Shirin Ebadi seems far from acknowledging
separation of religion and state
October 23, 2003
We Iranians usually don't listen to
each other. When we do we usually hear only what we want to hear.
I am not sure if the crowd that praises Ms. Ebadi has ever listened
to what she has to say, and if so, if they
have actually heard
Let me make it clear that as an Iranian I am very
proud to see an Iranian woman become not only the first Iranian
Nobel Laureate but also the first Muslim woman to receive this
But I have to admit that I am extremely disappointed by her
In a round table with BBC, she made several disturbing
remarks. First was her emphasis on the possibility of reconciling
rights with Islamic fegh (jurisprudence). She gave examples
of the flexibility of fegh to serve the specific needs
through the so-called "ahkaam-e-saanaviyeh". This was given
against the backdrop that "reason" is one of the
sources of knowledge and wisdom in Islam.
Make no mistake
Ms. Ebadi. The Islamic establishment in Iran is very pragmatic
they handle fegh. The only problem is that they use it
as a flexible tool to serve their own goals and why not? After
the "supreme interpreters" of what fegh should be about.
Ms. Ebadi, what you are suggesting was institutionalized
formation of the Expediency Council (which is now headed
by Mr. Rafsanjani). Recall that this council was established
by Ayatollah Khomeini with the
mandate to even abolish daily
prayers if seen fit by the members. Somebody wrote in a web site:
"Ms. Ebadi, please leave fegh to foghahaa (theologians)." Let them
do their job, you do yours.
Second, Ms. Ebadi vehemently insists on abiding
by the laws of the land. It is not clear though whether it
is her belief,
sort of moral judgment, or just a convenient tactic.
What if the laws of the land are inherently discriminatory,
for meaningful changes except by the approval of
(which in almost all practical situations would mean
never)? Should they then be abided by? Is this Aristotelian
of the law the
Black Americans challenged Jim
Crow by intentionally but peacefully breaking the segregation
of the South.
Does this make their struggle any less worthy?
What about Gandhi's civil disobedience movement? What about American
who burned draft cards to refuse to serve in the
Vietnam War? Weren't those people, speaking, or actually shouting
Isn't the over-emphasis on abiding by the law one
the biggest impediments of the reformist movement?
been one of the leading causes of the current
political stalemate? Laws that don't reflect the conscience
of the society deserve
no more respect than the rules set by a band
Without complete separation of religion and state
we will be doomed to re-experience failures
over and over.
far from acknowledging this, let alone taking
any steps towards leading the society in such direction.
have some hope that the people of Iran could
benefit from her standing
as a Nobel Laureate but it all depends on
us. Now that the honeymoon is over, we have to look at
increase our level
of expectations from her.
will do us no good, nor will it do justice
to Ms. Ebadi. She needs our help to prove it to
to the world
indeed deserved the honor. For this to
happen, Ms. Ebadi should set an example of a Muslim
who can be
and who can
respect human rights not a preacher of
Islamic democracy and Islamic
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