On Praising Khomeini

Khomeini Mural
Despite the fact that he is a friend of mine and was one of my inspirations to begin blogging, I cannot disagree more with Hossein Derakshan’s recent praise for Khomeini (the text is in Persian, with a small English excerpt). While the post might be sensationalist and most likely written for the purpose of getting attention, there some things called out by Hoder that I think he gets right. First, he touches on Iranians’ generally excessive admiration of ancient Persian emperors. I think it’s relevant to ask ourselves: if we were not Iranian but rather of another culture with no prior interaction with Iranians, how would we view the former Persian kings? Would we, for instance, praise Darius and Cyrus for slaughtering thousands of people in order to colonize surrounding territories? To the extent that Derakhshan writes that the praise we give the former Persian empire is ridiculous, closed-minded, and egocentric, I believe he is correct.

However, suggesting that we should praise Khomeini because he successfully pulled Iran away from Western quasi-colonialism is foolish. That type of analysis is reactive rather than affirmative. It looks at what evil exists in the world and falsely concludes that its polar opposite must be good. In other words, instead of determining the value of something based on abstract moral or even religious principles, we would be judging something based on how it contrasts with the thing we dislike the most. In this case, we would be looking to colonialism and the “Western” model, submit that it is evil, and therefore accept everything contrary to it. This is the same reactive impulse utilized by many advocates of “Islamic democracies.” Khaled Abou el-Fadl tackles this issue perfectly in his discussions on Islamism:

[Many Muslim scholars] challenge asserted moral values, including the norms of democracy, as false universals, but offer no moral alternatives. Their opposition conforms to the reactive state of modern Islamic discourse. Much of this discourse is formed by the experience of colonialism and imperialism, and is hostage to a traumatized condition in which obsessive concerns with autonomy are coupled with a disregard of the need for constructive self-definition.

Derakhshan’s commentary on Khomeini functions precisely the same way: it does nothing to create a sense of self-definition or value of the Iranian, but mimics a system of values based purely on the importance of autonomy and Iran’s reaction to colonialism. This is precisely the way that the killing of thousands of Iranians, the suppression of fundamental human rights, and the subversion and manipulation of popular support committed by Khomeini are (unjustly) justified. If we perceive this regime from the perspective of the “other,” the same way that an outsider would see Cyrus and Darius, then we reach something closer to this conclusion: Khomeini was nothing more than a megalomaniac who systematically utilized violence and repression to achieve his private dreams and ambitions. In other words, Hossein got it wrong.

[Photo: Sydney Morning Herald]

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This reminds me of a passage in the rose garden of martyrs.

“I want the reformists to succeed. I’d wanted to defy the Iranian
exiles, sitting in LA, who summoned the people to rebellion through
the medium of US-funded television broadcasts. I’d wanted to
disappoint America’s new-conservatives who, from a position of
near-complete ignorance , wrote fluid little Utopias about a Middle
East built anew in the image of New England. Later, when I became
friends with disappointed revolutionaries, I had hoped that the
Islamic Republic would evolve in a way that didn’t humiliate them. I
had willed the preservation of Iran’s sole perceptible gain of the
past quarter of a century: the liberty to take important decisions
without having to consult a superpower”

I don’t know if Hossein is really as big a fan of Khomeini as he sounds, I suspect his admiration for Khomeini comes in large part because of his disgust with the Iranian ex-pat community. Their sniveling commentary on how great a country ancient Persia was when that same monarchy became a joke would drive any sane person away. At least Khomeini made Iran independent.

let’s take a look at the community, the ex-pat community can’t even get a parade together
Next to these guys Khomeini looks great.

Abstract morals are great for discussion on paper but it’s not reality, when your choices are a drug addled family who go on TV begging other people to give them a crown vs. a guy who managed to make an independent country well guess who are you going to root for ? especially when you don’t have to live in that independent country.


“…the liberty to take important decisions without having to consult a superpower” / “At least Khomeini made Iran independent.”

Your ridiculous and farcical standard, taken to its most logical conclusion, would lead us to conclude that thugs and criminals like Mugabe, Kim Jong Il, and Hassan al-Bashir are currently the world’s greatest and most heroic leaders. They’ve managed to so thoroughly isolate their countries that they never have to consult any other nation, superpower or otherwise.

There is a huge difference between becoming an independent nation and becoming an international pariah. Someone like Mossadegh managed to make Iran independent. Khomeini made Iran a pariah in the international community. Mossadegh never had to murder or imprison anyone to achieve our independence. He never had to take hostages, order the murder of dissidents abroad, or declare fatwas on foreign authors who exercised free speech.

And since when is “independence” the sole goal to be pursued, at any cost? Has this supposed “independence” been worth the execution and torture of thousands of men, women, and children? Has it been worth the destruction of the Iranian economy and infrastructure? Has it been worth 30 years of gender apartheid?

“Abstract morals are great for discussion…”

That whole sentence is so poorly written that I’m not even going to attempt to decipher its meaning.

Asad, I know that there is a certain cachet to being contrarian and anti-American. Spewing this “anti-imperialist” (I put it in quotation marks because it is, in fact, divorced from real anti-imperialism) nonesense gets you noticed at dinner parties. Hell, Hoder — that despicable sack of shit masquerading as an ‘activist’ — has made a career out of it. But, alas, your efforts at being contrarian and ‘anti-imperialist’ just make you look like an ignorant fool who can’t call Khomeini and his band of reactionary murderers what they truly are: evil.

Well said, Kaveh.

Kaveh you don’t have a single fact or anything beyond ad hominem attacks. 1953 is gone, we are in 2007 you can continue to live in the past and go salute your heroes.

As for the cost of being independent why don’t you go take a walk in the cemeteries of Iran where hundreds of thousands are buried. Ask them what’s independence worth.

I understand there is a certain sense of frustration when you are part of a group that is so irrelevant to todays politics that they can only hope and aspire to become Chalabi. Perhaps a few parades or parties in Las Vegas would help. Or maybe you can join forces with Mohammed Zahir Shah afterall 2 kings are better than one.

Asad has a great point there, which is, erm.. human rights and democracy are so irrelevant to today’s world. Mullah dictatorship is apparently the real deal days. One salavat for Ayatollah Asad please everyone now.

“Khomeini was nothing more than a megalomaniac who systematically utilized violence and repression to achieve his private dreams and ambitions. ”

Megalomaniac? Do you know what that term means? How can a person who says call me the nation’s servant, not leader be a megalomaniac? As for utilizing violence, since when was that a deviation from Islamic tradition? I believe the prophet utilized violence and engaged in many batlles. And what private dreams? You speak in elusive vague langauge. His dream was to spread Islam, thats the wish of the Muslim world, not a dream of Khomeini alone. Plus whats wrong with dreaming? Khomeini was the most humble leader in the history of Iran, show me evidence otherwise. You seem to be a victim of western propoganda. You never lived under him, never heard him speak apparently, for claiming such bullsh*t.

As for Kaveh you claim Mossadeq made Iran independent. You are wrong. Mossadeq TRIED to make Iran independent, but FAILED. Khomeini is the one who made Iran independent.

21 Sep 2007, 2:32am
by Yasir hussain

american agents degracing khomeini……….u can not change iran ……….and in future…all your plans will be doomed …..becasue there is great super power almighty Allah and fourteen imams(a.s) sustaining iran…….ur brain are failiure…and u will fail soon or later…


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