A Family Feat
[IRD Introduction: a new generation of Principlist ideologues have emerged throughout recent years who, unlike their predecessors, enjoy a relative knowledge of Western humanities and are able to employ the relevant terms –especially borrowed from postmodern studies- in order to substantiate the causes of the Islamic Revolution and the Principlist camp. Among these a well-known figure is Ebrahim Fayyaz, professor of history at Tehran University. In the following interview with Iran Daily on the anniversary of the 9th of Dey rally-- which was a reaction to the Green Movement’s Ashoura 2009 protests and silenced the Greens for nearly one year, Fayyaz discusses the roots of the massive Dey protests with Hamed Hojjat. The text deserved translation in order to shed light on the largely unknown and –sadly mythologized- psyche of the Iranian Principlists, though tracing Fayyaz’ line of arguments may be rather a burden at times, largely due to a loose application of technical terms.]
Ninth of Dey 1388 [December 30, 2009] has been called an “epic” day in the Islamic Republic’s history, as it is a reminiscent of the enthusiasm of the early years following the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979. It was a movement driven by the inherent disposition of human nature, manifested in the same vein in episodes such as the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the eight-year Iran-Iraq War and the late 90s’ developments in Iran [‘s domestic politics]. We sat with Ebrahim Fayyaz – anthropologist and faculty member of social sciences at Tehran University – to discuss the social dimension of December 30th.
HH: Following the 2009 presidential election, grassroots rallies took place across Iran, formed in response to the unrest created by the opposition. As a result, the supporters of the Fetneh backed away and retreated to silence before the demands of the nation. In your opinion, how did the post-Revolution developments in Iran culminate in the December 30th rally, and where can we start to analyze it?
EF: First of all, I must mention that we are no longer living in a subjectivity-based Kantian world where a few elite intellectuals can illuminate the way for all. This idea derives from a belief in an autonomous reason which emerged to counter the order based on the Divine determination, and assumes that as humans, we can we can come to believe in God through reflection. In other words, reflection through autonomous reason precedes theology. But since we [as Muslims] believe in an inherent disposition for all humankind, we consider every entity a creation of God and whatever the people’s belief, God exists and we are all drawn towards him. It is for this reason that children -due to their untainted nature- find it easier to sense God’s presence. However, as we reach puberty, a burgeoning intellectual self-confidence triggers a number of fundamental questions about the entire issue; and this is where religious doubts begin. As we turn into young adults, filled with a sense of dignity, we return to God. Growing older, we revert to our primary nature of childhood.
It is our ego that acts as a veil between God and us and shapes the self-sufficient subject. This is what happened in the West. They proved God’s existence through “I think, therefore I am.” The egoism which started in the West and later evolved into Humanism created an inevitable gap amongst individuals. Nationalism and the poor-rich gap, for example, are rooted in the very same egoism. Why did Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo’s novels become so popular among people? Because of the enormous gap between the rich and the poor in the societies they addressed in their books.
HH: What was the outcome of this self-sufficient approach?
EF: When class differences are shaped within society, external aggression also comes into being. As a result, a new structure is born, one that is always seeking hostility towards an external target. That can explain why the first significant development that occurred in the West in the wake of the Renaissance was aggression and hostility against other nations which carried with it an undertone of insult and contempt, ultimately leading to colonization of other nations. Wars broke out in Europe too: bloodshed and violence were actually institutionalized in every European country, and they gradually spread beyond territorial borders instigating bilateral or multilateral wars. Napoleon lost 450 thousand of his solders in battlefields in Russia during his campaign to conquer Europe. The American Civil War left 10 million people dead [sic]. These catastrophes were all the product of autonomous reason.
HH: So contrary to what is common belief, the cause of those conflicts was not religion differences but egoistic beliefs and distance from God and religion?
Yes, in fact during the Dark Ages religion never initiated any wars and the Europeans lived in peace for 500 years. The Crusades were in fact the first religious war that led to bloodshed in Palestine and the massacre of inhabitants of the Holy Land, including women and children. The Europeans lived in peace prior to the Crusades, because God played a pivotal role in their lives. After the Renaissance however, they were in a state of incessant wars. Even after the Napoleonic Wars, there were the nineteenth century and twentieth century wars as well as the First and Second World Wars. Even after these wars ended, Europeans still battled over colonized countries.
It was the autonomous reason that manifested itself in the form of expansive wars, paving the way for the ultimate collapse of Western civilization. While the West was fettered by autonomous reason, the Islamic Revolution of Iran occurred, which was based humankind’s essence.
As Thomas Walker Arnold has written in his 1900 book “The Preaching of Islam”, when Romans witnessed the peaceful nature of Muslims they welcomed them with open arms and converted to Islam. This happened without any force by Muslims and was rooted in Islam’s essential love for humankind.
The Islamic Revolution was also family-oriented and human essence-oriented in nature. It was this very nature that encouraged families to take part in the protests in such cases as the decisive 1978 Eid-e Fetr demonstrations. If you ask middle-aged men and women about their whereabouts on that specific day, they will confirm that they were attending the rallies with their families.
HH: How did the families’ presence affect the rallies and protests?
EF: There was such a pacifist mood that people gave soldiers flowers in exchange for their bullets. The famous slogan “O my brother in the army! Why are you killing your own brother?” bore an undertone of kinship and disarmed the Royal Army. When Imam Khomeini told the soldiers to abandon military bases, families were there to support their children’s escape. There were even families who travelled to other cities to take civilian clothes for their children and return them to Tehran. It was due to families’ support that the army finally disintegrated. Hence, it was the institution of family that was the main element in the disintegration of Shah’s Army.
This family-based structure carried on during the Iran-Iraq War. A significant number of families lost 2 or 3 members during the war. Many joined the military with their father, uncle, brother or cousin while their mothers and sisters were active behind the front. Thanks to families, we became invincible in the eight-year war.
HH: Did these conditions continue after the war? Many believe that the circumstances changed when the [technocrat Hashemi Rafsanjani-led] Kargozaran-e Sazandegi [Party] came to power.
That is true. After the Iran-Iraq War, once again we were returning to Western values and autonomous reason manifested itself. The entire process of post-war reconstruction was based on subjectivity. Policies such as the [liberal] Economic Moderation Plan were based on the presumption that the government should not care about what happens to people, it is the wealthier stripes of the society who should progress. We have witnessed the [unfortunate] evolution of Capitalism in our country.
HH: Do you think the people were satisfied with this situation?