PARIS 15TH DEC. (IPS)
Failing to export its Islamic revolution, will Iran, under the leadership of its new president, the ayatollah Mohammad Khatami, be able to export democracy and freedom?
This is one of the startling conclusions experts and analysts have drawn in the aftermath of the 8th "Summit" of the 55 members Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) held last week in the Iranian capital, probably the one of the most interesting of all the previous ones, for, not only it took place in an odd place such as Tehran, the "traditional" cradle of a militant Islam since 1979, but for the first time, delegates were given a lesson of democracy, tolerance, respect for laws, creation of civil societies and above all they were told that in Islamic regimes like in the Western democracies, governments must serve the people and be at their service, not the other way round, as it is to day in most third world nations.
The lecture in democracy came from the new Iranian president, ayatollah Mohammad Khatami who also used the stage to present himself to the larger world as a man of vision, a moderate politician and a humble leader.
His speech was in sharp contrast of that of the grim faced ayatollah Ali Khamenehe'i, the leader of the Islamic revolution, who had nothing to say but to play once again his old "scratched" and "worn out" record of anti-Western, anti-Israeli diatribes, when he was not giving samples of his total ignorance of the world's affairs like when he called on the United Nations to give the OIC a right of veto at the Security Council, not knowing that this singular right is given to single nations and not to groups.
On the other hand, the young and smiling new president who was elected as the Chairman of the OIC for the coming 3 years, offered matters for thought, spoke of "civil society", freedom, reconciliation, co-operation between cultures and civilisations, learning and teaching.
Ayatollah Khameneh’i, who both surprised and provoked the angers of some delegates by announcing at the last minute that he will inaugurate the opening ceremonies instead of Mr Khatami, said at a time that "all other ideologies, liberalism, communism, socialism, have failed solve mankind’s problems, only Islam can save humanity and assure progress and justice.
But he failed to explain how come then almost all the present Muslim states are among the world’s least developed and poorest, where freedom and justice are absent and most of them ruled by ruthless dictators.
As usual, he blamed Muslim’s misery on the "western imperialism"; on "plots from the Zionists" as well as on the part of the Western media "controlled by them". He also condemned "short-sightedness, laziness and egoism of some Muslim nations, a veiled reference to the oil rich, pro-Western Arab and Muslim nations, and called on all the Muslims to "unite in fighting the Zionist regime and its US backer to liberate Palestine".
In total contrast to the violence of tone and monotony of slogans of Mr Khameneh’i, Mr Khatami used a moderate language, insisted on "friendship and co-operation" among nations, cultures and civilisations instead of confrontation, particularly between Muslims. Reminding that he was building a "civil society" in Iran, he encouraged other Muslim nations to do so.
"In a civil society, he said, there should be no place for personal or state oppression, authoritarism and every one's right will be preserved, regardless of his religious or political believes".
"He also provided a new interpretation of an Islamic state which is quite similar to Western, secular democracy, stating that an Islamic state must be the servant of the people and not it's master, for the real owners in every nation are the people and God has given his subjects the right of choosing their own destiny", observed Sadeq Saba, a commentator of Iranian affairs for the BBC.
Opposing the views expressed by Mr Khameneh’i about the "dangers" of Western "cultural hegemony" and Western "assaults" aimed at "expressly destroy" Islamic values, Mr Khatami spoke of Islamic revival and learning from the West’s experience, offering to "study" Western culture and civilisation and make "good use of its positive points to develop our own Islamic values", he said in his speech.
It's true that Mr Khatami's speech and remarks made a big impact and he was very warmly applauded (again, as against Mr Khameneh'i who got few protocolar applause, mostly from the his Iranian yes men present at the ceremony) but was that coming from heart? Were the delegates sharing Mr Khatami's views? Would they try, as he has promised to do, implement the concept of civil society and become servants of their people? Most observers doubt.
"There is no doubt that some delegates must have liked Mr Khatham's
remarks, but certainly a bigger number, closer to Khamenehi's authoritarian
stand, position and thinking, were frightened at the prospect to seeing
Iran exporting not revolution but democracy" observed one Iranian analyst.