Apologies for the recent absence from the blogosphere, I've had a lot going on, moving, etc.
But last night I went along to the LSE for a lecture that US based journalist and writer Hooman Majd was giving, called "the path to an Islamic democracy", where Majd would be giving "a brief summary of how Iran's political system works, examples of what is most misunderstood about Iran, its leadership and the events leading up to the election". This immediately made me rather wary, as everytime someone declare's Iran's political system as being "misunderstood", they nearly always end up apologising for the regime. I wasn't wrong, read on.
The lecture eventually got underway and one of the first things Majd said was "Iran is not monolithic or a dictatorship", but later in his lecture he said "when I was in Iran I spoke to an ex-Basiji who stuffed ballot boxes for Ahmadinejad and now he wants to stuff ballot boxes for Mousavi", all the while with a smile on his face and the audience laughing. This really summed up the entire meeting, he would try to pass off all of the Islamic Republic's fascism as a joke, whilst insisting that deep down they were fundamentally decent and trying to work for good.
He also relied a lot on the same tired clichés that circulate in the media, statements like Ahmadinejad is popular with the working class and rural folk, Khatami was a reformer who was blocked unfairly, the people of Iran don't want western style liberal democracy they want Islamic democracy and so on, only rich North Tehran kids want secularism, etc, ad nauseum. All rather extraordinary claims. Majd (and most of the audience it seems) seem to forget that this hero of the working classes, Ahmadinejad is also the same man who sanctioned the imprisonment of bus driver union activists in Iran over the past few weeks and who has a cabinet with the likes of billionaire Interior Minister Mahsouli who has a very working class, er, mansion and millionaire businessman Seyyed Hassan Mir Kazemi.
He also seems to overlook the fact that over the past few weeks in Iran people have been shouting "Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic", in direct contrast to 1979 when they used to shout "Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic", as well as the endless shouts of "Death to the Islamic Republic" that abound in Iran today. The fact of the matter is that Iranians are sick of the idea of "Islamic democracy", whether it come from idealists like Ali Shariati or thugs like Khamenei. What's obvious is that fanatical adherence to religious law is contrary to democracy, and the Islamic Republic is unwilling to change or become more moderate, as Khamenei himself said last Friday. Contrary to what Majd thinks "Islamic democracy" is indeed an oxymoron.
Majd also attempted some serious historical revisionism during his lecture, for example, did you know that according to Majd, Khomeini would have been against today's rigged election, and he would have prefered to see a democratic state? :) A very similar stance to another useless reformist, Mehdi Karroubi, who also lost my respect for his sheer idiocy in not realising that Khomeini was the original Islamic Republic fascist, a man for whom democracy was an alien Western construct, and who stated that "...don't listen to those who speak of democracy. They all are against Islam. They want to take the nation away from its mission. We will break all the poison pens of those who speak of nationalism, democracy, and such things".
Majd also touched upon the subject of sanctions being imposed upon the Islamic Republic. At this point he began to sound much like the Mehri Honarbins and Ali Fathollah-Nejads and the rest of the CASMII lot who do a good job of apologising for the Regime, whom I encountered a few months ago. For example according to Majd sanctions were increasing Iran's pollution as they wouldn't allow Iran to convert to cleaner energy supplies. He made no mention of why or how Iran has become that polluted or why no one's done anything about it, he simply stated that the lack of equipment and such was due to sanctions. Nothing said about the corruption within the system, the Mullahs plundering Iran's wealth and so on which could be used to combat pollution. And predictably enough he is a member of CASMII. It's a small world :)
Going back to what Majd said about Iran "not being a dictatorship", when a member of the audience asked him to clarify what he meant by that Majd said that basically Iran can't be a dictatorship because "opposition figures such as Mousavi, Khatami, etc" exist. My frustration then reached boiling point and I got up and told him that his misunderstanding arises because he thinks Khatami (whom Majd is related to) and Moussavi are actually opposed to the Islamic Republic and Khamenei. What Majd fails to realise, or at least fails to say, is that these men are devoted servants of the regime, Khatami being Minister of Islamic Guidance for a decade during which time he censored independent publications, newspaper, film, etc and Moussavi being Prime Minister during the 1988 massacre of tens of thousands of political prisoners. After I said all this to Majd, and had given him irrevocable proof that these men are not "opposing" the regime, they are part and parcel of it, what I got back was a very weak "people can change" and that "he [Majd] does not support the brutalisation, but he can't ever win, because the Islamic Republic views him as against them and the Iranian diaspora view him as for the Regime". He's got that one right, to quote Margaret Thatcher: "standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides."
To sum up, Hooman Majd seems like a nice guy on the outside, I don't doubt that he'd be fun to grab a beer with, however, when you scratch beneath the surface a little you start to realise that all of his rhetoric and sophistry is actually a subtle machine trying to feed you the Islamic Republic's reformist propaganda. For further reading, I'd suggest this interview with Majd in Salon magazine, in which he yet again reaffirms that most Iranians do not want to see the end of the Islamic Regime, and that they want "reform within the system". Majd is not as blunt as Darius Guppy, but there is no doubt that he is yet another Western based individual who is defending the fascist Mullah regime.
Comments are most welcome