Ali Javadi: The Islamic Republic of Iran’s factions and media are constantly debating the issue of violence. Khatami says that Islam is a merciful religion; Mesbah Yazdi says Islam is a violent religion, whilst Khamenei says Islam is both merciful and violent. The position and role of violence in the Islamic government’s system is largely clear; the question, however, is what are the political implications of this debate in the current factional war and social upheavals?
Koorosh Modaresi: Violence is an inseparable part of the society we live in, be it in the West, East or anywhere in the world. The violence that exists in Iran, however, has another dimension – one that is based on Islam. The very statement that an Islamic Republic exists somewhere means that unparalleled and brutal violence exists in it. The mere fact that people are forced to abide by laws based on something some god has said somewhere or because a prophet has sneezed is violence. If anyone protests against such laws, they will be subject to punishment and suppression, which in its simplest form is violence. Since its establishment, the Islamic Republic has been one of the most violent governments in the world. Today, the 2nd Khordad [‘Reformist’] faction and Mr Khatami who says that Islam is a merciful religion is himself the head of the regime’s executive branch, which is executing and imposing violent policies and laws. The most vicious violence has been carried out under Khatami’s leadership and guidance. That one side says Islam is merciful is a reflection that at least one side is saying that ruthless Islamic violence is no longer effective, that the people are not retreating, that the fate of the Islamic Republic is in danger and, therefore, that the people must be dealt with differently. Naturally, the other side thinks that as soon as they loosen their grip, nothing will remain of the Islamic Republic. I think that the debate over whether Islam is violent or not is a false one. Islam means violence - the worst and most ferocious kind of violence. The factional debate about violence has internal usage, in which one faction is trying to justify itself in the current balance of power and maintain the Islamic system.
Ali Javadi: At the end of the Cold War with the Eastern Bloc’s defeat, bourgeois ideologues announced that the epoch of violence and class struggle had ended, etc. Is there a connection between this and the debate on violence in the Islamic Republic?
Koorosh Modaresi: In my opinion, they are not connected at all. The claims made by Western ideologues after the end of the Cold War was a more fundamental debate on the basis of society and meaning of violence, which aimed to use the Eastern Bloc’s defeat to drive a philosophical nail in the coffin of any protest and demand for equality. The current debate in the Islamic Republic is a much more superficial debate and has an administrative and political application and interest. I think that in Iranian society, in that system and even within the factions, you will not find anyone who can agree that there is no violence or that Islam is fundamentally based on mercy. They still stone men and women to death for having relations, they still execute Communists and countless acts of Islamic brutality are still carried out in that society. Moreover, those who speak of mercy still defend the massacre of a generation during 1981 and 1988. They still remember their actions as ‘revolutionary’ ones and would do the same again if necessary. Consequently, I think that these two debates are not connected. The other debate is about the role and roots of violence in society and is an intellectual assault on the ideology of protest and equality seeking. This debate in the Islamic Republic is a petty political debate for present consumption.
Koorosh Modaresi is a member of WPI’s Political Bureau and Executive Committee. The above is a translated summary of an interview, which was broadcast on Radio International on April 20, 2000 and first published in Persian in Hambastegi number 89 dated June 2000.