Islam: advocate of people’s sovereignty, opposed to velayet-e-faqih

Address by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
4 September 2010 – Paris

Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them, and take counsel with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah; surely Allah loves those who trust. (Chapter 3, verse 159)

Distinguished guests,
Brothers and sisters,

I wish that your prayers, fasting and heartfelt worship would be accepted by God Almighty.


Ramadan is the month of Taqva (restraint), the month of elevating our human essence, the month of getting our hearts closer together, the month of fraternity, for which today’s societies long.

From the perspective of genuine Islam, Ramadan is the month of emancipation for which Prophet Mohammad was given his mandate: to remove the shackles from mankind.

In diametric opposition, for the fundamentalist mullahs ruling Iran, Ramadan is a month of stepping up suppression. Fasting is used as deception and as a means to further enchain the people. Ramadan is used as a pretext for repression and demagoguery under the banner of Islam to preserve an evil power that has reached the end of the line.

On this momentous and blessed occasion, your presence here provides me with a unique opportunity to speak on behalf of millions of my compatriots in Iran, who rose up against the regime last summer; to speak about the massive oppression which the mullahs’ brutal regime has imposed on my people and my religion under the banner of the velayat-e faqih (absolute clerical rule).

Ramadam 2010I hope this short presentation would echo the freedom cries of millions of Iranians who last summer were chanting the very meaningful slogan of “down with the principle of the velayat-e faqih.”

This slogan inspires the continuation of the uprising and is the common cry of a people who, owing to the scale of repression, have joined voices in nightly protests on rooftops to condemn the crackdown on the uprisings and the execution of political prisoners.

Why has the slogan of “down with the principle of the velayat-e faqih” inspired the uprisings in Iran?

Because 32 years ago, when Khomeini set foot in Iran, his first and most important betrayal of the Iranian people and revolutionary was justified by invoking “velayat-e faqih.”

While he was in Paris, Khomeini used to say that he was a student of theology and would return to Qom and let those qualified to run the affairs of the country. In practice, however, he not only monopolized power but discarded the newly-drafted constitution for the country; he refused to convene the legislative and constituent assembly which he had formally promised to set up. Instead, he imposed the velayat-e faqih constitution with the Assembly of Experts that was comprised of his handpicked clerics.

The People’s Mojahedin, as the largest organized Muslim organization, declared that it would not vote for the constitution because of the principle of velayat-e faqih and that it believed sovereignty belonged to the people and universal suffrage should be respected.

From the point of view of Khomeini, this was the Mojahedin’s greatest sin and the main cause for suppressing its members until this day.

Today, after a painful and catastrophic 30-year experience, my discourse will not be limited to rejecting a false and unfounded precedence.

I want also to emphasize that for the Iranian people and those who rose up, velayat-e faqih means “the three-decade totalitarianism of Khomeini and Khamenei.”

Rajavi-2The world was witness that during the uprising the Iranian people, students and young people set fire to and stomped on pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei in Tehran University and elsewhere.

Indeed, velayat-e faqih means a crippling and dark oppressive rule which has wasted my homeland’s vast natural resources through war, suppression, and destructive policies. It has forced the flight of Iran’s scientists and scholars. It has led to 80 percent of the population, which sits on a sea of oil, falling below the poverty line, forcing many of them to sell their kidneys to make ends meet, and pay their children’s expenses and rent.

Why has the slogan of “down with the principle of velayat-e faqih” inspired the uprising in Iran? Because the velayat-e faqih is the source and the pillar of a 30-year dark oppression, manifested in daily suppression, torture and the killing of the most enlightened and selfless children of the Iranian nation, especially the most faithful Muslim and Mojahed men and women.

Most recently, I heard from my brother Sid Ahmed Ghozali, when he addressed leaders of Arab countries during the major gathering in Taverny. “No regime in the world has killed so many Muslims and in the most brutal form,” he told them.

Indeed, velayat-e faqih means unbridled dictatorship, which charges the children of the Iranian nation with Moharebeh (waging war on God) and sentences them to death only for participating in demonstrations, reading the Mojahedin’s publications or meeting their relatives in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. It rapes or murders those arrested during the uprising in the secret Kahrizak detention center.

Velayat-e faqih means ruthless state-sponsored terrorism; it means issuing fatwas for the secret chain murders of writers, intellectuals and honorable and innocent priests, such as Bishop Hovespian-Mehr, with impunity.

Velayat-e faqih means issuing fatwas for genocide and the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, many of whom had finished serving their terms and were waiting to be released. Upon Khomeini’s written and extrajudicial decree, they were hanged in prisons of Tehran and other Iranian cities in a spate of a few months in 1988. Khamenei and all present leaders and officials of the regime were involved in this mass murder and continue to refuse disclosing exactly how many they killed.

Velayat-e faqih means exporting fundamentalism and engulfing the countries in the Middle East region in the quagmire of terrorism and bloodshed. Velayat-e faqih means the ominous program to build nuclear weapons which is threatening the world.

Indeed, velayat-e faqih means a cunning demagoguery, which has shed all this blood, perpetrated all this corruption under the name of religion, and at the same time tarnishing the image of Islam.

Is Islam not the religion of mercy and emancipation? Does the Quran not say about Prophet Mohammad that “We did not send you other than for being the mercy for the worlds?”

And do the chapters of the Holy Quran not begin with “In the name of God, the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate?” And are Islam and the Quran not based on “consulting in the affairs?” And is Islam not the religion of tolerance and forgiveness? And in describing believers and Muslims, does the Quran not say, “To the Word, And follow The Best (meaning) in it: Those are the ones Whom Allah has guided, and those Are the ones endued With understanding?” (Chapter 39, verse 18).

Truly, can one find any conscientious human being or caring and faithful Muslim not aggrieved over so much injustice to and distortion of Islam and the Quran, and who would not cry out to expose these demagogues and liars?

The Quran says, “There is the type of man Whose speech About this world’s life May dazzle thee, And he calls Allah to witness About what is in his heart; Yet he is the most contentious of enemies. When he turns his back, His aim everywhere Is to spread mischief Through the earth and destroy Crops and cattle. But Allah loveth not mischief.” (Chapter 2, verse 204, 205).

Indeed, the velayat-e faqih regime is the worst enemy of God and Islam, the worst enemy of all. And God of the Quran and Islam disdains such corruption and demagoguery.

Another reality to which I want to direct your esteemed attention and all those who hear my voice to another reality that the … of velayat-e faqih does not limit itself to committing crimes in Iran but views its own survival in exporting calamity and catastrophe.

The velayat-e faqih regime wants to arm itself with nuclear weapons in order to threaten the Arab and Muslim countries of the regime and Iran’s neighbors. Past experience and many experts as well as officials from those countries have attested to this statement.

So, if I have used tonight’s momentous occasion of Iftar, to speak with you about this anti-Islamic, anti-Iranian and anti-human regime, I have done so, not just for the sake of the suffering, tortured and executed women and men in my homeland. We should also ponder about the fate of our children, sisters and brothers in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Algeria and all Muslim countries and societies, which, in various ways, have been targeted by the Iranian regime’s mischief, demagoguery, crisis-making and terrorism.

I seriously believe that if such conduct by the velayat-e faqih regime were to be eliminated and if Iran were to become the epicenter of democracy and peace, then both the Iranian nation as well as other Muslim nations, will all their God given wealth, natural resources and adequate expert and skilled work force, could create far more advanced and prosperous societies.

I believe the most important prudent political act and the best defense of the dignity of Islam as well as the rights of Muslim nations and societies is to confront the demagoguery and oppression of the velayat-e faqih regime which rules Iran.

Allow me here, as much as time permits, to address the principal spirit and essence of the velayat-e faqih, namely its usurping of the people’s sovereignty. Conversely, let me also show that in genuine Islam, sovereignty is the most important right that belongs to the people.

Here, we want to explore what is the basis for legitimacy from the point of view of Islam. What happens to the vote and legislation? Does Islam justify compulsion in religion and rejection of the people’s free choice?

More than three decades of the oppressive rule of the velayat-e faqih have provided a practically clear definition of what such a rule is like. It is an inhumane and extremely deceptive system which exploits Islam to the maximum in order to maintain its grip on power. It perpetrates its crimes under the banner of Islam. It tramples upon all humane, legal, nationalist and international principles. The regime in Tehran is the worst enemy of Islam and the Quran. It has violated the tenets of the religion to such an extent that the non-Islamic nature of the velayat-e faqih is common knowledge and undisputed.

The principle of the velayat-e faqih, which is an isolated theorem even among Shiite and Sunni scholars, was first invoked by Khomeini in the 1970s. Before the theocracy assumed power in Iran in 1979, the near unanimous majority of Shiite scholars opposed the idea of the velayat-e faqih. After Khomeini took power, however, some began to follow and promote his theory.

If we were to loosely translate velayat into governance, this theory opines that governance is an inalienable right that God has bestowed upon the clergy. Accordingly, in the regime’s constitution, all government institutions, including the Legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary, the armed forces, the police and largest economic entities, were placed under the authority of the vali-e faqih. Khomeini, however, was not satisfied with that and complained “what is enshrined in the constitution constitutes partial authority of the velayat-e faqih and not all of it.”

Later, when the constitution was amended, they changed the title of the velayat-e faqih to absolute velayat-e faqih.

As one of the theoreticians of the velayat-e faqih, Ahmad Azari Qomi, wrote in 1988, “The velayat-e faqih means absolute religious and legal guardianship of the people by the faqih. This guardianship applies to the entire world and that which exists in it, whether earthbound or flying creatures, inanimate objects, plants, animals, and anything in any way related to collective or individual human life, all human affairs, belongings, or assets.”

These peddlers of religion, who view themselves as God’s vicegerent on earth, accord the least legitimacy to popular vote and pretend as though they get their legitimacy from Divine Revelation.

The mullahs do not consider the people as being worthy of drafting and enacting laws. Khomeini had told members of his handpicked Guardian Council, “If one hundred million people, if the population of the whole world said one thing and you realized that what they say runs counter to the edicts of the Quran, stand up to them and speak the word of God, even if they rebel against you.”  And the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is famous for saying, “What right do the majority of the people have in signing the constitution to make it binding?”

For the velayat-e faqih system and the mullahs ruling Iran there is only one sacrosanct principle: Remaining in power. For this reason, they take the liberty of perpetrating heinous crimes and atrocities or engage in deception.

In a letter to the then-President, Khamenei, in 1988, Khomeini wrote, “The vali-e faqih is empowered to abrogate the religious commitments he has undertaken with the people should he find them contrary to the interests of the nation and Islam. Governing is one dimension of the absolute authority of the velayat-e faqih and takes precedence over all secondary commandments, even prayer, fasting and the Hajj.”

As can be seen, the dispute is neither over Islam nor over prayers, Hallal (those things that are allowed), and Haraam (those things that are forbidden). Only a maddening obsession with power is at issue.

This is how Iran’s rulers justify the execution and massacre of 120,000 political prisoners, the chain murder of intellectuals and writers, systematic rape in prisons, hostage taking and bombing Ka’ba. During the televised debates last year, senior government officials were describing their own regime as an empire of lies.

In diametric opposition to the conduct of the mullahs, Islam recognizes the right to sovereignty as an unalienable right for the people. Islam also profoundly respects the rights which emanate from it.

There is an eternal message in the notion of Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) being the last of the Prophets. The message is that social progress has reached a point where people themselves can assume their role as guides and leaders in the framework of the world outlook and principles which Islam and the Quran have offered. The notion clearly contradicts all the lies that Khomeini and his likeminded individuals in other branches of Islam are staking a claim to by invoking the velayat-e faqih or Islamic rule, including guardianship over all peoples, whether minors or adults.

The Quran states unequivocally that God appointed man as his own vicegerent on Earth. Imam Ali, the first Shiite Imam, says that one of the objectives behind the coming of Prophets was to extract the treasures in the minds of human beings.  The task of the velayat-e faqih, on the other hand, is to denigrate human beings and destroy their treasure in their minds.

The Quran repeatedly emphasizes that the idea behind the coming of Prophets has been to cleanse and educate human beings.  Their goal has been to remove the shackles from mankind.  In Chapter 28, verse 5, the Quran says, “And We wished to be Gracious to those who were Being abased on the land. To make them leaders And make them inheritors.” As such, how can one invoke the ignorant and corrupt rule of the velayat-e faqih from this noble philosophy?

From the point of view of Islam and the Quran, awareness and freedom constitute the unique attributes of human beings, who are not under compulsion but have the ability to break out of it.

As the Quran says, God “breathed his soul” into human beings,  meaning that they became Godlike and his vicegerent on earth. The Quran says that God ordered the angels to bow before man, meaning that human beings can conquer the forces of nature.

Thus, the Quran’s epistemology is based on human beings’ free choice, and that choice and vote are deeply respected by Islam. As noted in the Chapter entitled “Apartments,” all human beings, whatever the gender, race or nationality, are equal and there is no discrimination between the followers of different religions. On this basis, the vote of each and every member of society has the same value and is respected by Islam.

In the early days of Islam, Prophet Mohammad repeatedly provided the opportunity for the people to directly express their views and choose. To this end, he invoked the tradition of Bei’at (statement of allegiance) when making important decisions or reaching major pacts. The most famous of these are the Bei’at of women, Bei’at of Rezan and Bei’at of Al-Ghadir. While different from the present-day elections which have become prevalent in the past two centuries, Bei’at was a populist tradition in the specific political and social circumstances of 14 centuries ago.

Despite his affinity to the Prophet of Islam and his pristine understanding of Islam as well as his personal qualifications to lead the society of his own era, on which all followers of the Prophet agreed, Imam Ali accepted the leadership 35 years after Hijra only when, as he put it, the population was insisting on it for a full week. Absent that public outcry, Imam Ali was not prepared to assume the leadership.

The edicts, which the fundamentalists, especially in Iran, impose on the people as Islamic laws and which abound in inequality, misogyny, religious discrimination and human rights abuses are in no way related to Islam.

Indeed, I must emphasize that neither stoning to death nor limb amputation and nor raping female and male prisoners have anything to do with Islam and the Quran.

These edicts have been fabricated in the past centuries to justify the interests of despots and tyrants. At best, they are rigid edicts, which the mullahs, ignorant of the dynamism of the Quran and Islam, intend to implement exactly as they were 14 centuries ago.

The pact which Imam Ali addressed to Malek Ashtar at the time of appointing him as the Governor of Egypt shows clearly the extent to which the criminal mullahs, who invoke the name of Ali, are lairs and demagogues.

The laws which the fundamentalists impose on people’s social and political life under the banner of Islam and make them mandatory have no relevance to Islam whatsoever. In a limited number of issues, the Quran has put forth a number of edicts, which have to be seen in their specific historical context. Given that historical context, these edicts were a leap forward and paved the way for a progressive set of relationships.

The Quran has essentially dealt with the interpretation of the world, the evolutionary process, the emancipatory essence of historical development and the responsibility of human beings to attain freedom, equality and the building of a society in which human values have the highest priority. Nevertheless, the determination of social, economic and political relationships is left to the people themselves, who should undertake this task while inspired by those very values and consistent with each historical epoch.

Islam respects people’s sovereignty and rejects any form of despotism and totalitarianism.

Despite being on the receiving end of divine revelation, the Prophet of Islam refrained from making important decisions without consulting others, and on some issues he even gave priority to the views of others over his own.

In Chapter 3, verse 159, the Prophet is told, “It is part of the Mercy of Allah that thou deal Gently with them. Wert thou severe or harsh-hearted, They would have broken away From about thee: so pass over (Their faults), and ask For (Allah’s) forgiveness for them; and consult Them in affairs.”

So, you see that the Quran recommends consultation not only with friends and those with whom we are in agreement, but also with opponents and those who have mistreated the Prophet.

A chapter in the Quran is named “Consultation,” which says, “Those who harken To their Lord, and establish Regular prayer; who (conduct) Their affairs by mutual Consultation; Who spend out of what We bestow on them For Sustenance.” (Chapter 42, verse 38).

On the other hand, the Quran rejects any form of compulsion in beliefs. It underscores freedom of thought in Chapter 2, verse 156, “There is no compulsion in religion,” and in Chapter 39, verse 18, it says, “To the Word, And follow The Best (meaning) in it: Those are the ones Whom Allah has guided”. And adds in Chapter 10, verse 99, “If it had been Lord’s will, They would all have believed – All who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, Against their will, to believe! ”

In the decades and centuries past, many scholars of Islam, who refused to put their religion at the service of the ruling regimes, have underscored these facts. Contrary to those who were trying to present religious justification for the oppressive monarchic dictatorship, Ayatollah Mirza Hussein Na’ini, one of the greatest Shiite Marjas in the early 20th Century wrote a book in 1909 on the need to establish a constitutional form of government and rejected a despotic form of governance.  With rational argumentations and by citing the verses of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet as well as the discourse in Shiite jurisprudence, he demonstrated that

– Islam rejects despotic rule;
– Islam respects freedom and equality;
– A government based on law and parliament is the most viable form of government.

In his book, Ayatollah Na’ini decisively condemned dictatorship under the cloak of religion and wrote, “Despotic Ulema are usurpers of religion and deceive the abased. Unseating the wretched roots of political and governmental dictatorship is far easier than uprooting religious tyranny.”

Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Taleqani, the leading cleric during and after the anti-monarchic revolution, said in his famous speech in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery several days before passing away, that religious dictatorship is the worst form of dictatorship. He said compulsion under the banner of religion was the worst kind of compulsion. Islam invites all to mercy and freedom, he said.

The Iranian Resistance’s leader Massoud Rajavi has said in this respect, “The main conflict between the Iranian people and the Khomeini regime from day one has been whether we want people’s sovereignty and vote or the institution of the velayat-e faqih and clerical rule? This is the spirit, the essence and the gist of our struggle and that of our nation in the past 30 years, in the course of which we have offered 120,000 martyrs.”

At the height of the anti-monarchic revolution in 1979, through various channels, including his son Ahmad, Khomeini conveyed a message to the Mojahedin and Massoud Rajavi that if they were to accept the Imam’s velayat-e faqih and leadership, all the doors to governance and all government posts would be opened for them. Khomeini knew full well that in virtue of their popularity and credibility, because of their struggle against the Shah and their belief in Islam, the Mojahedin could have been of great help to him. For their part, the Mojahedin replied that they were willing to cooperate with Khomeini only if free elections and people’s vote would be accepted as the criterion.

Khomeini, however, rejected the offer and chose to embark on a path of suppression, killing and dictatorship, making it clear that demarcation with him was the correct and indispensable thing to do.

So, I hail the leader of the Iranian people’s resistance, Massoud Rajavi, who said 32 years ago that the secret to the perseverance and honor of the Mojahedin and the Iranian people’s resistance movement is a decisive and uncompromising demarcation with the velayat-e faqih regime.

Since June 2009, through their chants of “down with the principle of the velayat-e faqih,” the Iranian people have repeatedly risen up against the mullahs. This slogan displays the starkest reality of this period, namely the imperative of overthrowing this ahistorical regime in its entirety.

The leaders of the defeated faction, who stood with the demonstrators for a while in protest against fraud in the June 2009 election, continue to express allegiance to the constitution, which is based on the principle of the velayat-e faqih. In reiterating that they seek to preserve this very system, they are trying to counter the determination of the Iranian people, especially the youths, to fundamentally change the regime.

At the same time, they champion the cause of Islam, although loyalty to this inhuman regime is counter to the values of Islam, which among other things is to shun dictators.

I repeat that sovereignty is the right of the people. Anyone who supports freedom and democracy and believes in genuine Islam must necessarily support the overthrow of the velayat-e faqih and the discarding of its constitution, defending instead, the right of the Iranian people to sovereignty.

The democratic Islam, which the Resistance’s pivotal force, the PMOI, advocates is not just a theory. This movement has demonstrated its belief in a democratic Islam during the course of a difficult and lengthy struggle against the religious fascism ruling Iran.  It has been a struggle that entailed great sacrifice.

For this reason, it has succeeded in defeating fundamentalism and Khomeini’s Islam in social and cultural realms.

For this reason, the Mojahedin is the antithesis to the clerical regime, which explains why it has been the primary target of suppression in the past three decades.

In 1988, Khomeini massacred 30,000 political prisoners. His main objective was to eliminate those who followed this very thinking.

This fact also explains the mullahs’ relentless attacks on Camp Ashraf. In the past seven years, the mullahs have repeatedly tried to destroy Camp Ashraf. On July 28, 2009, Iraqi forces attacked Ashraf at the behest of Khamenei, killing 11 and wounded 500. For the past 18 months, Ashraf has been under a crippling siege by the Iraqi forces.

Ashraf has persevered against all these pressures, which reflects its social roots and political capacities. In my view, the most important attribute of the Mojahedin members in Ashraf is that they are the leading force in the struggle against the velayat-e faqih. They reject any compromise with the velayat-e faqih regime, for which reason, the regime has launched hysterical attacks on them.

Against this onslaught, the Iraqi people have rushed to help the residents of Ashraf. They consider support for Ashraf’s perseverance as part of their own struggle to resist against the mullahs’ destructive influence in Iraq. Some 5.2 million Iraqis in 2006 and three million Shiites in 2008 stressed in their declarations that Ashraf is a strong cultural, religious and social barrier against the advance of the ominous phenomenon of fundamentalism, which has emanated from Tehran. It has targeted the entire region and the Islamic world, especially the brother nation of Iraq.

Allow me here, to ask, in the name of the Iranian people and Resistance, that the United Nations, governments, people around the world and especially Muslims, help break the siege on Ashraf. I specifically ask the United Nations to emphasize that the residents of Ashraf are protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to prohibit their forcible displacement inside Iraq and the use of violence against them, and to station a monitoring team there.

I ask the United States to guarantee the protection of the residents and the UNAMI monitoring team in the framework of its international and treaty obligations and based on the agreement it has signed with every single resident of the Camp. And I ask everyone around the world to encourage them to undertake this responsibility.

I also ask my Muslim and Arab brothers and sisters, wherever they are, to rush to the aid of their Muslim brothers and sisters in Camp Ashraf. Defending Ashraf is indispensable to the campaign against a barbaric and unbridled fundamentalism which threatens the entire region and the world.

I thank all of you and on the eve of Id al-Fitr I pray that God Almighty brings victory to the Iranian people who have arisen for freedom and brings peace and friendship to the entire world.

Our Lord! make perfect for us our light, and grant us protection, surely Thou hast power over all things. (Chapter 66, verse 8)

Thank you very much.

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