Saturday, June 20, 2009

A local Iranian American's thoughts on Presidential Elections in Iran

Bahar Bastani is a good friend of mine. He is an American Iranian Muslim activist and an eminent University kidney disease specialist in St. Louis. I recently received an email from him with thoughtful comments about the recent elections and post-election events in Iran.

Like many others, I was hoping for the opposition to win in Iran simply because the faces that represented them were more rational, tolerant and thoughtful. The current face of Iran in the world is Ahmadinejad who is the worst possible representative of the great and proud Iranian people.

My suppoprt of the opposition in Iran has nothing to do with Israel, the nuclear program or the Holocaust (unlike many other American and Israeli 'fake pro-democracy' voices). My support for the opposition in Iran comes from my respect for the Iranians and my sense that they deserve someone better to represent them.

All that aside, I felt that the comments I received from my friend Bahar about the elections are worth sharing with you. His thoughts and the distress that is easily felt in his word represent what many of us, Muslim American committed to Islam as well as to democracy and plurality, feel about rulers in the Arab and Muslim world.

I asked for his permission to post his email on my blog and he graciously granted me that. So, here it is.

Dear all
Much can be learned by reading the history of other nations and communities. However, many of us are "too busy to read", and in particular reading the history. Moreover, certain things are better learned by going through the experience. Several hundred years ago Europe, having gone through the experience of the dark ages, learned that too much power and wealth concentrated in the hands of a person or an elite group will corrupt them, even if it be a pope and the church institution. This lead to the wisdom of "separation of church and state", and spreading power and wealth among the people, i.e., "Democracy" and "Socialism".

In the Muslim World we had experience with dictator Monarchs, sultans and life time "presidents", but not with the ruling religious leaders, i.e., Ayatollahs and Faghihs. Our hope was that if they were given the power they would not go in the path of the popes in Europe. In Iran, being a Shia country there was a great hope that the religious leaders would follow the path of Imam Ali in wisdom and implementing ultimate justice, or Imam Hussein in love for freedom, honesty and bravery, or Imam Sajjad in piety, or Imam Bagher and Jafar Sadegh in love for knowledge and learning. However, the Iranian people after 30 years of experiencing a theocratic dictatorship have learned that human nature is the same, whether one lives in Europe or in Iran, whether one is Christian or Muslim, and that too much power corrupts anyone.

The people of Iran have had a chance to experience an Islamic Theocracy and have seen through their own experience that a theocratic dictatorship is more brutal and ruthless than any other form of dictatorship. Many Iranians now demand a real democracy. A free society where the government is freely elected by its citizens and is only responsible to provide civic services so that people can have better and more prosperous lives. A government that guards that no group (s) of people impose their ideology and beliefs upon others. A government that rather than indoctrinating people guarantees the freedom of expression for all different ideas, ideologies and view points.

Governments should leave the culture to the people themselves, and rather than trying to manufacture and/or enforce a particular culture they should create a free environment that people themselves (the intellectuals, the teachers, the poets, the writers, the philosophers, the artists, the preachers, the religious scholars and leaders, the ordinary citizens, the parents, etc.) create their own culture.

It is the right of people to be exposed to a variety of ideas and freely make their own choices. Moreover, not only the power should be distributed among people, but in this day an age the information, which in an important source of power, should also be distributed fairly and be accessible to all.

May God bless all those who are kind, fair, just, free, pious, and seekers of knowledge and wisdom.
Best wishes
I see no need for me to comment on such a powerful message. Thanks Bahar.



  1. Thank you very very much Khaled for posting this. Unfortunately, as Bahar Bastani put it, are amongst those "too busy to read," and it is refreshing to see an email that verbatim speaks how one feels on issues of leadership within countries, especially Muslim countries at that. For years I have been disgusted with the choice of governing body that Pakistan has, even more so now. It is because of these elected leaders that Muslims are not able to succeed and prosper in the 21st century. This is quite apparent on a microcosmic level within our communities even in the U.S. I agree 100% with Bahar Bastani, "human nature is the same human nature is the same, whether one lives in Europe or in Iran, whether one is Christian or Muslim, and that too much power corrupts anyone." It is a tragedy that the people who have their heads screwed on right, genuine hearts, and an educated balanced mind are on the back burners, while idiots run nations.


  2. kheyli khube- very good!
    I admire your friend Bahar, he is thoughtful and straight forward. His email also has a slight poetic form and I can feel the emotion from his words.
    You should have him co-post some with you, Khaled.

  3. You are right about Bahar's thoughtfulness and writing skill. I have repeatedly asked him to have more online presence and offered to post for him on my site or help him start his own. he unfortunately never took me on any of those offers. Thanks for your thoughts, Sharika.