Khamenei And An Offer That Can Be Refused
11 December 2015
By Amir Taheri
For the past week the Islamic Republic's propaganda machine has been in full
gear promoting an ''Open Letter'' written by the ''Supreme Guide'' Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei addressed to ''The Youth of America and Europe.''
With this epistolary exercise, the ayatollah hopes to imitate Ali Ibn
Abi-Talib who is reputed to have penned letters to one Malek al-Ashtar who
served as the governor of a province during the fourth Caliph's tenure. The
tradition of writing letters to convey religious messages exists in other
cultures from Saint Paul, the late convert to Christianity, to the founder of
the Sikh faith Guru Nanak.
Why did Khamenei decide to pen his letter? Here is his answer: ''The bitter
events authored by blind terrorism in France.''
He studiously avoids saying exactly what happened and who the victims and
perpetrators were. By using the word ''blind'' as an adjective, he also
implies that there may be other kinds of terrorism that are fully sighted and
An amateur poet, Khamenei then shifts to lyrical gear: ''The spectacle of a
baby dying in front of loved ones, a mother whose joy has become mourning, a
husband who hurriedly carries the corpse of his wife, and a spectator who
doesn't know that within a few moments he is to witness the last act in his
life, provokes human emotions and sentiments.'' Quickly, and to avoid being
accused of showing sympathy for victims of Daesh in Paris, he adds: ''These
scenes cause sorrow whether they happen in France, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon
or Syria.'' Needless to say he avoids mentioning that, to cite just one
example, it is his protégé Bashar al-Assad who is doing most of the killing
in Syria, and who is also using chemical weapons.
But who is to blame? Khamenei's answer is the West; meaning the United Sates
and the European Union. American and European youths are invited to ''learn
lessons'' from ''today's roughness''. In other words, shooting un-armed
civilians attending a concert with machine guns was nothing but a bit of
''roughness'' (na-molayemat in Persian)!
What ''lessons'' are there to learn? The first is that as far as Khamenei is
concerned, humanity is not a single family as the Persian poet Saadi
asserted. He constantly plays the ''us'' and ''you'' theme forgetting that
some of those who died in Paris were Muslims. ''The insecurity and anxiety
you have experienced,'' he says ''is different from the suffering of the
peoples of Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan.''
The second lesson proposed by ''The Great Teacher'', as Tehran media refers
to Khamenei, is to blame America, the ever-castigated ''Great Satan.'' If
Daesh kills people in Paris and other places, it is the fault of America! He
writes: ''Today, few people are unaware of the role the United States of
America played in creating and strengthening Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and
their sinister successors''.
Had the ''Supreme Guide'' checked his facts he would have known that the
Taliban appeared on the scene five years after the Americans had abandoned
Afghanistan and didn't even want to hear from it, and Al Qaeda a year after
that. He would also know that it was the US who never recognized the Taliban
regime and ultimately helped destroy it (Khamenei's regime recognized the
Taliban and took no action against it even when Mullah Omar's men murdered
nine Iranian diplomats. The ayatollah also played host to Osama bin Laden's
family and associates when they fled from Afghanistan after the Americans
arrived in 2001).
Khamenei blames America for ''oppressing the most progressive and enlightened
doctrines developed by Iran's dynamic democracy''. Khamenei doesn't mention
any of the ''progressive and enlightened doctrines'' that his ''dynamic
democracy'' is supposed to have produced and that America is supposed to have
''oppressed''. Maybe he is referring to the ''doctrine'' according to which
God created the whole universe solely for Ahl al-Beit (People of the House)
of which he claims to be a member.
Or maybe he means the upgrading of the late Ayatollah Khomeini's tomb to the
status of ''Sacred Precinct'', a title not given even to major Shiite
mausoleums in Najaf and Karbala, let alone Mecca and Madinah. Perhaps he
means the ''progressive doctrines'' according to which a woman's voice should
not be heard in public or that gender apartheid should be imposed in all
universities and public sector offices.
Khamenei's claim of representing a ''dynamic democracy'' would have been
laughable had it not been so revolting. What kind of ''dynamic democracy''
puts thousands of people in prison for disagreeing with the regime? What
about presidential candidates Mir-Hussein Mussavi and Mehdi Karrubi who have
been under house arrest for five years without being charged? He forgets that
he has withdrawn the passports of all three former presidents of his Islamic
Republic, preventing them from traveling abroad. One of those former
presidents, Muhammad Khatami, has even become a non-person with a ban on
mentioning his name or publishing his picture- an old Stalinist method.
Khamenei's ''dynamic democracy'' is world number one for executions,
political prisoners, repression against ethnic and religious minorities and
media censorship. For the 36 years of its existence this regime has not spent
a single day without holding some American or other Westerner hostage.
By this time you must be wondering where Khamenei would inject his Israel
Well, here it is: ''Another face of (America's role) is seen in supporting
the state terrorism of Israel. The long-suffering people of Palestine have
experienced the worst kind of terrorism for more than sixty years.''
Interestingly, because he wants to appear impartial to Western youth,
Khamenei uses the word ''Israel'' instead of ''Zionist occupier'' which he
uses when he addresses Muslims. He also avoids repeating his usual pledge to
''wipe the Zionist stain of shame from the map''.
The principal enemy, as seen by Khamenei, is Western civilization. He
unleashes a barrage of words to condemn the west: corrupt, aggressive,
transgressive, violent, and expansionist.
Western cultures promote ''loose living'', whatever that means, and has
produced only ''pseudo-art, music and literature.'' Poor Rembrandt,
Beethoven, and Shakespeare! The ''Supreme Guide'' even invents a new word ''ma'anagoriz''
which means ''fleeing from significance'' to underline the shallowness of
western civilization. Implicitly, he endorses the controversial thesis of
American writer Samuel Huntington about the ''clash of civilizations.''
He reveals the depth of his hatred for western civilization with another
interesting Persian adjective- bi-band-o-bar. Literally, this means ''without
being tied by ropes or bearing a burden.'' In other words, being free from
pre-established religious and ideological constraints and not bearing the
burden of original sin. This is in contrast to the Islamic idea of hanging on
to the ''firm rope'' (habl al-matin) of faith and carrying the burden of
trust bestowed on Adam by God (thiql al-amanah). Persian poets, among them
the great Hafiz of Shiraz, lamented the fact that they couldn't break loose
from the rope and throw away the burden.
Although his supporters like to market him as Leader of the Islamic Ummah as
a whole, Khamenei betrays a measure of Persian nationalism, not to say
He casts traditional Islam as ''an extremist and discarded thinking (that was
produced) in the heart of a Bedouin tribe in a desert.''
ISIS, Khamenei claims, is a synthesis of that ''Bedouin'' ideology with
Western culture. In a recent speech Khamenei's foreign policy adviser Ali-Akbar
Velayati claimed that it was thanks to Iran's contribution that Islam became
a great humanitarian civilization. He also claimed that 50 per cent of
Islam's greatest theologians, philosophers and teachers had been Iranians.
That Khamenei's letter unleashes a tsunami of semi-romantic verbiage is of
little consequence. What causes concern is his distortion of historic facts,
whether intentional or as a result of insufficient knowledge. He writes: ''If
the problem (of terrorism) was (the Islamic) faith we should have witnessed
similar phenomena in the Islamic world before the colonial era.'' In other
words Islamist terror developed in reaction to Western colonialism and later
How true is that? What about the fact that three of the four Well-Guided
Caliphs, immediate successors of the Prophet, were assassinated? Was the
Kharijite movement a reaction to Western colonialism? What about the carnage
in Karbala and counter-massacres led by Mokhtar al-Thaqafi, the violence of
Qaramata, the serial killings by Malahedah (assassins), the atrocities of
Mushaashaiyah and the regular chopping of heads by Sarbedaran?
All of that happened long before there was Western colonialism and centuries
before Christopher Columbus ''discovered'' America.
In more recent times, we have had other violent groups born and bred within
Islam, often led by individuals who, like Khamenei, claimed to be the sole
possessors of ''true Islam'' or, as he likes to say, ''Pure Muhammadan
Islam'' who regularly cause murder and mayhem.
Here are a few of those groups that Khamenei may not have heard of: the
Akhund of Swat, the Zarraq Khan clan, Mullah Hassan of Mogadishu, the Ansar
in the Sudan, the Heydari Long Knives, the Senusi Ghazis, the Qypchaq
slave-traders, and, more recently the various brands of Ikhwan (brotherhood)
in several Arab countries. In Iran itself we had the Fedayeen of Islam which
the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini was a member of, issuing fatwas to
murder Iranian intellectuals and politicians, not Western Imperialists.
What about the murder of 117 Iranian dissidents in 16 countries in the Middle
East, Europe and the United States by ''Unknown Soldiers of the Imam'' sent
from Tehran in the 1980s and'' 90s? Investigating the murder of Kurdish
Iranian dissidents in Germany, the Criminal Court in Berlin cited four of
Tehran's top leaders, among them Khamenei himself, as responsible for the
Khamenei concludes his letter by inviting ''The Youth of Europe and America''
to ''cooperate with Islam'', even if they shun mass conversion. In exchange,
he says, they will enjoy ''the warmth of security and tranquillity'', while
Islam ''spreads the rays of hope for a bright future across the face of the
globe''. The deal he offers may remind us of offers by Cosa Nostra that
cannot be refused.
Amir Taheri was born in Ahvaz, southwest Iran, and educated in Tehran, London
and Paris. He was Executive Editor-in-Chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran
(1972-79). In 1980-84, he was Middle East Editor for the Sunday Times. In
1984-92, he served as member of the Executive Board of the International Press
Institute (IPI). Between 1980 and 2004, he was a contributor to the
International Herald Tribune. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, the
New York Post, the New York Times, the London Times, the French magazine
Politique Internationale, and the German weekly Focus. Between 1989 and 2005, he
was editorial writer for the German daily Die Welt. Taheri has published 11
books, some of which have been translated into 20 languages. He has been a
columnist for Asharq Alawsat since 1987. Taheri's latest book "The Persian
Night" is published by Encounter Books in London and New York.