Iran: Loss of Legitimacy - Part 1
by Dr. Bahar Bastani
Much can be learned by reading the history of other nations and communities. However, many of us are “too busy to read”, and in particular to read history. Moreover, certain things are better learned by going through the experience. Several hundred years ago Europe, having gone through the experience of the dark ages, learned that too much power and wealth concentrated in the hands of a person or an elite group will corrupt them, even if it be a pope and the church institution. This lead to the wisdom of “separation of church and state”, and spreading power and wealth among the people, i.e., “Democracy” and “Socialism”.
In the Muslim World we have had experience with dictator Monarchs, sultans and life time “presidents”, but not with the ruling religious leaders, i.e., Ayatollahs and Faghihs. Our hope was that if they were given the power they would not follow the same path as the popes in Europe. In Iran, being a Shia country there was great hope that the religious leaders would follow the path of Imam Ali in wisdom and implementing ultimate justice, or Imam Hussein in love for freedom, honesty and bravery, or Imam Sajjad in piety, or Imam Bagher and Jafar Sadegh in love for knowledge and learning. However, the Iranian people after 30 years of experiencing a theocratic dictatorship have learned that human nature is the same, whether one lives in Europe or in Iran, whether one is Christian or Muslim, and that too much power corrupts anyone.
The people of Iran have had a chance to experience an Islamic Theocracy and have seen, through their own experience, that a theocratic dictatorship is more brutal and ruthless than any other form of dictatorship. Many Iranians now demand a real democracy. A free society where the government is freely elected by its citizens and is only responsible to provide civic services so that people can have better and more prosperous lives. A government that guards that no group (s) of people impose their ideology and beliefs upon others. A government that rather than indoctrinating people guarantees the freedom of expression for all different ideas, ideologies and view points.
Governments should leave the culture to the people themselves, and rather than trying to manufacture and/or enforce a particular culture they should create a free environment and allow the people themselves (the intellectuals, the teachers, the poets, the writers, the philosophers, the artists, the preachers, the religious scholars and leaders, the ordinary citizens, the parents, etc.) to create their own culture.
It is the right of people to be exposed to a variety of ideas and freely make their own choices. Moreover, not only should the power be distributed among people, but also information. In this day an age information is an important source of power, and should also be accessible to all.
May God bless all those who are kind, fair, just, free, pious, and seekers of knowledge and wisdom.