KOLN (IPS) Aramesh Doostdar is probably one of the few Iranian philosophers in the western meaning of the word.
Germany educated living now in Cologne, Mr. Dustdar is known for both complexity of the language but clarity and precision of ideas expressed.
He is uncompromising on controversial and sensitive issues such as incompatibility between Islam and democracy or the situation of intellectuals in the Muslim world, as, in his view, a real, Western type intellectual can not be tolerated in any Muslim society.
The murders of political and intellectual dissidents and opponents in the Islamic Republic of Iran are a "brilliant" example of that antagonism between Islam and democracy, he points out
In his opinion, now that the Iranian public has learned who the real commanders of the murders are, it will not be easy for the Islamic leadership escape punishment.
"They (ayatollahs) can not tolerate any one who stand above them and since everyone in this country is above them, so the only way out for them is the elimination of their opponents, no matter of how shameful, who hateful their actions are, no matter of what they do is a crime against humanity", Mr. Dustdar commented.
Here are excerpts of an interview he granted to the IPS recently in Koln, Germany
Iran Press Service - Mr. Dustdar, you have said and repeat that "roses do not grew in the desert". Is the Iranian president Mohammad Khatami a rose, to be adulated, as he seems to be by Iranian intellectuals inside but particularly outside Iran?.
Aramesh Dustdar - Never. He is an ordinary man without any disposition for statesmanship. He is neither a politician nor an intellectual. If he is the subject of admiration by our so-called intellectuals, it is because he is not a murderer or a plotter of the Rafsanjani or Khameneh'i calibre.
He lacks authority. But one must not forget that he also is an akhound and as far as we know, akhounds are very complicated type of the mankind, the nigger in the woodpile. For the time being, he translates a hope that no one knows if it will ever materialises. He is the bulldozer opening the way out of the inferno.
IPS - How do you explain the "khatamisation" of our intellectuals, mostly outside Iran?
A D - It seems that our intellectuals have pinned their hopes to a mirage. It seems to me that they haven't got any lesson from the past. Have they forgot their total submission to (the grand ayatollah Ruhollah) Khomeiny? Have they forgot their enthusiastic support for Hashemi Rafsanjani when he first became president?
The sad fact is that we don't have that many intellectuals, secular intellectuals, that is. Most of the people described as intellectuals have more or less strong religious feelings and believes. That was the reason why the great majority of them went under the umbrella of Khomeiny and now turns to Khatami, a man who ignores what freedom means, what democracy is. For someone like Khatami, freedom would mean to allow his wife wear no chador at home or let her go to nearby market alone or to allow newspapers debate about tolerated subjects.
In my view, there is not much difference between our so-called intellectuals who are inside with those of outside the country. They all have common religious grounds. Those of the outside have not changed much. They think that because they live outside, they are able to absorb Western culture and civilisation or understand politics or sociology without studies, without hardship. Have a look at our publications and media outside to understand our intellectual abyss. In fact, we don't have a real intellectual or political elite. Our elite is just a little bit more educated that the ordinary citizen.
IPS - What you have described as "educated populace"?
A D - Exactly.
IPS - Do we have Muslim intellectual?
A D - The answer is negative. At least from a cultural point of view. However, there could be exceptions, but we haven't come across yet.
IPS - Some considers Khatami as the "safest, less expensive and the less risk bound" road towards democracy in Iran. What's your opinion?
A D - I don't think so. However, he can help to open up the political atmosphere to a very limited point, some bases to be set, some trenches in the hands of the hard liners to be conquered.
But to think that these considerations will lead to democracy is wishful thinking. Democracy is not an easy thing and first of all, it needs tolerance, mutual understanding, respect and reciprocity.
Democracy is not only having or not a parliament. Hundreds of nations have parliament but are not democratic at all. It's a question of culture and knowledge. Things of which we have no idea of. We never had democracy. What we think is democracy is a simulacra, nothing more.
In Europe, democracy was build and established step by step, after hard, harsh, bitter experiences and struggle. We do not possess the proper tools to build the democracy and it can't be copied either.
To construct democracy, first of all one needs tolerance and this can not be achieved without learning it. Our Islamic background and heritage makes us all very intolerant, for Islam has no room for tolerance. Therefore, the first thing one has to do is to get some lesson of tolerance. Anyone whose thoughts and culture is deep rooted in religion can not pretend he is also a democrat. One must not mistake between myths and realities…
IPS - …But that brings us back to the question of culture, which is Khatami's motto.
A D - I don't think so. Khatami is not and can not be a cultured man in the Western meaning of the word culture for the simple reason that he is an akhound. He is basically a religious man, meaning that he has a religious culture, and an Islamic one. And Islam can not be reconciled with democracy, freedom and human rights. I think the akhounds and even Khatami do agree with that point of view.
The difference between present Islamic Iran and the outside world is that in Western Christian nations and societies, there are atheists as well as believers. Many Western politicians believe genuinely that Jesus is the son of God. But this is a private matter, not that of the state.
That being said, I think, considering the popular support Khatami enjoys, he may be able, by making good use of this solid backing, to satisfy some of the basic demands of the population, like introducing a limited freedom or enhancing the rights of women.
IPS - Anyway, wrongly or rightly, people in Iran have expectations from Khatami. Do you think he will turn out an Iranian Gorby?
A D - The heterogeneity of the Iranian political scene is a composition of millions of unsatisfied people of every walk and tendency, including religious and seculars. But if this heterogeneous ensemble voted for Khatami, it was because it did not wanted the other candidate (who was the ayatollah Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, the Speaker of the Majles, or the parliament) who was backed by the leader and the hard liners he symbolises. This is not a reason to describe Khatami as a good man, a democrat or the champion of human rights, respectful of freedom.
One has to understand that like any other akhound, Khatami's roots are in Islam, not in nationalism, a concept that is rejected by Islam. His first allegiance goes to Islam, not to Iran. The difference between him and Dr Mohammad Mossadegh is that Mossadegh's heart and sentiments were with Iran, not Islam.
After all, a basic question of primordial importance is to know who is ruling Iran? God, Mohammad (the Muslim's prophet), the Qor'an (Muslim's holy book), Ali (Shi'ites first imam) Hussein (Shi'ites third and most admired imam), or the Iranian people, an Iranian nationalist leader?
Furthermore, Khatami is prisoner of the hard liners that hold all key levers of powers. Again, the fundamentalists are not the only one to be against him, but his own camp is also divided, a division that is the result of his own Islamic calculations.
To answer your question, let's hope that he becomes a catalyst.
IPS - What is the solution for salvaging Iran?
A D - There certainly are solutions. Everywhere in the world, the doors are opening. The era of authoritarian, arbitrary, closed circuit systems has ended and samples of governments like that of the Iranian Islamic regime are rare.
The ruling Iranian ayatollahs have no other choice but entering the convoy, respecting human rights, yielding to the will of the people. But joining the world's caravan means their end. This is inevitable, for the people has understood that Islam, clerical rule, the velayat (representatively of God, the present Iranian system) inevitably leads to destruction, ruin, backwardness. Whenever the people starts to free itself, then it would become very difficult to stop the process. In the past 20 years of Islamic rule, the Iranian people have demonstrated its tremendous capacity for resistance, women more than men.
One must realises that what we have now is a cartoon of state and government. It's nothing but chaos.
IPS - What are the messages of the last elections of Experts Assembly, where, less than 13 millions out of 39 millions eligible voters participated
A D - The message is simple. It says we don't want such an Assembly, meaning we don't want valy e faqih (learned tutor, or God's representative on earth, the position occupied by the ayatollah Khameneh'i). The message of the people to the ruling ayatollahs is we are not minor, we don't want leader, and we don't want religious system, Islamic Republic, but a civil
If the present process continues without a major, violent clash between the ruling but defeated and constantly retreating orthodox rulers and the people, the end will see the emergence of an Iran as the first Muslim and third world naturally secularised nation. Secularism in present so-called secular regimes like those of Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq
etc. is artificial. It's imposed and preserved by the sheer force of the armies. Take that lid off and you will see that all or most of these nations turns radical Islamic ones worse than that of Iran.
After all, we are a mixed Iranian and Islamic phenomenon very different of other Arab nations that, anyway, they do not consider us as being one of them. In the past 20 years, our Iranism has overtaken the Islamic aspect of our nature and this is a good omen for Iran to free itself from the tight, heavy, imposing burden, taboos, reservations and restrictions of religion that prevents access to freedom of expression and democracy without negating Islam.
ENDS DUSTDAR 1819917