Friday, February 03, 2006

Mesbah and Danger of Faschism

Rooz Online:
While political maneuverings dominate the scene in Iran these days, there are also plenty of discussions on larger issues. Regression, dogmatism, roots, etc are all debated in intellectual circles. We talked with Abdol-Karim Soroush, Iran’s prominent thinker, on these issues. Here are the excerpts:

Q: What has taken place in the Islamic Republic under the name of Mr. Mesbah and what are the roots of this?
A: Whenever I hear that Mr. Mesbah has made political proclamations, it disturbs me. I know him very well and know that he does not have deep theoretic or practical strengths. He is neither a faghih (an Islamic jurisprudent) nor does he know much about Islamic or Iran’s history. He does not even have a strong memory and his knowledge on matters that he speaks on is meager. He does not know our literature, the arts, modern sciences, or even modern politics. He has stopped reading because of his health. His only knowledge is classic Islamic philosophy. It is really shameful that someone with his knowledge should take the helms of this ship. If he does, then it would take generations to clear the mess he would create. READ MORE

Q: But some compare him to ayatollah Motahari.
A: Motahari was a hundred times more knowledgeable than Mesbah. In fact in the early days of the 1979 revolution, Mesbah once told me that Motahari was under Marxist influence. Let’s not forget that Mr. Mesbah is also a very short tempered person who gets angry and abusive rather quickly. Those around him know these traits very well. In 1981 when the Cultural Revolution Committee was tasked by Mr. Khomeini to contact Qom, Mesbah was the accidental choice. Dr Ahmad Ahmadi was the person selected to remain in contact with Mr. Mesbah, but after a few meetings, he announced that he could not work with Mesbah. The reason he gave was that after just a few sentences, Mesbah would get angry, and a quarrel would follow. And remember Dr Ahmadi was a 20-year friend of Mesbah’s. Everybody knows the unpleasant confrontations between Mesbah and Shariati, to the point where Dr Beheshti intervened in the defense of Ahmadi and called Mesbah’s ideas invalid. Hojatol-Islam Parvazi revealed Mesbah’s links to Hezbollah group. The judge in Kerman’s inhuman murders ruled that the murderers had the religious license to kill from Mesbah. He is merely a front man for others who will retire him when necessary.

Q: Who is his boss though?
A: Right now it is the Baseej etc. When he was president, Mohammad Khatami had indirectly cautioned Mesbah as well. He has even used the Qoran to justify violence. He belongs to the hardline groups who can use his ideas and violence. Even though I am not happy with the clergy because of their silence over cruelties, still they should not allow someone like Mesbah to take the lead.

Q: Some say Hojatieh is the source?
A: I do not think it is accurate to connect Ahmadinejad or Mesbah to Hojatieh. Hojatiehs have a non political element in them. There are others they follow and I want to mention Fardid. He was a philosophy lecturer at Tehran University. Before the 1979 revolution, Fardid was a non religious person. But right after it, he completely changed face and become more Catholic than the Pope. Dr Ahmadi who is now in the Majlis has called him a devil. Dr Karim Mojtahedi, a philosophy professor at Tehran University, also calls him wicked. So he had suddenly become a supporter of the revolution and a believer. I think he represents what Ahmadinejad and Mesbah say and are today.

Q: What kind of thoughts did he have?
A: Strongly violent. He completely supported Khalkhali and supported all his deaths. Khalkhali’s son too was a follower of Fardid. His supporters had succeeded in infiltrating cultural institutions, where some of them remain even today. This is how they promoted violent ideas and solutions. Some have a say in the special confidential bulletins that are prepared for the highest officials of the country. I am pretty certain that some of the writings against Bazargan and other liberal reformers are their works.

Fardid was also anti Jewish. He was so anti-Jewish that we do not have a comparable example in Iran’s history. He believes philosophers are of two kinds: Jewish and non-Jewish. Whatever the Jewish philosophers have said is trash, not worthy of taught. Bergson, Spinoza, and Popper, are examples. He had learned this from Heidegger, his teacher, who was a supporter of Nazism and fascism. His Iranian supporters of course try to hide this fact. When they attack liberalism, it is not from an Islamic or socialist perspective, but from a fascistic one. Their attack on the Freemasons is from the same angle, just as was Mussolini’s who had said that the staunchest enemy of fascism were the Freemasons. It is ironic that Iranian supporters and students of Heidegger, such as Fardid and Reza Davari, did not even speak German or use original German sources in their teachings.

Fardid was also against human rights. Reza Davari who was one of his students some years after Fardid’s death wrote a piece in Bayan which was completely against human rights. He said it was a bourgeois trick against workers and the deprived. Fardid regularly told his pupils that everything said and written about justice, democracy, freedom and patience was a bunch of lies. All international cultural and political institutions were conspirators, he said and called on his listeners not to believe any of them inviting them to promote their ideas through violence.

Q: So where are we going with these thoughts?
A: We are moving towards a critical precipice. This is because Fardid’s supporters and loyalists have infiltrated high offices in the regime. I heard from Khamenei in Hamedan that he told a group of young people not to read or follow Popper or his ideas. I was surprised he said that not because he opposed Popper, but because unlike Khomeini, he does not read philosophy, know philosophy. In fact because of his Mashhad education, he may even be anti-philosophical. What Fardid did was to instill a form of anti-Popperism in Iran. They attack him so that they can attack democracy and freedom. Their reasoning against Popper was not philosophical but because German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt had written the preface to one of his books.

Q: Perhaps they were sending you a message?
A: Perhaps. If they wished to oppose Western philosophy, then there are many religious or atheist philosophers in the West such as such as Russell, Sartre, and Carnap. Are Heidegger’s anti religious and metaphysical ideas not un-Islamic for them to use him? Reza Davari once said something which till today is preposterous. He said that Plato supported Velayate Faghih, i.e. the rule of the clerics, while Popper was against it.

Q: So Mesbah and Fardid are from the same thought?
A: Yes, and the idea that people’s will and wishes do not count, also comes from Fardid. And just like Hitler and the Nazis, he believed in saluting the leader and making fun of democracy. We have a hidden fascism in the country. I see Fardid central to the current government, just as I see Levi Strauss for the Bush administration. The only difference is that Strauss was a real philosopher.

Q: And Mesbah continues his views?
A: Mesbah is not the founder of violence, but only its implementer. Others have promoted the idea of violence, that the West is constantly plotting, that democracy and human rights are nonsense, that international organizations too are plotting against Iran, etc.

Q: What about the issue of the republic?
A: This is a showbus. What Mr. Khomeini had said can be used to support the popular will or to deny it. Serious reviews of thoughts must be made to rectify the situation, if that is possible of course.

Q: So where are we going?
A: Believe me even further than the Taliban. They were sincere in their Islamic thoughts. I do not see sincerity in many of those followers of Fardid. They are simply driven by interests and lust for power, which is catastrophic. At the most sensitive moment, they will neither defend the nation nor religion. The Taliban were sincerely radical and when the US asked for Bin Laden they refused. You will not find such resilience among these people. When things get tighter, they will be the first to abandon people and all else.
A must read for those interested in Mesbah Yazdi and company.