sages, apostles of God, mystics and men are seen to
raise the cry for rights of man, today when we see politicians and
statesmen raise this cry vociferously, we are justified in seriously
doubting their sincerity.
Look around and see who those who plead the case of human rights are. The ex-president of the US [Jimmy Carter] projected himself as the defender of human rights during his election campaign, and won the election on account of it. In the beginning, from some of the speeches he made and steps that he took, it appeared as if he was serious in his intention. But we have seen that ultimately he stood by the cruelest, the most barbaric and tyrannical of rulers, and the most adamant opponents of human rights in this region. He supported the Shah and the tyrants of occupied Palestine and other infamous dictatorships of our days.
Even now those who plead the case of human rights, the statesmen and politicians who vociferously voice their support for human rights in conferences and international forums are no more sincere than their former counterparts. We do not find any signs of sincerity in their efforts. The aim of those who drafted the Declaration of Human Rights, and at their fore the USA, was to extend their domination and hegemony over the world of that time. Their problem was not to safeguard the rights of men, the kind of rights that they had violated during the war. They are the people who have wiped out tens of thousands of human beings by an atomic bomb. They were the same persons who in order to fight a war which had nothing to do with the Asian and African nations had recruited the majority of soldiers from India, Algeria and other African and non-European countries. We do not believe that Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin and their like had the smallest consideration for human rights in the true sense of the word and were sincere in forming the United Nations and drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Accordingly, the answer to the second question is also clear: No, we do not believe that the efforts made by the politicians and the most staunch advocates of human rights were sincere at all.
(3- The Biggest Evil of Humanity: Acceptance of the Culture of Dominance)
The third question, which is the most basic of them all is: what was the reason for the failure of these attempts? This is the point to which more attention should be paid, and I shall discuss it briefly here. I believe it is the most basic point, because whatever has been presented in the name of human rights is done within the framework of a defective and crooked system, a system of dominance which is repressive and tyrannical.
Those who have created the UN and have drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and those who most vehemently and vociferously plead for it today, regrettably the majority of them are statesmen and politicians who believe in the system of dominance and have accepted it. The system of dominance means that a group of people dominates and should dominate another group. The system of dominance is backed by the culture of dominance.
Today the world is divided into two groups: one is the group of those who dominate and the other is the group of those who are dominated. Both groups have accepted the system of dominance, and the big powers believe that this system should be maintained. Even those who are dominated have accepted the system of dominance and have consented to its continuity. This is the biggest flaw in the existing world situation. Those who do not accept the system of dominance are those individuals or groups who are not satisfied with the social order in their countries or with the social and political state of world affairs, and rise in revolt against this system.
The revolutionary groups who revolt against the global status quo or revolutionary governments are very few in number and are constantly subjected to pressures and victimized. The most illustrative example of it is the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has rejected domination in all its forms, and has not accepted anybody's domination. The East as well as the West are the same for us in this respect. When making decisions it does not give any priority to the powerful or the rich. The whole world is witness to the kind of pressures it had to face during the period of the first eight years after the Islamic Republic of Iran was established. It was subjected to political, military and economic pressures, and the pressures of world-wide propaganda launched against it. The cause of such pressures is clear. It was all done for the reason that the Islamic Republic has taken a clear and independent stand against the system of dominance.
If some progressive governments have resisted Western and US domination, in majority of cases, there were observable signs of acceptance of and surrender to Eastern domination. Of course, all of them are not the same in this regard. Some of them have completely surrendered themselves to the Eastern bloc and the USSR while some others show signs of independence in some cases. But if there is a government and a society that has never yielded to any pressures, it is the Islamic Republic, which has totally rejected the system of dominance.
Wherever in the world there is any pressure, high-handedness and unjust demands made upon a certain nation by a big power in the world, we have made clear our stand and have openly and bluntly expressed our definite views without any reservations. But the majority of the world's nations have accepted this system. You can see that unfortunately the governments of the same countries which are subject to domination do not have the moral courage and guts to resist and oppose the domination of the big powers and fight them, while in our view it is quite possible. We believe that if the poor countries, the countries that have been under domination and in spite of their resources have been forced to fulfill the unjust demands made by the big powers, had they wished to stand against them, they could have done so. No miracle is needed. It is sufficient that the governments should rely upon their own people.
Unfortunately, the weakness of will to resist, and more than weakness the treachery on the part of some heads of states in some cases, did not allow them to rise against the system of dominance. This system of dominance prevails over the world economy, culture, international relations and international rights. Naturally the issue of human rights has been posed within the framework of this system of dominance and developed in the background of this system and its outlook. The very persons, who strive to secure freedom, opportunities and means of welfare for their citizens in European countries in the name of human rights, bomb and kill human beings in other countries by thousands. What does it mean? Does it mean anything other than the fact that in view of the culture of domination which prevails over the world, human beings are divided into two categories: the human beings whose rights are to be defended, and the human beings who have no rights whatsoever and it is permissible to kill, destroy, enslave and subjugate them and to seize their belongings? This system is prevalent all over the world and the conception of human rights is also the product of such a culture.
This is the framework of the system of rights in the world of today. Within this cultural and legal framework the superpowers constantly widen the gap between the weaker nations and themselves, and exert more and more pressure on them. The greater the rate of advancement in technology, the more the weaker countries and nations are threatened and subjected to mounting pressures. No one asks the big powers today what right they have to put greater pressure on other countries and nations than ever before with their greater advancement in technology and industrialization. Today the satellites launched into space by the big powers are moving in their orbits around the globe, and gathering smallest details and probing into the secrets of other countries. Why? What gives them the right to do that?
Today, most of the communications between people on the global level, especially those between statesmen and heads of states, and political and scientific communications are accessible to those who possess sophisticated technology. Why? Does anyone ask them this question? Does anyone raise any objection? Since the US has launched those satellites and possesses the means of gathering and benefiting from intelligence, it is given the right by all to obtain that information. Does the eavesdropping on the communications between the world's people not amount to a violation of their rights? Does anyone put this question to the US, USSR, UK, France and Germany? When this question is raised, will anyone affirm that such a question should be raised? No, everyone says to himself: they are strong so they can do it. They are capable of doing it, so they must use the opportunity. Today, the problem of atomic bomb and the use of nuclear weapons is an issue all over the world.
The superpowers themselves raise it because they are afraid of each other. They wrangle over it and each tries to dupe the other by limiting the nuclear arsenals of its rival while equipping itself with more and more weapons. But, have the smaller countries ever thought of opposing the manufacturers of nuclear bombs, by declaring that unless these bombs are destroyed and defused peace of mind is restored to humanity, which is exposed to the nuclear threat every moment. They shall not have any relations with them, nor any trade nor any cooperation in any matter? Have the Third World countries, the non-aligned nations and other countries of the world ever thought of making use of some kind of leverage against the race for nuclear arms? No. If you suggest this idea to them, they will say that it is an advanced technology, they possess it, they can, and so they must produce such weapons.
It means that they have accepted the logic of dominance. The absence of balance in the present world conditions has equally been accepted by the oppressor as well as the oppressed nations. The culture of dominance has been imposed on the minds. When we denounce the East and the West in international forums on account of their acts, we clearly perceive the astonishment of heads of the states and representatives of countries. They consider it something odd and rash, whereas it is a natural stand by an independent nation. All the nations and states should behave in a similar manner, but they do not. The conclusion that we draw is that today the prevalence of the culture of dominance has become the biggest evil. It is something which has been greatly detrimental for the weaker nations, and encouraged the big powers to violate human rights.
All these violations of human rights are easily tolerated whether it is the US aggression against Grenada, or the massacre of defenseless Lebanese civilians by the US supported Israel, or the ruthless suppression of the black population - who are the real masters of the land - by the government of South Africa, which is backed by the US and some European governments. But when a frustrated individual infuriated by this state of affairs in some corner of the world does something, if an explosion takes place or something happens, it is deplored as an act of terrorism. But the US aggression against Libya, the bombardment of the homes of the presidents of a country and encroaching upon its territory, is not condemned by the world. Whenever there is a mention of terrorism, mostly the first thing that comes to the minds of people is some desperate act of a youth, a victim of oppression fed up with life from Palestine or Lebanon, or some African or Latin American country, rather than the acts of such big powers as the US, the UK, and others. This is nothing but the result of the culture of dominance, the culture that unfortunately dominates human mentality all over the world.
In the culture of dominance, words also acquire peculiar connotations that suit the system of dominance. For instance, 'terrorism' is defined in a way so that the US aggression against Libya, or its intimidation of Nicaragua or the invasion of Grenada or other examples. does not come under the definition of 'terrorism'. This is a big flaw in the present state of affairs. Therefore, the failure of the attempts made in the name of human rights - even on behalf of those who are sincere and earnest - is on account of the nature of the framework within which they want to lay down and declare the rights of human beings - something which is not possible. This framework is to be broken and the system of dominance to be condemned. States, nations and countries should resolutely reject the unfair and unjust domination of the big powers so that human rights may be understood, pursued and restored.
(4- The Solution: Return to Islam)
Lastly, the fourth question: what is the remedy? In our view, the answer is return to Islam, and recourse to Divine revelation. This is a prescription equally valid for Muslims as well as for non-Muslims. For this, the Islamic societies do not have to wait for anything. Return to Islam, revival of the Quran and of Islamic mode of thinking in society, recourse to Islamic sources (the Quran and the Sunnah) in legal matters: these are the things and that will enable us to understand the meaning of human rights and help us to identify the those rights and guide us in our struggle to secure them. For the purpose of securing human rights, it is necessary once and for all to give up giving advice and lecturing, since they are of no use. The Quran says: "Take by force that which we have given you." [2:63]. God Almighty has granted these rights to mankind, and they should secure these rights by force. The Islamic nations should resist the unjust demands and dominance of the big powers by relying upon the Islamic ideology. These are not the words of an idealist who speaks about Islamic issues and Islamic ideals from the corner of a theological seminary. These are the utterances of a revolution which has gone through experiences and has felt the realities.
Our revolution is an experience that is available for study to all nations. I do not say that we have solved all our problems. We have not. There is no doubt that a great many problems have been created for us on account of the Revolution and on account of its Islamic character. But we have solved the problem of dominance. Today the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic can claim that they have rid themselves of all domination and powers and that they can decide for themselves. Of course, when a nation tries to do away with all forms of dependence, it has a long path to tread. And relations, if they are not accompanied by domination, pushing around, and unjust demands, are something natural and tolerable. It is quite obvious that our Revolution and the Islamic Republic inherited the legacy of a decadent society, a shattered economy, and a degenerate culture.
What was handed down to the Revolution by the rulers of the past centuries, especially of the last fifty or sixty years, was an Iran beleaguered from all sides. It is not to be expected that the Revolution will be able to lead this dissipated heritage in a short time to the heights of cultural, ethical and economic achievement and scientific and industrial advancement. We do not make such claims, but, of course, we do anticipate a good future. We believe that it is possible for a nation to reach a high level of material advancement only through independence, self-reliance and by using its manpower and material resources. But what we positively claim today is that the Islamic Republic is not under any political pressure or domination of any power whatsoever. Political pressures do not influence it to change its course or alter its decisions. It does not change its path or its momentum on account of any consideration for some superpower. It means that we have freed ourselves and our people from the domination of the big powers.
This is an experience, which, we believe, underlines the significance of the most basic and precious of human rights in Islam: the right to live, the right to be free, the right to benefit from justice, the right to welfare, and so on. These and other such fundamental rights can be secured in an Islamic society. They can be derived from the Islamic sources and Islam has incorporated them in its commands to Muslims and drawn man's attention towards them, long before Western thinkers gave thought to these rights and values. It is essential to return to Islam.
Muslim thinkers are charged with the responsibility of thoroughly examining and studying the subject of human rights or rather the general structure of the Islamic legal system. This is also the mission of the present conference, which, I hope, will be a new step taken in this direction, and, God willing, this work will continue. The nations of the world can benefit from the sublime outlook of Islam in this regard in coming closer to securing these rights.
The Islamic governments should of course help their peoples in securing their rights, but on condition that they should have no reservations in regard to the big powers. Unfortunately, today we do not see such a state of affairs. Most of the regimes governing Islamic countries are under the influence of the big powers. The majority of them are dominated by the West and are under US influence. Therefore, their actions and decisions comply neither with the Islamic principles, nor with the needs of Muslim nations.
A ready example in this regard is the conference held recently in Kuwait. You have seen that in this conference, instead of considering the basic problems of Muslims, what kinds of problems were discussed and what kind of resolution was passed. It was by no means compatible with an Islamic approach to the problem. Instead of rejecting Iraq's aggression against a Muslim country and its waging of a war against an Islamic revolution, they should have denounced it and expelled it from the conference. Instead of revealing the part played by the imperialist powers in igniting the flames of this imposed war, they came out with a hollow and insipid demand for peace, and even expressed their satisfaction for Iraq's positive response to the call for peace. They did it without going into the core of the problem, without appreciating the fact that a nation's resolve to defend its own rights is something commendable, and without recognizing that the willingness of a government and a regime to be influenced by the pressure of imperialist powers in creating obstacles in the path of a revolution is something condemnable.
Of course, these resolutions, decisions and opinions are totally invalid and weightless as they are remote from Islamic principles and values. Accordingly, there is no nation or country in the world which looks forward to knowing what step the Islamic Conference takes in Kuwait so as to welcome it or be disappointed with it. It means that these decisions and resolution are so far removed from reality, alien to the basic Islamic criteria, and the aspirations of nations that they remain completely indifferent to these. You will not find a single country in the world whose people should be waiting eagerly to know what the Islamic Conference has to say, so that its resolution promises a sense of obligation or the pleasure of receiving some good news. What is the reason? Why should a gathering of forty-six Islamic states organized on the highest level of heads of states and leaders be so ineffectual and so devoid of consequence and content? It is on account of the unfortunate fact that most of these regimes are under the influence of the big powers.
As long as this domination of the big powers and their awe and fear remain in their hearts, the affairs of the Muslim nations will be in disarray. If we wish to deliver the Muslim world from its present-day disarray and confusion, the first thing that is to be done is to drive this fear and awe away from the hearts, as God Almighty has said: "...So fear not mankind, but fear Me..." They should not be afraid of anyone except God. If this happens, the condition of the Islamic nations will move towards betterment.
conclude my speech with the hope that, God willing, this Islamic
Thought Conference, during the few days that it will hold its sessions,
will be able to make a significant contribution towards the
understanding of the Islamic truths regarding human rights. Besides, the
exchange of opinions between the Iranian and non-Iranian brothers will
help the communication of the experience of the Islamic Revolution and
the Islamic Republic and their better understanding by the non-Iranian
brothers. It will provide them the opportunity to study that experience,
so that other nations may view the Revolution brought about by their
brethren in Iran as a model and as a new path that can possibly be
Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings
NB: Parenthetical information was added by the editor to increase the intelligibility of the text.