Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hopeless Quest for an Auspicious Islamic Government

Rooz Online:
In a public talk in London titled "An Acceptable Islamic Government", the prominent Iranian writer and philosopher Dr. Adolkarim Soroush stressed that despite an assumption by many Muslim intellectuals that Islamic jurisprudence contains all the solutions to man’s problems, the establishment of an Islamic Republic by an Iranian cleric has proved that religion does not entail all the solutions to the concerns and challenges of modern human beings. READ MORE

According to the BBC Persian section website, Soroush pointed out that conservative Islamic thinkers have argued for years that since Muslims have the appropriate laws and rules, all the requirements of a society are met by them, and so if they acquired political power, they would be able to create a promising Islamic society. “Whatever ayatollah Khomeini did, said or wrote was on this premise. But when the Islamic Republic of Iran was established, realities surfaced even sooner than anticipated and, as Khomeini himself realized the inadequacies of Islamic laws, and as Saeed Hajjarian too has written, the Islamic government soon gave way to prudence towards a secular society,” Soroush said.

Dr. Soroush discusses the conflicting issue of religion and society, and questions whether it is a religious society that leads to an Islamic government or a religious government that produces a religious society. He says perhaps Iran’s is the very first government to try to make a society religious. In reality, government efforts to transform a society into a religious entity are neither constructive nor possible, since faith cannot be imposed from the outside, and using force is not the best way to come into faith.

Soroush stressed that no individual has a religious duty to forcefully convert another to become a Muslim. Governments can force people to pay taxes, but they can never force them to worship God or his messengers from their hearts. Faith is similar to love, which cannot be created by force.

Dr Soroush acknowledged to his Muslim audience that what he states was not compatible with what they had been hearing for years and mentioned. “Today there are 19 million Muslims living in Europe, but is it their duty to return to their place of birth or stay wherever they are, try to remain Muslims and work for justice right there?’ he asked. The duty of a Muslim is to fight cruelty, and not necessarily to gain political power. So if you take any help that you can to spread justice, you have done your religious duty.”

In his English speech in London, Soroush harshly criticized Iran’s Islamic government and its error in focusing strictly on laws and decrees at the expense of morals. He warned that such a ruling system is a mirage of a utopia.

In the Q&A part of the talk, Soroush was asked if his idea of an Islamic government was too idealistic when ultra hardline clerics such as Mesbah Yazdi were questioning the role of Iranians in government's decision making. Soroush replied that the duty of all governments is to provide the means for a moral and ethical life to its citizens. Our ideal government is an ethical one with many voices,” he said. Mr. Yazdi happens to be neither an Islamic jurisprudent nor a political philosopher. His words are even more regressive that Mr. Khomeini’s city of Najaf.