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It was the third day of protests in response to Mahsa Amini’s murder by Iranian police. Reading social media posts of that time, you could see that many activists are exciting people to join the nationwide protests. But as an atheist, what attracted my attention was the fact that some of them are explicitly suggesting stopping people who are “desecrating” Quran or other “holy” texts by any means. Even though burning books reminds well-read people of Nazis and other fascist, oppressive, far-right organizations’ actions throughout history, it seems that some Iranian protesters, and many other people for that matter, still don’t understand why members of Iranian police and other infamous security organizations are acting this way – publicly shooting and killing unarmed protestors, executing minors, hiring death row inmates for crowd control, etc. It’s because they’re Muslims and think of themselves as jihadists against infidels who have armed themselves against Islamic government, and therefore Allah himself. But what these activists failed to understand is that these protests themselves are now targeting the root of the problem within Iranian society, the problem with religion itself.
Some might think this started in 1979, after successful installment of an Islamic government following a revolution that brought down a political system established more than 2500 years ago. But the wave of hatred and insurgency began long before Islamic Republic was internationally recognized as the legitimate government of Iranian people, led by Khomeini. Every now and then when former Iranian Shah (meaning king), acted in a way that was not in line with Shariah law, Khomeini’s public condemnation led to protests or acts of civil unrest from his ever-growing fans. One of the most interesting of which would be when he publicly condemned women’s right to vote that was given to Iranian women as a part of his political corrections agenda and declared it “against Shariah law”. Yet still, thousand and thousand of women marched in the streets during and after 1979 revolution in support of the clergy. He wasn’t the first clergy to wage a war against Shah. In 1890, Mirza Hassan Shirazi issued a fatwa against tobacco use in response to a concession granted by another Shah of Iran (then Persia) to United Kingdom, which was successful at that time in the cancellation of that concession and a major blow to Shah’s ruling. This becomes a turning point for people in choosing the clergy as their leadership against their problems.
Moving back to 1979 revolution, the success of the clergy in establishing power was indebted to the well-known wide arrests and execution of thousands of people, following Iraq invasion of Iran, which by itself helped them in further establishing power. Rejection of almost every law human civilization had found to be productive and progressive led to Iran being marginalized, made Islamic Republic finally being recognized as a “pariah” estate, bringing sanctions that at one time were enforced by United Nations itself, not just western governments that started sanctioning Iran after attacking and occupying American Embassy for 444 days. Yet still Iranians were following the clergy in every aspect, may it be cultural, political or financial.
Islamic fascism in Iran has always had its place in Iranian public, but with the popularity of satellite TV and later the growth of Internet, encrypted messaging apps and social networks, an opportunity for the opposition rose, not only to inform people of how Islamic Republic is distorting the facts but also to make Iranian people to compare their living standards to other countries, how they grow and how they interact with each other. The result was the same. Iranians who attended and legitimized a referendum in 1980 for choosing Islamic Republic in a massive turnout, still voted the same for the regime, with massive turnouts, sometimes even higher than some western democracies.
Event when 2009 presidential election, between a holocaust denier and a former prime minister during mass executions of 1980s, turned into massive nation-wide protests, that led to Iranian security and police forces being filmed shooting down peaceful protestors, further bringing sanctions as a result of blatant human rights violations. Iranians still continued their support of a regime that now know and have proof that is inherently corrupt, don’t care about them in any way and continues to beguile them. Having known about massive corruption, hiring of criminals as security and police forces, shooting unarmed protestors [the most famous of them being Neda Aghasoltan at that time], being sanctioned now not just by western governments, that in delusional paranoid propaganda of Islamic Republic have always been introduced as “enemies” of Iran, but by UN, people still continued their support.
In 2013, Rouhani, a member of national security council, with a promise of freedom, moderation and hope, was elected with a jaw-dropping turnout of more than 76%. He somehow managed to convince western governments and united nations that Islamic Republic with nuclear capabilities is a good idea and but needless to say, the second he came into the office, executions, corruption and human rights violations continued. Yet, in 2017, most of his promises, at least the political ones, did not satisfy general population. Islamic Republic had orchestrated another mass execution as a result of 2009 protests, yet he asked for a higher turnout so his next government can have more legitimacy, 70% of voters voted for him. What it’s being pointed out is asking ourselves a simple question. Why people who are not obligated to vote, unlike Iraq during Saddam Hussein or North Korea, choose a corrupt, mass murdering, universally declared criminals who have broken every law, even their own laws, still continue to do so?
The reason is a global cultural problem that has gone to its extreme in Iranian society: The fundamental lack of critical thinking, but the sheer followership of religious clergy established by Islamic ‘thought’. Islam prevents you from being its critic simply by putting death penalty on almost every step of the way. You criticize Allah, you die; You interpret Quran, you die; You get sarcastic about Muhammad and his bloodline, you die. You don’t want to convert to Islam, either you die, or they marginalize you and make you wish for it. The attack that Islam perpetuates on critical thinking, is that the very questioning of Allah, Muhammad and other early Muslims is an abominable act that incites a Muslim into violence, which personally have encountered its threat on multiple occasions. Iranian clergy have extended this idea to themselves so ever act against this regime itself is an act against Allah.
The Islam word, which literally translates to submission, demands paying the highest price for its critics and this simple demand is a proof of its core illegitimacy. Islam asks you to believe, or pay grave consequences, literally, does not provide PROOF or a REASONABLE argument, not just because it can’t, but because simply there isn’t. Being aware of this, there is not much choice but to kill people who understand this flaw. Christian doctrine went into the same process of censorship and mass murder but not only didn’t it work, it led to secularization. Failing at using power and intimidation and not being able to provide a deeper meaning, Christianity later came to making the argument that “take a leap of faith”, otherwise you’ll throw yourself in an existential crisis, which is pretty much stuck at this level until this day, but at least they understand that making arguments peacefully is much more constructive. But it seems that Islamic doctrine is not matured enough to understand that its fundamentalism is not constructive. Compare the world of Islam before and after 9/11 and ISIS attacks. The results speak for themselves.
The failure of Islamic government on almost every aspect that matters for a government is a testament to secularization that was accepted by Christian people centuries ago. It’s not that secular governments themselves have been pillars of humanism and compassion, sometimes, quite the contrary, but those situations are better reviewed and explained as the result of a narcissism of an ideology, not religion. They themselves failed as a result of distorting reality of human condition and has that in common with fascism. It seems that every ideology that falls in love with itself to the point that starts acting as if it can treat “non-believers” as it likes, as if they don’t matter, has doomed itself. Religion and specifically Islam takes the idea of a narcissist believer as a point of pride, if you’re muslim, you are allowed to do anything for dissemination of Islam, otherwise whatever happens to you, “you’ve had it coming”. The establishment of United Nations and Human Declaration of Human Rights happened after our fathers and grandfathers came to this conclusion that we need to establish order in a chaotic world as a team, regardless of our personal beliefs, because human condition necessitates setting a set of rules that universally make sense, to everyone. Finally, man came to this understanding that even if there’s a god, he’s either not an interventionist, or his interventions are insignificant, useless or follow the same pattern of narcissistic, patriarchal behavior advertised in Bible and Quran, which raises this simple question, is he worth praying to?
Islamic Republic interacts with other religious countries rather interestingly. Well known, sometimes proudly advertised presence in middle east has caused one the greatest human crises of modern history in Syria, massively corrupt, protestor-shooting government of Iraq, legitimizing Taliban in Afghanistan, civil war in Yemen, well documented criminal organization and espionage presence in Dubai, Turkey, Azerbaijan, not mentioning Europe, Africa, south and north America. The hypocrisy of Islamic Republic gets more ridiculous knowing the fact that the most atrocious enemy, they, a government that shoots down protestors and journalists and unlawfully confiscates lands, have created is Israel, another government that shoots unarmed protestors and reporters and illegally occupies lands that doesn’t belong to them in the name of their religion.
The Problem of Religion
Recent bouts of protest in Iran are in response to Mahsa Amini’s murder, which manifested by not wearing hijab. Wearing hijab is expressively included in Quran – Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons [AlAhzab Surah, Ayat 59], therefore, these protests act against totalitarianism of political Islam that has infested itself in all Iranians lives. Usage of the term “political Islam” is rather new, but it actually dates back to early Islam. From the moment Muhammad declared himself as a prophet, his campaign aimed to gain influence over elderlies of every tribe to join him, and those who refused, well, were brutally murdered or marginalized in the never ending wars of Jihad.
The rejection of hijab is a representation of critical thinking against the deeply religious government of Islamic Republic that Iranian have showed during the past centuries, because it targets the root of the problem, Islam itself. Iranian culture itself, that’s mostly built on Islam, incites oppression of women, violence against minorities and “infidels”, excites people to die in the name of jihad, in wars that have no justification whatsoever, namely, Syrian war, have officially failed. Khamenei and his narcissist, antisocial goons, that admittedly have been recruited from criminals, have confessed to failure of every major function of government in these last years, yet whenever this happens, he meticulously likens himself to Muhammad and his struggles before Islam dominated Arabia. But where he miserably fails is understanding that the Muslim conquest of Persia had almost the exact same results, which he is not a distortion of historical facts by the way.
Ancient Persia, a progressive society, with its own flaws of course, but with a dominant cultural presence at the time, who had written the first bill of human rights, now find itself governed by savagery and plundering in the name of an ideology that advocates murder for the smallest of reasons. Recent popularity of pre-Islamic rituals and celebrations are another overlooked example of such turns. Failure of Islam in Iran is not just due to the incompetency of Islamic Republic, but it’s because of justifying actions taken to establish “submission” of clergy who have declared themselves as an extension of Allah. Even faced with massive corruption, Khamenei asked the media not to extend this argument and another high-ranking clergy claimed that “EVERYTHING is permitted in the name of religion and corruption is forgivable for an Muslim manager”. This failure of reason, in this case fighting corruption, caused protests across the country, because when you steal wages from workers who are already underpaid, it’s just not a moral issue, it’s a security one. Yet, as these kind of protests are not permitted in Iran, the workers protesting were dispersed, almost always violently, and later many of them were expelled or faced lengthy jail sentences.
In the past years, access to knowledge brought down the government’s interpretation of the world. Now you could point out to people a Wikipedia page full of contradictions in Quran itself which was advertised as a miracle, and therefore flawless. Now people have access to banned books, not because they include false information but because they shed lights on darkness of Islam itself. Now they can read books which their writers were killed by their own ancestors because of blasphemy and now they understand the value of such texts. Now they understand that Islamization of Persia came at the price of mass executions throughout history, with people literally being burned alive, exiled and persecuted for rejecting it.
The current situation in Iran, therefore, is not just a revolution, but a case of a culture collapsing on itself, in order to build the rich society, it was once, free of psychotic narcissism, oppression of thought, built by free men and women, inclusive of minorities, free of corruption, focused on equality, progress and education.