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Regime Ideologue Says Iranians Evade Islam, Turn To Secularism

Iran -- Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and conservative cleric Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, undated.

Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, a top Shiite cleric and the spiritual father of Iran's hardliner conservatives, says the Islamic Republic's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is aware that Iranians are evading religious teachings and turning to secularism.

In an extensive interview with hardline weekly "9 Day," in late December, Mesbah tried to explain why the ideals promised by clerics at the onset of Iran's Islamic revolution some 40 years ago have not materialized. These promises included political freedom, equality and economic progress.

While Mesbah appears to be pessimistic about the future of the Islamic Republic as it is, in an article published on Radio Farda's Persian website, prominent Iranian analyst Akbar Ganji has compared Mesbah’s views to Khamenei's insistence that Iranians have been increasingly embracing Islamic teachings.

On why the Islamic Republic's ideals have failed to materialize, Mesbah says "All ideals are not supposed to materialize in this world which is a place to test different ideas," stressing that "Ideals did not materialize even at the time of the prophet." Indeed, he sounds more like a biblical Christian who scorns materialism and believes that this world is a temporary station on the way to a higher existence.

Ganji says Mesbah must have forgotten Khomeini and other clerics' promises about Islam being "a guideline for man from birth to death."

Iran not to be another Japan or US

Mesbah says it is a mistake for Iran to follow the example of Japan and the Unites States to focus on economic progress. Islam is not there to bring about development, he said. "It is there to bring about eternal happiness."

Ganji challenges Mesbah's statement and says it contradicts Khamenei's position about the importance of the economy and his order that calls on state officials to invest all of their energy on improving the economy.

Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji (L) gives a Press conference on human rights and freedom of speech in Iran,Paris, 20Jun2006
Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji (L) gives a Press conference on human rights and freedom of speech in Iran,Paris, 20Jun2006

Mesbah in his interview says that Khamenei's idea is pragmatic. "If he does not say that he wants to improve people's economic situation, Marxists might take advantage and hijack the economy mantle. You already see Marxist ideas becoming popular at Tehran's universities including Islamic schools."

Mesbah had also said in a December 27 speech to women that the reason why Khamenei attaches importance to the economy is that "in most countries economic inequality has made Marxism popular."

"This could have happened in Iran too if Ayatollah Khamenei did not control the situation by hijacking Marxists' slogans."

Ganji concludes that, "So, Khamenei is not concerned about people's livelihood. He is concerned winning against political rivals."

The youth evading religious teachings

According to Ganji, while Khamenei says today's youths are more religious than the generation who was active in the 1979 Islamic revolution, Mesbah is seriously concerned that young Iranians are turning away from Islam.

The people and university professors ask, “What if we do not wish to go to heaven? Can we say we have nothing to do with heaven and hell and Islam? And what about freedom and human rights? Didn't you say freedom will come with the Islamic Republic? What if I don't want to be a Muslim?" said Mesbah.

Mesbah warned that "every regime official is trying to improve the economic situation like Marxists and liberals based on Khamenei's words, and in the meantime, our spiritual values are being destroyed."

According to Ganji, contrary to Khamenei's ideas, Mesbah says that in young Iranians' minds, "religious teachings and values are fading out and are being replaced by freedom, democracy, human rights, progress and technology. This threatens the future of the Islamic revolution. One day we open our eyes and see that we have lost the revolution."

Khamenei is aware of the situation

Mesbah says Khamenei is aware that the next generation wants a Western-style democracy even if they have to forget about religion, adding that nevertheless, Khamenei makes decisions based on pragmatism and "we should simply obey what he says."

Mesbah named pluralism and secularism as the two biggest threats against Islam, adding that most intellectuals say that religion is not necessary for man's life. "We see traces of secularism even among the country's top officials. This is the case even in the seminaries."

Elsewhere in the interview, Mesbah said: "Our officials chants slogans saying the U.S. cannot do anything to us. What do we have to help us stand against America? Officials say they want to bring prices down, but what they really want to do is compromising with the U.S. They say to Americans, we give you this concession and you lift that sanction."

According to Ganji, Mesbah as "the Islamic Republic's most prominent ideologue" is saying that the country's situation is "critical." When he looks deep into the society, "he does not see anything left from Islam, as if secularism has encompassed the entire regime, and Khamenei is going ahead in the same direction driven by pragmatism."