TV Int: Ending Islamic terrorism in Europe
* Ending Islamic terrorism in Europe, Interview with Hamid Taqvaee
* Mansoor Hekmat: Comparable to Marx, Interview with Azar Majedi
* Sharia Law and the Globalization of Political Islam with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji and Homa Arjomand on Friday August 12, 2005 at 7:30 - 10:00 pm in Toronto, Canada. To book tickets, contact 416- 737- 9500.
* Visit TV International English site (www.anternasional.tv/english) to see programme of Sunday 24 July 2005 in which Maryam Namazie interviews Fariborz Pooya on causes of European home grown Islamic terrorism; Hamid Taqvaee on how to end Islamic terrorism in Europe; and Bahram Soroush on whether there is a new era of repression in Iran. Please note: Maryam Namazie will be on maternity leave until further notice.
* Ending Islamic terrorism in Europe
Interview with Hamid Taqvaee
Maryam Namazie: There have been many solutions put forward for ending Islamic terrorism in Europe. One of them is an immediate end to Western intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East.
Hamid Taqvaee: In my opinion, you have to first define the problem in order to find the solution. Defining the problem as Islamic terrorism or extremism is incorrect; the problem is in fact political Islam.
Political Islam exists because it was created in the final analysis by the policies of Western governments. And, I am not referring to the Iraq war alone or Western intervention in Afghanistan. These are only the most recent examples. Western governments have basically been supporting political Islam for some twenty to thirty years now, including the Taliban vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union. They created the climate for the problems we are faced with today. Political Islam rose to power when Western powers supported Khomeini against the Shah in order to control and in fact defeat the revolution in Iran. These are the roots of the political Islam that we see today. And that is only one aspect of the reality we are faced with.
The other is the way that Islam and religion are promoted as a whole in Western society. With Reaganism, Thatcherism, and neo-conservatism, religion has been given a growing role in education and our system of values in the name of multiculturalism and toleration of cultures.
Basically, then, if you want to find a solution to a problem, you must first understand what the problem is. The problem is not extremism. The problem is not only terrorism. The problem is political Islam.
The terrorism we have seen in Iran, Iraq, or Palestine for some time now is the sort of terrorism being seen in the US, Spain, England... To tackle this problem, one must stand against political Islam - politically, socially, and ideologically - and also support common human values all over the world - not Western or Eastern or British values against Islamic values.
The whole system is upside down and the reason we are faced with such problems.
You must rely on the universal values of civil society, on secularism and humanism and attack political Islam and religion as part of government, the educational system, and a social system with the most backward system of values. The solution is secularism, defending humanism, defending civil society, defending universal values of human beings against any kind of religious political, social, governmental system, including political Islam.
Maryam Namazie: The British government's proposals to deal with terrorists include setting out new measures to deport "Muslim preachers of hate" or bar people who incite terrorism. Muslim leaders are to set up a commission into the religious and political problems that are driving Islamist extremism. Tony Blair has met with 'Muslim envoys' and told them to "confront this evil ideology." "Take it on," Blair said, "and defeat it by the force of reason". Are you saying that all these sort of policies will actually not get us anywhere?
Hamid Taqvaee: I don’t think so because they don't deal with the problem. If there is a proven relationship between a group or cleric and political Islamic trends in the UK, they must be condemned and prosecuted. Where does deportation come into it? If British citizens are British citizens and are prosecuted according to the law, deporting them only divides citizens between those who are born here or who are Anglo-Saxon versus others. It is a form of racism. The fact that they or their parents originally came from other countries, and can therefore be deported back there is part of the problem.
The problem is that these governments don’t see human beings as human beings – not even their own citizens. Even British citizens are classified as Muslims or Asians or Arabs, or from wherever they came from, or where their parents and grandparents came from; that is exactly the problem. Of course if someone commits a crime, treat them like a criminal; prosecute them according to the law but why deportation?
Regarding the “force of reason”, it is clear that the basic root of recent events lies in their policies in Iraq. In Iraq, we have the same situation that we had in London recently but on a daily basis. They are killing people, children everyday in Iraq. It does not justify what happened in London but it does explain it somewhat. If we are to talk about reason, then this is clearly a political problem. It is not a problem of semantics – of some fundamentalists or extremists in England. If you want to see what the reason is, the reason is Western government policies. And the cause is not only their intervention in Iraq or Afghanistan as I said before, but also Thatcherism, Reaganism and neo-conservatism. These are the dominant policies of Europe and the USA as well. They give leeway and promote religion in education, in the system of values, in society, in government. For example, we have Islamic schools and other religious schools everywhere. Secularism has been forgotten in the West. If Tony Blair wants to attack the problem with reason, then one cannot stand against extremism and Islamic terrorism alone without referring its roots, without referring to the environment created by Western policies. That is the root of the problem. That is the real force of reason.
Maryam Namazie: So, are you saying that Iraq is the problem then?
Hamid Taqvaee: Withdrawing from Iraq is a good move. But, what I am saying is that it is not enough. Do something with religion and Islam in your own country. Do something in the philosophy of your culture. Go back to the French revolution. And attack any religion as a social activity. Religion is a private matter. Everybody has a right to have a god or not. It’s their personal problem. Please treat religion as a private matter.
This will mean no religious schools any more. No good and bad religions. Don’t try to have good Muslims versus bad Muslims. Attack Islam and any other religion as a part of the state, the educational system, and system of values. Let them be the private matter of people. That is the best way of solving the problem.
Maryam Namazie: What practical steps will stop Islamic terrorism in Europe?
Hamid Taqvaee: First pull out of Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East. Second, declare that you support secularism everywhere in the world. Break ties with religious regimes like the Islamic Republic of Iran. Condemn Islam in government everywhere, including in Saudi Arabia or other countries allied to the West as well. Don’t put West and East as a factor in your position and fight against terrorism. Don’t just call it terrorism but political Islam. Fight political Islam and religion in political systems anywhere in the world.
The second step is to declare secularism and civil society as a universal value and goal for governments and people all over the world. It means that you have to condemn the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Mr. Karzai in Afghanistan. It is not only a question of withdrawal from certain countries but the promotion of civil values, secular and humanistic values of the French revolution all over the world.
They can do this easily but they don't because when you think about it, you see that this is actually part of the policies of Western governments and the Western ruling classes. The problem is that having Islam and religion as a whole as a component of the political system is part of the new doctrine of Western neo-conservatism. It is a part of Thatcherism and Reaganism. It is a part of what Mr. Bush as done in the recent US election; his campaign was promoting himself as a representative of god in the White House.
This has to be fought. Everybody knows that Western governments won’t do this because their policies won't allow it; they are fact promoting the exact opposite. They want to have some sort of even extreme Islam active in the world and support governments like Saudi Arabia for example and at the same time they do not want terrorism. You cannot do this. Either you stand against the whole thing and declare secularism, civil societal values, universal, humanistic philosophy of society, or you are condemned to having terrorism occurring all over the world again and again. That is the fact of life these days. A very concrete way of fighting political Islam is declaring and defining secularism as a universal value everywhere in the world.
The above interview was broadcast on TV International English on 24 July 2005 and transcribed by Ozgur Yalcin. The programme can also be viewed via the internet: www.anternasional.tv/english.
* Mansoor Hekmat: Comparable to Marx
Interview with Azar Majedi
Maryam Namazie: A commemorative ceremony was held for Mansoor Hekmat on 2 July in London. I’d like to ask you to explain this phenomenon of Mansoor Hekmat. What is it exactly?
Azar Majedi: Mansoor Hekmat is a great Marxist thinker, the leader of the Worker-communist movement and the Worker-communist Party of Iran. He had significant contributions to Marxist theory, and communist practice. He built a party to organise a social revolution, which has become a sizeable and influential one in Iranian politics, perhaps the largest communist party in the world.
His contribution to Marxist theory and revolutionary communist practice will be best appreciated if taken in historical context. Mansoor Hekmat began his theoretical and revolutionary endeavour in 1978, when the Iranian revolution was taking shape. In the 70s and 80s, communism or Marxism were widely identified with the Soviet model, i.e. state capitalism, Chinese, or the third-world anti imperialist, nationalist, populist models and ideologies.
Mansoor Hekmat set out at first to revive real Marxism, dig it out from under the debris of so-called bourgeois or petty-bourgeois trends which laid claim to Marxism. He started a movement which came to be called Revolutionary Marxism. The essence of which was to set forth a working class Marxist theory, emphasising the independence of working class movement and outlook from other classes. In a way it went back to basics, the basics of Marxist thoughts and communist practice.
Soon the populist movement suffered a fatal blow both theoretically in the face of Revolutionary Marxism, and in practice when faced with the realities of a revolution. From there Mansoor Hekmat moved to elaborate and expound on worker-communist theories and practice. In the midst of the fall of the Eastern bloc, when the bourgeoisie was hailing the “death of Communism”, Mansoor Hekmat established the Worker-communist Party of Iran and fought relentlessly for bringing about socialism and upholding the banner of socialism, equality and liberty.
Looking back at that era, one of the darkest times for humanity, egalitarian and libertarian aspirations and for the socialist movement, one can appreciate the significance of what he did for this movement - keeping the banner of socialism upright, and its voice alive. Looking back one can appreciate his reflection on that dark era:
“This was not the end of socialism, but was a glimpse of what a nightmare the end of socialism could really be and what a swamp the world could become without the herald of socialism, the hope of socialism and the ‘dangers’ of socialism . It became clear that the world – both ruler and the ruled- identified socialism with change. The end of socialism was called the end of history. It became clear that the end of socialism is the end of the expectation for equality and prosperity, of free thinking and progressiveness and of hope for a better life for humanity.”
His contributions to Marxist theory and revolutionary communist practice are enormous.
Maryam Namazie: Ken Mcleod a Scottish communist has written an article called “Discovering Mansoor Hekmat”. He said when he came across Mansoor Hekmat’s writings, “It was a bit like discovering you had an unknown contemporary called Rosa Luxembourg”. That is how it hit him when he read Mansoor Hekmat’s writings and found out about him. What do you think about that statement?
Azar Majedi: I am pleased but not surprised by this statement. I believe that he would leave similar impressions on any Marxist who reads him or on any person who seeks to mould society on an egalitarian and libertarian basis. I wouldn’t be surprised that Mansoor Hekmat’s writings would have such a great impact on them.
I think Mansoor Hekmat and Rosa Luxembourg represent two different Marxist trends. However, there is no doubt that Rosa Luxembourg was a great communist and revolutionary.
I must add that a great deal of Mansoor Hekmat’s works has not been translated into English and only a small portion of it is translated. Just imagine if we manage to reach our target and translate all his works into English and other major languages, what impact it would have on the international left and Marxist movement. The Mansoor Hekmat Foundation is trying to arrange for translation of his works. We hope to be able to translate his major works into English in the near future. Then I believe people would discover him as we did - those of us who worked closely with him during a quarter of a century. Mansoor Hekmat offered us a new liberating vision, exposed us to a whole new interpretation of Marxism, a libertarian, and humanitarian one. This vision is so different from the traditions that we have known in the twentieth century, bourgeois traditions that presented themselves under the banner of Marxism and communism.
I am glad that more people are getting to know him because his works are important contributions to human society struggling for freedom and equality.
Maryam Namazie: One of the other things written about him during the time when he died in News and Letters was that “He was a strong and confident voice for working class liberation in Iran and throughout the Middle East. The constellation of radical activist organisations he helped fashion spans from Pakistan, Turkey, and Iraq to most of Western Europe and North America”. I think you alluded to that, the fact that he had an impact on so many people’s lives. So many aspects and so many social and political organisations, humanist organisations were created as a result. Can you explain this more?
Azar Majedi: He believed in organised action and will. He tried to organise workers, and people around ideas and platforms to change the world, to improve living conditions, to acquire rights. He believed in organisation as an important tool against disfranchisement.
As far as the Iranian political scene is concerned, Mansoor Hekmat built the Worker-communist Party of Iran which is growing strength in the revolutionary climate we are witnessing in Iran at present. Having access to a television station, the Worker-communist Party of Iran has become very popular in Iran especially among workers and youth and the radical section of the society.
He helped establish the International Federation of Iranian Refugees. He also established or helped to establish organisations in defence of women’s rights and children’s rights. He helped establish the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq.
The role our movement has played in defence of secularism and women’s rights in the West is also due to his theories and vision. The campaign established by Homa Arjomand against the Sharia Court in Canada which has become well known internationally, is one of the off shoots of the movement he worked so hard to organise and mobilise. Our movement has been very active in defence of women’s rights and children’s rights in Scandinavia and in England. That, too, is a manifestation of the role he envisioned worker-communism should play in changing and improving people’s actual lives.
It is not an exaggeration to say that what we are witnessing in all these areas of social, political and even cultural life is the result of his theories and insights and vision of Marxism and communism. I would not be surprised that soon he would be discovered and appreciated in many different countries, especially if the Worker-communist Party of Iran succeeds in leading the future Iranian revolution on the road to socialism.
Maryam Namazie: One of the things you mentioned is the various campaigns that have taken root in various societies as a result of his work. Do you think that if it was not for his ideas, society in Iran be different?
Azar Majedi: It is extremely difficult to determine the extent of it. However, it won’t be an exaggeration if we say it would not have been the same without his influence.
Iran went through a great revolution in 1979 that was defeated. After that an Islamic regime, a reactionary dictatorship came to power which deprived women, children, and workers of their rights, brought about a great deal of misery and poverty, greatly restricted people's lifestyles and happiness, brought the rule of superstition and misogyny in society. However, things are changing. Great movements have taken shape struggling to liberate the society from poverty, superstition, discrimination and misogyny.
Worker-communism has always defended freedom and equality for all. It has been a staunch defender of secularism, workers rights, women’s rights and children’s rights. This struggle and the ideas and programme it promotes have played an important role in the movements for freedom and equality in Iran. It has criticised and challenged the “Easternist” and traditionalist world outlook on life, sexual relations, culture, art and literature, which have been dominant in society and promoted by the national-Islamic movement.
Previously, the left in Iran was dominated by either pro-Soviet style of “Marxism” or traditionalist populist movement. These tendencies belong to the broad Easternist, national-Islamic movement. From the point of view of this left, “anti-imperialism” and anti-“Westernism” is synonymous. They clearly express disdain for Western culture, way of life, music and art. Therefore, their position vis-à-vis women’s rights, and status in society, sexual relations, and cultural issues, as well as political ones are backward, reactionary and conservative.
Mansoor Hekmat challenged the Iranian left in all different aspects, political, economical, social and cultural. He challenged the dominance of nationalism and Islamism in their outlook. Since he was not only a thinker, a philosopher or a social critic but also the leader of a political movement and party which has been very active, his criticisms have had a great influence in society. Moreover, the society is in turbulence, is seeking new ideas and new solutions. It is open to new ideas and movements. This socio-political climate has made the society very receptive, and has created a fertile ground for these new ideas to bear fruit. This combination of social reception and influence of the party is epoch making in Iranian history.
Worker-communism is part and parcel of the radical movement that is trying to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran. And we have a very large base among the youth, workers and women who are fighting for their total and unconditional rights and freedom. I think we would not be here if it were not for Mansoor Hekmat.
Maryam Namazie: And in a lot of senses, this influence can be seen in western society as well. Activists of this movement are often lone voices that are giving courage to a large number of people in Western society to come forward and defend human values. His impact may not be as clearly seen as in Iran but it will be felt more and more.
Azar Majedi: I totally agree with you. Our movement has had an impact on Western society, as well. We are awakening the society and giving courage to well-intended freedom-loving people who are scared and confused in what path to take.
A very vivid example of this is the Campaign against Sharia Courts in Canada which has acquired international dimensions; people are becoming awakened to a different movement. A movement which is defending secularism, defending women’s rights, standing against religious dogma, against interference of religion in state, law and legislation or society at large.
It is interesting that two centuries after the French revolution, it has become necessary to fight vigorously for secularism and against the interference of religion and religious apparatus in society. We are the movement which has raised this banner and are fighting relentlessly and consistently for secularism. One cannot defend human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights and free thinking and be indifferent to the role of religion in modern society. A clear example is in Britain, where under the guise of preventing religious hatred, the state is restricting free speech and freedom of expression. Similar trends are happening in other Western countries.
It is very important that we are standing against the role of religion in the society and particularly against political Islam. The secularist movement in the West has become very silent; therefore the ball is in our court. Perhaps we moved away from the question, but what I am trying to establish is the role of Worker-communism as a social and political movement, and thereby to explain the role Mansoor Hekmat has played and will continue to play.
Maryam Namazie: I’d like talk to you about Mansoor Hekmat Foundation's website (www.m-hekmat.com). What is the importance of that website and what can people do to help?
Azar Majedi: The website has made available almost all of Mansoor Hekmat’s writings in Farsi, and those that have been translated into other languages, such as English, German, French, Swedish, Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish. Those interested in knowing Mansoor Hekmat better can also find his biography on this site. It is very user-friendly site.
What can people do? One of the main things we really need is professional translators. We would like to translate all of his writings into English, French, Spanish, and Arabic. If anyone can help us in this regard, I ask them to get in touch with me. It would be greatly appreciated.
We also desperately need funds. We need money. At present, everything is done on a voluntary basis. But this is not enough and it is slow. We really need donations to publish Mansoor Hekmat's works. We need money to have professional translators to translate his works in different languages so we could have people from South America to Southeast Asia to the Middle East to Africa and to the Western world to get to know his works. Then we will truly realise the impact this great thinker could have on the life of humanity.
We can easily compare him to Marx. Mansoor Hekmat’s impact on society and history could be as great as that of Marx.
The above is an edited version of an interview broadcast on TV International English on 26 June 2005 and transcribed by Ozgur Yalcin. The programme can also be viewed via the internet: www.anternasional.tv/english.
* Sharia Law and the Globalization of Political Islam with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji and Homa Arjomand.
On Friday August 12, 2005 at 7:30 - 10:00 pm in Toronto, Canada.
* Visit TV International English site to see programme of Sunday 24 July 2005 Programme in which Maryam Namazie interviews Fariborz Pooya on causes of European home grown Islamic terrorism; Hamid Taqvaee on how to end Islamic terrorism in Europe; and Bahram Soroush on whether there is a new era of repression in Iran. Please note: Maryam Namazie will be on maternity leave until further notice.
TV International English is a weekly hour-long news analysis and commentary programme that focuses on the Middle East and rights and freedoms from a progressive and Left standpoint. Watch TV International English every Sunday from 11.00 - 12.00pm Tehran time (7.30-8.30pm London time). The programme is broadcast on Satellite: Telstar 12, Centre Frequency: 12608 MHz, Symbol Rate: 19279, FEC: 2/3, Polarization: Horizontal. It can also be viewed on its website: www.anternasional.tv/english. To see previous programmes, click on archives. To see a segment of a programme, first download the programme; after which you will be able to rewind and fast forward as needed.