CIVIL SOCIETY VERSUS BASIJI SOCIETY
By: Hooshang Vaziri
BONN (IPS) In one of his latest commentary, Mr Hooshang Vaziri , a prominent commentator and analyst and Editor of the London-based, Farsi language "Keyhan" spotlights the basic dichotomy of the Iranian Islamic state today, noting that on the one hand, there are those who advocate secular society and on the other one, those who call for a Basiji society (Basijis are zealous cadets of the revolutionary guards who act as street vigilantes, avidly seeking to punish infringements of dress codes and other violations from the imposed Islamic laws). The latter hold the view that religion and state are one and the clergy should rule.
Judiciary Head the ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi has declared that the political management of the country belongs most assuredly to the clergy. If they fail to exercise this right in the past it was because they lacked the power, not because they lacked the right or the know how. Now that they have acquired this power, it would be a sin for them to refuse to exercise this right.
The writer sees the bazaar-clergy oligarchy ranged against the people and comments that the Islamic rule, at least that of the grand ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny and his successors, regards the people as lacking in political maturity, and requiring the clergy to care for them like sheep. "Khomeiny himself said that the people are like sheep", the commentator reminds.
Why, Vaziri asks, after 18 years does the philosophy and practices of Islamic rule again have the need to reiterate and to emphasise this principle? The reason for this, he thinks, is to counter the president, ayatollah Mohammad Khatamiís pronouncement, made at no less a place that the city of Qom, the cradle of the militant islamism, to the effect that the government belongs to the people, is under their supervision and must answer to them".
Mr Vaziri points out that the Islamic Republicís Constitution itself is responsible for the dichotomy between people and religious rule, since it gives rise to the interpretation that the valye faqih (the most learned religious ruler) as the representative of God on earth, has a divine right to rule, yet at the same time indicates that in the final analysis government is of the people.
The writer then discusses the erroneous view of advocates of religious government who see those who believe in separation of religion and state and support secularism as necessarily irreligious. He then draws attention to the fact that a religious constitution can not make people religious while an anti-religious constitution cannot take away peopleís religion. The writer cites as examples of the latter countries such as the former Soviet Union, Cuba, China and North Korea.
It is obvious that the increased implementation of religious rule in society leads to a proportional increase in savagery, justified in the name of religion. We see this in Afqanistan and Algeria, while an example in Iran is that of the ayatollah Ahmad Janati, the spiritual head of the Ansar e Hezbollah (thugs trained to attack individuals or meetings of dissidents). All governments or organisations based on an ideology, whether for or against religion, lead to the path of overall dictatorship. Both the quest for attainment of divine rule in Islam, or the classless society of Marxism ends in the heedless physical destruction of opponents, which may even be the subject of boasts, or considered part of some divinely-vouchsafed mission.
Vaziri asks: Can a government with such a mission ever be, in Khatamiís words, belonging to the people and answerable to them. It is Khatami to whom this question must be addressed. His candidature for the presidency was approved by the Council of Guardians but he also has the massive vote of the people, who do not wish to submit to "supervision" by a particular group. Khatami is in a difficult situation: whatever his innermost ideas may be, he is caught in the dichotomy.
"Will he go for victory in defeat, keeping true to principle and losing power, or defeat in victory, keeping power but compromising his principles. Or, suggests the writer, by working from within the regime, will he both effect reform and stay in power? If he gives up his principles, he will be in a worse position than the former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had a programme, but never had any principles".
Finally, Mr Vaziri points out that Khatami cannot represent the millions of people who have so firmly voted against the regime, and the same time be subservient to it. "If he shows himself worthy of the millions of votes, we must take off our hats to him, even though, quips the writer, he is a member of the turbanned class". Ends 169818