by Hassan Yousefi Eshakavari
Editor’s Note: Hassan Yousefi Eshakavari is a trained cleric, but because of his progressive and non-orthodox views was divested of his robe of office (khal-i libas). He was also jailed by the Iranian regime for several years; in recent times he has written several brilliant essays in support of the human and civil rights of the Baha’i community of Iran. Iran Press Watch is pleased to provide the following translation of one of his recent essays.
I really do not understand!
I think everyone has encountered incidents or circumstances that one could not fully understand, comprehend or analyze. In these instances, we become helpless and do not know how to respond to the situation. That is to say, one truly feels impotent. This issue is important for the reason that we usually and routinely assess every event, easy or difficult, in some standardized way and at some normal level.
We are able to interpret and analyze its hows and whys, or to offer a simple or complex response. Therefore, it scarcely happens that we could truly feel and express a complete inability to understand some event and question, and to genuinely and seriously state that we do not know and do not comprehend.
Like you and others, I too normally have standard explanations, understandings, and analysis. I am always prepared to give an answer to every question. However, there have been serious issues which I have frankly felt helpless to comprehend or interpret. Basically, in responding deeply to such a question, I have become obviously distressed, I was unable to answer, and I have explicitly stated, “I do not know, I do not understand, and I have no response.”
The last time was about a month ago when a reporter from one of the overseas radio stations asked me about the reason and/or reasons underlying the demolition of the Bahai’s cemeteries in Babol; I said that I honestly and seriously do not know, since, just as with you and others, when I hear and read the news, I ask myself, why? Why the isolated cemetery of a group of fellow-citizens, some of whom probably belong to the distant past and do not interfere in the affairs of the living, particularly the rulers, but who are nevertheless faced with attacks, destruction, and disdain. In fact, who are these people who perform such ugly and inhumane actions? What are their goals, what their objectives and what purpose are they following?
These are the probable religious, political, and/or economical consequences.
Anyway, what are the benefits for them? Have these individuals arbitrarily and merely from personal motives taken such determined actions through their own individual initiative and decision or at most through several individuals — so-called “mediators”? If this is so, why do the united governmental forces, security and police forces not prevent these actions and their systematic repetition? Why, instead of the arrest and punishment of such self-motivated individuals, are the same oppressed victims still the ones who are detained, imprisoned, and punished? If the Baha’is are the subjects of opposition and antagonism, and they are considered to be unbelievers who do not have the right to live and to die like righteous Muslims, why then are the dervishes (Sufis) confronted in the same way? Aren’t they Muslims? Should not the life, possessions, and reputation of Muslims be preserved and remain secure, in accordance with irrefutable religious laws and regulations, against the transgressions of criminals? Were not most of the nobles and scholars of Islam, actually, whether Shiite or Sunni, nevertheless officially Sufis? Or at least did they not have an explicit Sufi orientation; or have they not defended them? Or would they not defend them due to their misguided thinking and religious perspectives? What do you do with Fahad Helli and his “Taqdis “, his mystical literary work, Sadr’ul-din Shirazi, Feyz-i-Kashani, and Mulla Ahmad Naraqi — and most important of all, the departed Leader of the revolution and the Founder of the Islamic Republic?
Has the exceptional and wonderful defense of Ayatollah Khomeini of a famous Sufi like Mansour al-Hallaj, who was murdered by chance on the basis of a “fatwa” or religious opinion on Islamic law been so quickly forgotten? It is possible that several unknowledgeable and immature youths or adults who perform these actions may be uninformed of these truths; however, are their leaders the muftis or Islamic scholars unaware or ignorant of these realities? Are other aims and intentions involved in the case? How can it be that a great Sufi like Jalal-ad-din Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Balkhi Jalal al-Din Muhammad Balkhi al-Rumi, known as Molavi or Mawlana, has been so much honored as being one of the twelve saints or Guardians of Islam, and Khajih Shamsu’l-din Muhammad Hafiz Shirazi has been raised to the station of God; however the resting place of an unknown and harmless Sufi in an out-of-the-way corner of Isfahan, probably on the basis of rejecting the wrong but not the false, is demolished?
Apart from all these considerations, why and for what reason or for what plausible and reasonable cause should a government carry out actions which lead to the greatest losses for the government itself? Does a wise and prudent human being act so as to cause its own loss? What harm could the Gonabadi or non-Gonabadi Dervishes bring to cows and sheep, when they have very particular thoughts, tastes, customs, and rituals; they do not interfere in politics and have no role in political or governmental affairs?
Why should one take actions that incite these noble, quiet, and peaceful human beings to make open protests? Does Iran have no other intellectual, political, religious, economic or cultural problems, so that we must spend energy on the guidance and instruction of a few Baha’is, Dervishes, and other similar groups; now we decide to ignore everything else and guide them? What about the shocking insistence of all authorities of the government from high to low on the burial of the corpses and scattered bones of war martyrs on the grounds of the universities of the country — with what kind of logic, analysis, or expediency does this take place ? Are these actions glorifying the martyrs?
Is there not any other way to honor these martyrs? Has a verse [from the Qur’an] been revealed that universities should turn into cemeteries, particularly at a time when students are sensitive to this action, and explicitly, seriously, and continuously oppose it? When in Islamic history have Muhammad (PBUH) the Messenger of God or which of His followers; or the Shiite Imams; or Islamic Jurists have buried the respected corpse of martyrs in the alleys, streets, a public yard; or a public park, school, or hospital? Have we brought about something of a novelty?
Is the Islamic Republic going to complete the list of its uncommon thought patterns and deeds in this way? Who should be told of this plan? In a regime or system that claims it is value-focused and basically embodies all the goals of the Prophets and Saints — even manifests all good and all virtue, but treats and manipulates the departed and martyrs in this way? If this type of behavior is not manipulative and there is no abuse, then why and with what common humane logic and on the basis of what type of standards is the regime or system prepared to pay so many expenses for these imposed burials? Is cost-benefit not an intellectual rule and principle?
Have these extensive arrests, repression and imprisonment of tens and probably hundreds of protesting students, the creation of abundant anger, rancor, and hatred in the hearts of these youth, who are the wealth of the country, have suitable costs and benefits for the country and even for the regime or system? If the response to this question is positive, it is an interesting story that the government with the extent of its sovereign domain is showing off its power to thousands of students and even to the public. I do not think that more degradation and corruption could be imagined for the “war martyrs” than what has been done under the guise of respect and honor in the Islamic Republic!
In general, it could be asked, “is it reasonable and advisable for a system or regime that has a lot of enemies and is surrounded by opponents and foes to assume that all the Eastern and Western governments are thinking of overthrowing it 24 hours a day, in order to fight simultaneously on several battlefields? Would it not be better to observe priority in challenging enemies? Would it not be more rational to postpone the demolition of foes such as Gonabadi Dervishes, Sunnis, or even the Baha’is, the Al-e-Yassin [whose leader is in Evin Prison — see http://aleyassin.blogspot.com], as well as other groups with whose names we become familiar due to the blessing of these confrontations, to another time, after rooting out more fundamental and dangerous enemies?
For example, logically and rationally, are the abolition of poverty and the destructive social class gap, the creation of jobs and occupations for youth as well as facilities for their marriages, the eradication of addiction and dozens of enemies and other incurable pain and suffering the first priority, or rather the demolition of several Khaniqahs, (Sufi monasteries), or dervishes themselves; Friday Prayer; the Festival of Fast-Breaking(Eid al-Fitr) through a few faithful far and wide in the country? As an example, would it not be better first to clear up the fate of more than one billion dollars of the Iran Nation’s money that according to the Supreme Audit Court and several Majlis representatives was lost from last year’s budget, rather than the fate of the Gonabadi dervishes? Is it beneficial to the regime running the Islamic Republic to be daily introduced in various human rights gatherings and on a more extensive level, in the global media as major violators of human rights, and throughout its thirty years of existence to be condemned twenty one times by majority vote in such a significant organization as the United Nations?
It is stated that within the Ministry of Intelligence a section by the name “Religions Office” has been established.
I do not know about the responsibilities and the role of such an office within an institution such as the Ministry of Intelligence; however, what has such an organization with real tasks all over the world to do with something like “religion?” Does it mean that from the point of view of the rulers of the Islamic Republic or the security authorities of the country any variation in thought patterns — and specifically following other religions (apart from the official religion and faith of the country) — has security implications? Is there a more aggressive motive behind the establishment of this office? What happened to the important element “national interest” that was so much emphasized and confirmed by the founder of the Islamic Republic?
What is the “Expediency Discernment Council” for, and what is its role? Has the Assembly of the Experts no sensitivity, supervision, or idea about the management, on a macro level, of the country? Or should it not?
Have you any response to these and dozens of other questions? Could these treatments and thoughts of a government be understood, comprehended, or analyzed? Does an acceptable and logical interpretation or interpretations exist for these events and inquiries?
Is this an excessive expectation that at least the responsible authorities of the country, particularly the leaders and officials of the relevant functions, might make us aware and guide us with respect to the “hidden benefits” of these apparently illogical behaviors ? Some government activities — security and law enforcement; cultural means — right or wrong are more or less comprehensible and apprehensible. For example, on occasion, on the one hand a government feels that it has lost its legitimacy and acceptability among the public, particularly among the intellectual, social, and political elites, and is besieged from all sides; it notices that its survival is, in any case, at serious risk; it is likely that it would do anything, and similar to one who is drowning would cling to any straw and weed. For example, this government might close all the newspapers, make the political parties lifeless and useless, or block free elections, avoiding discretionary supervision, and prevent the establishment of a truly national Majlis or Parliament. However, it is inconceivable that the Baha’is, dervish assemblies, or the performance of several Friday Prayers in Isfahan, Tehran, and some other places could be a threat to a powerful dominion equipped with all cultural, political, religious, security, and economic means.
Really, is holding a commemorative assembly for famous religious and political personalities such as [Mehdi] Bazargan and [Yadollah] Sahabi, who are, by chance, also considered among the founders of this [Islamic] regime, with the presence of hundreds and at most thousands of people in a recognized and valid center such as Husayniyah Ershad, something that would jeopardize the security and the interests of the government or the society? Does gathering signatures to demand changes in discrimination laws from the Majlis of this same regime harm the security of the country?
Should I give several other examples to sufficiently clarify the matter? Although the examples could be still continued, I do not mean to make a complete list of all the Islamic Republic’s misdeeds; I intend to state that some of the shocking activities performed by the responsible authorities of the Iranian regime cannot be comprehended, understood, or interpreted, inasmuch as they could not be analyzed by the usual humane standards and logic within a legal system. Unusual or odd acts take place that have no rational explanation; it could be simply proven that these take place on behalf of the ruling authorities; ultimately it would weaken the foundations of the regime, the preservation of which is amongst its most significant goals. Despite all this, how many times within history have these types of encounters by governments been finally to their advantage so that this could be the second or third time?
Notwithstanding, since the leaders and agents of these activities are, certainly, among the intellectuals of the group, faithful scholars in Islamic studies, and are the protectors of the regime and of national security, then anyone by reading these lines with the most humanitarian attitude would feel sympathetic for this author; hence, I and people like me should hesitate in our intellect, knowledge, and expedience, should we not?
[Source: http://www.roozonline.com/archives/2009/03/post_11788.php. Translation by one of the readers of Iran Press Watch.]